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Photography by John Michael

"Preserving the memories so others will remember"™

ON POINT BOOK REVIEW – Fort Lesley J McNair

Who Was General Lesley J. McNair

Lieutenant General Lesley J. McNair was commander of ground forces during WW II.  He was killed in France during that war and his remains stayed in France, Where he trained the troops for that war is the only US Army Post in Washington, DC  and is named in his honor.

Images of America – Fort Lesley J. McNair

Images of America - Fort Lesley J McNair

ON POINT is the Journal of the Army Historical Foundation. The Summer 2016 issue of the journal from the Army Historical Foundation contains a review of the book by John Michael “Images of America – Fort Lesley J. McNair”  Beginning in 1791 when Major Charles Pierre L’Enfant designed the New Capital City of Washington DC.  It began as “Reservation #05”  – only 28 acres where a single artillery tube with earthworks was placed to defend the Capital City.  Over time, the US Army Post was known by many different names – During the Civil War it was Washington Arsenal and where the first federal penitentiary was built – the location of where the Lincoln Assassination conspirators were incarcerated, tried and hanged.  Later it became Washington Barracks and site of the US Army Engineering Schools.  When Roosevelt Hall was built, it became the home of the US Army War College.  A brief time, it was named Fort Humphreys and finally Fort Lesley J. McNair.   Home to the National Defense University and its colleges – including the National War College.  It is also where the Military District of Washington is headquartered and the US Army Center of Military History occupies a building that was first the Quartermaster stables then the post’s movie theater.  When the US Army abandoned Fort Hunt Virginia, the US Army Band – “Pershing’s Own” and the US Army Music School was located at Washington Barracks (Fort Lesley J. McNair) before relocated to Fort Myer by the order of General George C Marshall. Likewise, for many years after the regiment was re-activated in 1948, Alpha and Echo Companies of the 3d Infantry – “The Old Guard” were stationed here.

READ THE REVIEW – BUY THE BOOK

You can read the review here at the Historic Fort McNair website  An autographed copy of the book is available also here.

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Posted 1 year, 2 months ago at 12:50 pm.

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Stanton Declares 200 Acres Arlington National Cemetery

A National Cemetery is Declared

On 15 JUNE 1864 Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton designated 200 acres of the Custis-Lee estate as a national cemetery. The 1,100 acres were owned by Mary Custis who married Robert E. Lee.  And on this day a portion of the estate welcomed those who have served in the United States military.  The rolling hills would soon be the final resting place for the many who were fighting in the United States Civil War.  Who knew what the future would hold for these acres.

The first burials began just a month earlier when PVT William Christman was laid to rest on May 13th. His final resting place is now in Section 27 of Arlington National Cemetery. The location is quite far from where Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs initially wanted the burials to occur – right around Mary Custis’ rose garden, just south of the mansion.  On June 15, 1864 Meigs officially gave the orders to continue his mission to bury the dead near the mansion.  Though the burials would continue among the newly designated acres.  James Parks dug the first graves for these burials to occur.

The First Tomb of the Unknowns

Civil War Tomb of the Unknowns

Civil War
Tomb of the Unknowns

It was dedicated in September 1866 and sits between the rose garden of Mary Custis Lee and the original amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.   The Tomb to the Civil War Unknowns was constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers at the direction of  General Meigs.  A pit was dug that was about 20 feet deep and 20 feet around.  The walls and bottom were brick-lined and compartments were made with mortared brick walls.  Each compartment was to hold different body parts.   Unknowns were collected from the battlefield of Bull Run and route along the way as the troops retreated to the Rappahannock.  The remains of 2,111 Union and Confederate dead were collected and enclosed inside before it was sealed with concrete and dirt.  Meigs designed a centagraph to sit on top of the tomb.    On one side of the tomb are inscribed the words below:

BENEATH THIS STONE
REPOSE THE BONES OF TWO THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN UNKNOWN SOLDIERS
GATHERED AFTER THE WAR
FROM THE FIELDS OF BULL RUN, AND THE ROUTE TO THE RAPPAHANNOCK,
THEIR REMAINS COULD NOT BE IDENTIFIED. BUT THEIR NAMES AND DEATHS ARE
RECORDED IN THE ARCHIVES OF THEIR COUNTRY, AND ITS GRATEFUL CITIZENS
HONOR THEM AS OF THEIR NOBLE ARMY OF MARTYRS. MAY THEY REST IN PEACE.
SEPTEMBER. A. D. 1866.

 

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Posted 3 years, 4 months ago at 11:15 pm.

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US Air Force Began Here

Wright Flyer aloft over Fort Myer Drill FieldFirst known as Fort Whipple when it was part of the Defenses of Washington DC during the US Civil War, Fort Myer, Virginia  is key in the US Air Force’s history. A significant milestone, actually the cornerstone, as the first military aviation flights occurred on Post in September 1908 when the Wright Flyer ascended the skies above the drill field.  In response to the US Army’s Signal Corps request, the fledgling craft would spend the days of the next week that September circling the acres where the US Army’s cavalry and field artillery trained and General Philip Sheridan deemed a showcase for the Cavalry.

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Posted 6 years, 1 month ago at 12:46 pm.

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US Civil War Begins – Fort Sumter Bombardment

Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina Harbor

Fort Sumter – Currier and Ives

It was the Spring of 1861. Trouble and dissent were brewing  for months within the South and on the horizon there would be an attack that would be considered the beginning of the US Civil War.  All the Federal buildings within the port city of Charleston, South Carolina had been seized, except one…  Fort Sumter which lay in the middle of Charleston’s harbor.

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Posted 6 years, 6 months ago at 9:41 pm.

