Horatio Gouverneur Wright

The RIGHT Wright?

Those of you who have lived and walked and worked the acres of Fort Myer know  all the gates to this historic US Army Post ... Hatfield, Henry, Memorial, Selfridge, Old Post Chapel and WRIGHT...

The Gates of Fort Myer...

The Wright Gate at Fort Myer
The Wright Gate at Fort Myer
For the longest time I've thought that the WRIGHT gate was named in honor of the Wright Brothers who brought aviation to the military when Orville showed up in 1908 for the first military aviation flights - that same time we lost LT Thomas Selfridge when the Wright Flyer fell from nearly 100 feet after a propeller shattered and caused the aeroplane to fall from the sky causing Orville Wright to get injured - broken ribs and broken leg, while LT Selfridge suffered a concussion and passed on a few hours later. HOWEVER...

CHIEF OF ENGINEERS

Recent research has turned up a new possibility ...

The US Army Corps of Engineers  - Engineers to the United States and many cases to the world - had a Chief of Engineers named Wright... who was in the same graduating class as MG Amiel Weeks Whipple - Class of 1841 from the US Military Academy at West Point, NY

Brigadier General Horatio Gouverneur Wright

Horatio Gouverneur Wright Horatio Wright
MG Horatio Gouverneur Wright
Chief of Engineers (June 30, 1879–March 6, 1884) Born March 6, 1820, in Clinton, Connecticut, Horatio Wright graduated second in the Military Academy Class of 1841 (the same class as Amiel Weeks Whipple) and was commissioned in the Corps of Engineers. He superintended construction at Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas, 70 miles west of Key West, Florida, 1846–1856. While assistant to the Chief Engineer of the Army, 1856–1861, he was a member of boards to study iron carriages for seacoast guns and the adaptability of the 15-inch gun for ordnance. He co-wrote Report on Fabrication of Iron for Defenses. From Chief Engineer of a division at the first Battle of Bull Run, he advanced to command the famous Sixth Army Corps, which saved Washington, D.C., from capture in 1864 and spearheaded the final assault on Petersburg and the pursuit of Lee to Appomattox in 1865. He commanded the Department of Texas, 1865–1866, and served as a member on the Board of Engineers for Fortifications and on many river and harbor planning boards until he was appointed Chief of Engineers in 1879. While Wright was Chief of Engineers, engineer officers began a reservoir system at the headwaters of the Mississippi River and initiated the first substantial federal effort to control the river’s lower reaches. Gen. Wright retired March 6, 1884, and died July 2, 1899, in Washington, DC

You Decide

So is WRIGHT GATE named for the Wright Brothers or for MG Horatio Wright   OR for someone else? Please comment below...

DO You Have the Book?

Images of America - Fort Myer takes you through the first one hundred years of this Civil War era fort when it began as Fort Whipple. An autographed copy is available from John Michael or from several other locations or online book sellers ...  so BUY THE BOOK !
Images of America Fort Myer, home of the Chief
Images of America
- Fort Myer
Map of Fort Myer

A 1972 TOUR OF FORT MYER – PART II

SELECT PHOTOGRAPHS FROM 1972 DISCOVERED (continued)

