CWPT adds Washington, DC forts to list of sites at risk

Sorry for the lack of posts. Business travel has a way of getting in the way.

Today in the news the forts defending Washington have been added to the list of the most at risk Civil War sights by the Civil War Preservation Trust.

I think this is significant for those interested in the history of the Heavy Artillery regiments like the First Maine. Originally enlisted as the 18th Maine in August of 1862, the First Maine Heavy Artillery spent from the fall of 1862 to the spring of 1864 in the defenses around Washington. Not only did these men garrison the forts and batteries but they spent a great deal of time clearing the land and adding to the strength of the defenses. I think the engineering achievement alone makes these forts worthy of protection.

Benjamin F. Cooling wrote in Symbol, Sword and Shield: Defending Washington during the Civil War, that “by late 1863 Washington, DC was a fortress city surrounded by a chain of fortifications, connected by a line of earthworks mounting the most powerful guns of the period. Fifty Three enclosed forts and Twenty Two batteries surrounded the city. The forts and their clay sides were naked of grass, and both in front of and behind them stretched acres of fields - strewn only with random brush piles and tree stumps. These fields were cleared in order to improve fields of fire for the artillery. In many cases these acres were cleared by regiments like the 18th Maine.” (pg140)

Garrison duty was in no way as hazardous as active campaigning as the First Maine would come to find out in May 0f 1864; however this duty in the forts was not without risk as ravages of disease took a heavy toll.

For those interested the National Park Service has a website with more information on Washington’s Civil War Defenses. On a related note one of the sites that is actually protected is Fort Chaplin, which is named after Col. Daniel Chaplin, First Maine Heavy Artillery, who was mortally wounded at Second Deep Bottom on August 17, 1864,


Anonymous said…
One of those in the 1st ME HVY ART who died of disease in the garrison forts around Washington was James Elisha Tinker. I came across an original composition book that belonged to him in my Grandmother's effects, although I have yet to make the connection between our family and his. It comprises his first attempts at original writing during his senior year at Blue Hill Academy and he began it on January 1, 1862. His family collected his other works in its pages after he died. I've done fairly substancial research on James E Tinker, his family, the part of Maine he was from (Tinker Island in Blue Hill Bay) and his military service. One thing I have not been able to discover is the location of his remains. He wanted to be remembered as a writer and I intend to honor that vision by publishing his essays and poetry with historic annotations. Be glad to share more if you are interested.

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