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The Right of the Line…

was the distinction awarded by General George Gordon Meade to the 14th Infantry Regiment of the Army of the Potomac…

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Posted 7 years, 8 months ago at 3:13 pm.

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Nine Score and six years ago…

President Abraham Lincoln–A truly great President of the United States, who spent his first term keeping the union together, spoke to a crowd at the dedication of a National Cemetery where the Civil War battle  of Gettysburg was fought…

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Posted 8 years ago at 12:47 pm.

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145 Years Ago in Pennsylvania… Or 7 Score & 5 Years ago…

November 19, 1863

President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address…
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government
of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

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Posted 8 years, 11 months ago at 6:44 am.

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Fort Monroe, VA – Gibraltar of Chesapeake Bay

fort monroe

Fortress Monroe – Hampton Virginia

HAMPTON, VIRGINIA – Soon it’s role as a key US Army facility will be over. The location has been included in the list of those which will be “BRAC’d” (Base Realignment and Closing).

Fort Comfort was the first name that the land that protected the emerging British colonies and it was over 100 years ago that “FORTRESS MONROE” was erected (Robert E. Lee, an engineer, was instrumental in its construction along with Fort Wool, which occupied a man-made island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay) — With these two fortifications in place, the area was given the name of

The Gibraltar of Chesapeake Bay!

 

chapel of the centurion

Chapel of the Centurion

MAJOR HISTORY WITHIN

Within the Fortress Walls are some interesting historical landmarks (Chapel of the Centurion, The quarters where Robert E. Lee resided) and items (A Lincoln Gun)

Ironically, after the US Civil War, Confederate President, Jefferson Davis was incarcerated at Fortress Monroe (I met a Civil War re-enactor who was portraying Lee and when I asked him about this irony at his work in Hampton, Virginia, he replied, “But that was not my first work – Fort Pulaski, Savannah, Georgia was…”  Robert E. Lee was engineer on several coast artillery fortifications – including Fort Carroll in Baltimore Maryland’s Harbor)

 

WHAT NEXT ?

Fort Monroe Sally Port

Fortress Monroe – Sally Port

The commonwealth of Virginia ponders what to do with this hallowed landmark, developers want to turn it into housing — the hotel that sat outside the Fortress has already been turned into senior living accommodations.

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Posted 9 years ago at 11:05 pm.

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"Father of the Defenses of Washington"….

The 1988 version of a book “Mr. Lincoln’s Forts” by Benjamin Franklin Cooling III & Walton H. Owen II has offered a wealth of information about the fortifications of Washington DC during the Civil War. One interesting item is that they honored Brigadier General John G. Barnard with the title of the “Father of the Defenses of Washington”

(Photo Courtesy of National Archives)

Surrounded by an interconnected complex of sixty-eight forts and 93 unarmed batteries, Washington, DC was the most fortified cities in the world. One doesn’t realize until you explore such a well researched and presented tome, the engineering and protections that were in place during the “WAR BETWEEN THE STATES”. Though the progress of events have “invaded” and left little remnants of these works, this shows the thoroughness of the protection that was put in place to guard against invasion.

In BG Barnard’s A Report on the Defenses of Washington, published after the Civil War, he commented on the complexity and everchanging nature of the project: In Barnard’s A Report on the Defenses of Washington, published after the Civil War, he commented on the complexity and everchanging nature of the project:

“From a few isolated works covering bridges or commanding a few especially important points, was developed a connected system of fortification by which every prominent point, at intervals of 800 to 1,000 yards, was occupied by an inclosed field-fort every important approach or depression of ground, unseen from the forts, swept by a battery for field-guns, and the whole connected by rifle-trenches which were in fact lines of infantry parapet, furnishing emplacement for two ranks of men and affording covered communication along the line, while roads were opened wherever necessary, so that troops and artillery could be moved rapidly from one point of the immense periphery to another, or under cover, from point to point along the line.”

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Posted 9 years ago at 11:57 am.

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Ft Monroe – The Fortress & The Chapel of the Centurion …

Back in May 2008, I was allowed to visit and photograph another salute battery located at FT Monroe, VA.

In speaking with a previous commander of the Presidential Salute Battery of the 3d Infantry regiment of the US Army – The Old Guard, who commanded them in the 1980’s, he mentioned that he saw a battery there at one of the oldest fortified locations in the United States. And that they fired a different gun than what is used in “THE BIGGEST GUNS of THE OLD GUARD”
I was thrilled to learn of this, since it would provide me a comparison with that I could use and provide additional learning of how salutes are carried out in different locations.
After several phone calls and logistics of when they were going to fire, I took a field trip down to the Virginia peninsula and spent the day on Fort Monroe. The first mission they had was a retirement ceremony and in attendance was a 3 star general, who the battery was to fire a corresponding 15 gun salute.
Getting on post was a bit easier than here in the Washington DC area. It was the drive that was the challenge since the ceremony began at 0900. I was up and out by 0400 just to make sure that I had plenty of time to do some reconnaissance and get familiar with the area.

Fort Monroe, VA home of US Army’s TRADOC command, is a very historic location in military history. The current perimeter surrounds one of the rarities in the US Military – Fortress Monroe the largest stone fortification in the United States. Its engineer included a one rather sharp Robert E. Lee who had a residence that was inside the fortress. His contribution included the engineering of the moat that surrounds the fortress. Not too far around the corner so to speak is the chapel of the centurion — the OLDEST wooden structure in continuous use for religious services in the US Army. The construction began in 1856 and it was consecrated in May of 1858.

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Posted 9 years, 2 months ago at 11:26 pm.

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