  In Part I of this 1972 Tour of Fort Myer, several newly discovered images were presented.   Here in Part II, several more of that cache of photographs from 1972 are presented below.   As mentioned in Part I, when exploring America's attic, the findings can sometimes be surprising.
Fort-Myer-Photos-1972-13
Quarters 6 on Generals' Row - Grant Avenue
One of the several homes on Grant Avenue, also known as "Generals' Row"  It once was the quarters of General George S. Patton Jr.  Whipple Field is not too too far away (it's across the street!) That's where the Civil War era fortification "Fort Whipple" was located.  One of two of the nearly 70 fortifications located within the acres of present day Historic Fort Myer - the other was Fort Cass which were part of the Defenses of Washington
Fort-Myer-Photos-1972-12
Building #59 - Post HQ previously the Post Hospital
Some nearly turn of the century building that contained the Post hospital (It was where Orville Wright and Lieutenant Selfridge were taken in SEP 1908 after the Wright Flyer crashed during a test flight on Fort Myer) In later years, the hospital was closed and the building became Post Headquarters where the command staff is located.
Fort-Myer-Photos-1972-10
Caisson Platoon Stables - McKinney Stables
At one period of time, Fort Myer was a showcase for the US Cavalry.  With about 1,500 horses which were serving the field artillery and the cavalry, there were many more stables on post.  That all changed in February 1942 when the 3d Cavalry - "The Brave Rifles"  relinquished their mounts and were shipped south to get mechanized.  The Army's Remount Service only lasted until 1948 when all the depots,  including the one at Front Royal, Virginia were turned over to the US Department of Agriculture. Many of the stables on post were re-purposed or in the case of those used by the field artillery units, were torn down - their gun sheds also were scrapped.   The stable in the photo is the McKinney Stable where the Old Guard's Caisson Platoon spends most of their waking hours tending to the horses that provide the transport of the veterans in Arlington National Cemetery. Other stables to the north of this one have been repurposed - one is the home of the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps.  Down below Whipple Field are several other stables which were used by the Buffalo Soldiers while they were stationed at Fort Myer.  Both the 9th and 10th Cavalry were stationed at the Post.
Fort-Myer-Photos-1972-09
Comny Hall - Once the Riding Hall
Comny Hall, named for COL Joseph B. Conmy Jr. who commanded the 3d Infantry - "The Old Guard" in 1962.  Back in the day, when Fort Myer was a Cavalry Showcase, this was the riding arena where the troopers kept their skills sharp during the winter months.  The hall, with it's floor of ground also provided the location where the Society Circus was held to entertain those from the city of Washington and surrounds. After the cavalry left in 1942, the building was repurposed and over time became the location where ceremonies would be held -  retirements, changes of command / responsibility and even events such as Twilight Tattoo, Prelude to Taps and even Spirit of America. Since 1948 when the 3d Infantry was re-activated and the regiment became a "permanent resident" of the Post, their soldiers in concert with the US Army Band - "Pershing's Own" provided all the ceremonial troops for the events.
Fort-Myer-Photos-1972-08-
The original commissary buildings in 1972
COMMISSARY - these buildings back in 1972 is where the Soldiers and their families came to shop for their provisions.  It was before the current commissary was built near the southwest corner of the Post.  These buildings are now used for other purposes such as the Post thrift shop.

BUY THE BOOK

If you've enjoyed this small glimpse of Fort Myer, then perhaps you should BUY THE BOOK.  An author autographed copy is available here on this website. Coming next  A 1972 Tour of Fort Myer - Part III Or a look back at A 1972 Tour of Fort Myer - Part i            
Map of Fort Myer

A 1972 Tour of Fort Myer – Part I

SELECT PHOTOGRAPHS FROM 1972 DISCOVERED

When you are poking around in America's attic, it's amazing what sometimes just drops into your lap. It's only been around since 1863 when it was known as Fort Whipple  -  though the constant on Fort Myer is change.  It began as one of then nearly 70 forts during the US Civil War as part of the Defenses of Washington.  Unlike the other forts, it is the only remaining and still doing what it was designed to do - Defend the Capital City!
Map of Fort Myer
Map of Fort Myer
  The map above shows what is in the present time.   At one point in the post's history it was referred to as "North Post" since in the 1940s up until the mid 1970s there was a "South Post"  Fort Myer that was originally established to provide housing for the WACS and Soldiers who worked in the Pentagon and other agencies in downtown Washington DC.  It also provided housing for the women who also worked downtown.  By the 1980s, South Post was a faint memory.  It's barracks and other buildings - PX, HQs, Chapel, Gymnasium, Pool and more were gone.  Its acres became part of Arlington National Cemetery as the cemetery needed to expand.   Explore and enjoy this 1972 tour of Fort Myer. What follows below are some historic and 1972 era photos found while doing further research...   Fort-Myer-Photos-1972-19 The photo above shows when the post primarily consisted of wooden buildings.  The building in center of the photo is the post hospital and access to it was via the bridge seen in the foreground.  The bridge is long gone as are the other buildings in the photo.  Around the turn of the 19th century, a concerted building project resulted in a new set of buildings primarily constructed of brick.     Fort-Myer-Photos-1972-14 In the above photograph, the view down Grant Avenue looking to the North shows some of the "Generals Row" homes. Quarters One, home to the Chief of Staff of the US Army is at the end of this street. To the right side of the photograph would be Whipple Field where the original Fort Whipple stood during the US Civil War.   Fort-Myer-Photos-1972-18 Building #246, back in 1972 was headquarters of the 3d Infantry - "The Old Guard"    The regiment would eventually relocate from this building and it would become barracks for one of the operating companies of the regiment.   Fort-Myer-Photos-1972-11   This building was a puzzle when first found, but upon further research it was learned that this was Bachelor Officer Quarters (BOQ) that was placed nearby to Wainwright Hall on Fort Myer.

BUY THE BOOK

If you've enjoyed this small glimpse of Fort Myer, then perhaps you should BUY THE BOOK.  An author autographed copy is available here on this website. Coming next  A 1972 Tour of Fort Myer - Part II
Images of America - Fort Myer

Why I Wrote the Book

Images of America - Fort Myer"Images of America - Fort Myer" became a reality on 13 JUN 2011, one day before the US Army's birthday - very appropriately mind you. As the FIRST BOOK ever about this historic US Army Post with origins back to the US Civil War when it was known as Fort Whipple and part of the nearly 70 forts which surrounded and defended the US Capital - "The Defenses of Washington". Fort Myer continues that duty uninterrupted until today from the heights of Arlington.  What's on the acres has changed.  There's no more drill field where the thundering hooves of the nearly 1,500 horses carried their Cavalry troopers or pulled their cassions with field artillery.   There's no more trolley line.  Instead it's the home of the elite units of the US Army. The reason I wrote the book? Besides breaking new ground, which has become my hallmark, especially within the last decade, it needed to be done. This fort has been the site of many events which have molded or changed the world around us, and no one is aware of it and those milestones and contributions, until now. With over two years of research based on a foundation of working and walking among the US military since 2000, the result is over 200 historical photographs which cover from the 1860s to the 1960s.   The book also fills a void in the US Army story and as one of those who bought the book said "You set the bar high and you jumped over it."   -  a nice critique for a first work. Thanks to General Albert J. Myer and his visionary initiatives, the fort continued to be used after the War Between the States as the home for the Signal Corps School.   It was later General of the Army Philip H.  Sheridan upon a petition to the US Congress turned it into a military reservation and showcase for the US Cavalry -  The Remount Service begun in 1909 and the Front Royal Depot from 1911 provided Fort Myer with a fresh source of horses to keep the Army moving. The US Army Remount Service also had depots at Fort Keogh in Montana, Fort Reno in Oklahoma and later Fort Robinson in Nebraska which was the largest - 22,000 acres!   THE Key item in the book is a note from Abraham Lincoln which I discovered during my research. Until I found it at the National Archives sandwiched between two photographs, no one, not even the Fort Myer historian knew of its existence. It opens up another branch of the Lincoln Legacy Tree and published for the first time in my book. Highlights of some of the milestones at Fort Myer include:
  • Birthplace of military aviation,
  • Birthplace of the National Weather Service,
  • Home of the US Army Signal Corps School,
  • The JEEP was tested and approved on Fort Myer,
  • Home of the US Army Band since 1942,
  • Home of The Old Guard since 1948
  • Society Circus (which I believe evolved into "Spirit of America") 
The impact that General George S. Patton had with his four tours on Post is amazing.   The book helps remember South Post Fort Myer which served strongly as where the WACS and 12th Infantry were located during World War II.   South Post also is where the MP School was established and a chapel was built that would be replicated over 500 times across the US Army (many of which are still providing a place of worship for the Soldiers, their family and friends.) (*The Soldiers of the  US Army's 3d Infantry Regiment who's dual mission includes defending the Capital and performing the ceremonial work in Arlington National Cemetery and around the Capital region including White House, Pentagon, Andrews AFB, etc.) The real treat are the over 200 historical photographs which chronicle over time the first one hundred years of this historic US Army Post.   Many of which have never been seen before or published. John Michael "Preserving the memories so others will remember..." ™
Arlington House - the Custis Lee Mansion

Happy Birthday General Whipple

On 21 OCT 1817 in Concord, Massachusetts, Amiel Weeks Whipple was born to David Whipple, an innkeeper in Concord and Abigail Pepper, the daughter of Joseph Pepper, a Lieutenant in the American Revolution. Whipple's education included attending Concord's schools and in 1836 entered Amherst College, then appointed to the US Military Academy at West Point where he graduated fifth in his class in JUN 1841.    Initially assigned to the First Artillery after his commissioning, he was transferred to the Topographical Engineers with assignments at Patapaco River, Maryland then New Orleans, Louisiana and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Various other assignments including the mapping of the route of the transcontinental railroad in western United States followed.   When the southern states began their secession, he was ordered to Washington DC where he would then map the densely wooded  Northern Virginia countryside.    His next assignment would be Chief Topographical Engineer for General McDowell.    His use of various methods of reconnaissance including the balloons promoted by Doctor Thaddeus K. Lowe was forward thinking. Arlington House - the Custis Lee MansionFor most of 1862,  then General Whipple commanded a division of the First Army Corps using Arlington House, the former residence of General Robert E. Lee as his headquarters.  It was then that the friendship of President Lincoln and the General continued to strengthen as Lincoln would drive over to Arlington House in the Presidential carriage and lunch with Whipple and afterwards as Lincoln wrapped his arms around Whipple's two sons, would get the briefing from the General. Looking to contribute more to the war effort, General Whipple applied for a combat role and was put in command of the 3d Division of III Army Corps participating in the battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862.   Later, in May 1863 he continued to command at the battle of Chancellorsville, when on 4 MAY he was mortally wounded by a sharpshooter. Lincoln would later attend the funeral of General Whipple not as the President, but as a friend and would later write the note on 13 MAY 1863 to General Totten appointing William Whipple, the older son to West Point.  An image of the note, which was never seen before or even known about until it was discovered by John Michael is published and appears for the first time in the book "Images of America - Fort Myer"  As the Defenses of Washington continued to be augmented with additional forts, one would be named for General Whipple - on Arlington Heights in the vicinity where he ordered a balloon aloft to gather intelligence.   That location, named Fort Whipple, would evolve and grow into present-day Fort Myer.
wig wag signal flags

Wag your Wig – A New Way to Signal

wig wag signal flagsWhen Albert J Myer entered the US Army his training had been as a medical doctor... a surgeon to be exact, but he also brought a curiosity that proved to be vital to him and to the US Army and even the United States of America... it seems there are many in the military who have had or do have that innate spirit to deliver results that change things around them. Such was General Albert J. Myer's  wig wag system of signaling - a single flag of either a white background with a red square in center or a red background with a white square center.  At night, a torch was used to illuminate the signal flag. Earlier in his career before joining the US Army, he was a telegraph operator while he attended college.    Some have likened his signaling to aerial telegraphy.   When choosing a location for the Signal Corps School,  the Arlington Heights where Fort Whipple was constructed was ideal.   During the US Civil War, when the Defenses of Washington were constructed,  (nearly 70 forts) the surrounding area was clear-cut two miles in all directions to provide line-of-sight / line-of-fire for the artillery.  With this in mind, General Myer could position a group of students on the heights and another at the base of the Washington Monument to learn and practice their signaling. For those of you who are very interested in learning this way of signaling, the manual developed by General Myer and printed by the US Government Printing Office can be had here.  (will open in a new window) "Images of America - Fort Myer"  contains over 200 historical photographs that chronicle the history of the first 100 years of this historic US Army Post.  Buy it here.
Wright Flyer on Fort Myer Drill Field in 1909

The Return of the Wright Brothers

Wright Flyer on Fort Myer Drill Field in 1909

Military Aviation - A New Way To Travel

When the US Army asked the Wright brothers to return to Fort Myer in 1909, it was the beginning of a new era in travel. In spite of the crash on September 17, 1908, where a propeller shattered and the airplane along with its two occupants - Orville Wright and Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge - fell from the sky. They were at approximately 100 feet. (The crash injured both of them - Orville had broken bones in his leg and ribs while Lieutenant Selfridge suffered a concussion resulting in him passing a few hours later).

Wright Brothers Return to Fort Myer

Orville had healed from his injuries and was ready to fly again. Tests resumed in July of 1909 with a newer version of the Wright Flyer and the trials were well attended on the drill field of Fort Myer.   On July 30, 1909, Lieutenant Benjamin D. Foulois as the passenger and Orville at the controls flew from Fort Myer to Alexandria, Virginia and return at a speed in excess of 42 miles an hour and covering 10 miles. This concluded the final tests. On August 2, 1909, the Signal Corps accepted the Wright Flyer as the world's first military aircraft, naming it Signal Corps Airplane No. 1. It was onto College Park, Maryland for training.

More in the Book

Images of America - Fort Myer chronicles the first one hundred years of this historic US Army Post with a combination of telling narrative and over 200 historical photographs.  As One of the nearly seventy forts constructed during the US Civil War - The Defenses of Washington - when then it was known as Fort Whipple,  Fort Myer continues its mission of defending the US Capital of Washington DC.   It's also home to The US Army Band (TUSAB) - "Pershing's Own"  and the 3d US Infantry - "The Old Guard"  which are two elite ceremonial units of the US Army.
Chapel on South Post

South Post’s New Chapel

While still considered "Arlington Cantonment" a new chapel was built in 1941 on the acreage that was originally Arlington Farms.  Ground breaking occurred in May 1941 and shortly thereafter it's spire rose in the sky with the US Capitol building in the distance. Chapel on South Post It would be on July 27, 1941 that Chief of Staff of the Army, General George Catlett Marshall would dedicate this new house of worship on what eventually would become South Post, Fort Myer. This chapel design was the prototype of a chapel that would be built on many US Army Posts across the United States of America.  Over 500 chapels in total would be erected, many of them still to this day providing a place of worship for the Soldiers, their families and friends. The building on Arlington Cantonment  would mark the beginning of the rapid build up of and eventual renaming of the area to South Post during World War II and for many years had its own Post Commander and population into the thousands.   The South Post Chapel, like the Post Chapel of Fort Myer, would have its own Sunday School, youth groups and chapel services.   In the 1950's the Military District of Washington Staff Chaplain was located in one of the many buildings within the South Post acreage.  Did you attend services at the South Post Chapel?   Please leave a comment and tell us about it.    Any photographs of the chapel?   We'd love to see those too! The chapel would become inactive in 1969 reflecting the reduction in population and elimination of family housing. (1958 Fort Myer Snapshot)  Reviews in the early 1970s showed that the chapel was deteriorated beyond repair.  With plans to replace it once South Post was turned back to Arlington National Cemetery, this historic building was razed.  The new chapel was to stand where the Columbarium in Arlington National Cemetery currently is, but for reasons unknown, it was never built. With over 200 historical photographs, "Images of America - Fort Myer" provides a visual history of this unique US Army Post with origins during the US Civil War when it was known as Fort Whipple.   One of the original Defenses of Washington, Fort Myer still provides for the defense of the US Capital and is a showcase for the Military District of Washington and the US Army.
Headquarters - Fort Myer

Fort Myer circa 1958 – Some statistics

Headquarters - Fort MyerIn 1958,  Fort Myer consisted of North Post and South Post - the combined acreage was still less than 500 acres.  However, there was a population of over 10,000 ... with two chapels, two movie theaters, nine mess halls which served on average 198,000 meals a month. In addition to the US Army Band - "Pershing's Own", the US 3d Infantry Regiment - "The Old Guard"  and Headquarters Company of the US Army, the US Air Force had many units stationed within the fort's perimeter.   Fort Myer was also the headquarters for the Cold War's Defenses of Washington, nearly 20 Nike Missile sites that surrounded the nation's Capital. In the book "Images of America - Fort Myer" - there are over 200 historical photographs which provide an insight to this unique US Army Post's history, contributions and the events which occurred within its acres.   With origins during the US Civil War when it was known as Fort Whipple,  Fort Myer stands as a showcase of a model US Army installation steeped in history and contributions to the United States of America - noteworthy among them  is the birthplace of military aviation, the establishment of the National Weather Service.
Troopers from the 2d Squadron Brave Rifles - 3d Cavalry

Brave Rifles – The First “President’s Own”

Troopers from the 2d Squadron Brave Rifles - 3d Cavalry
"AI-EE-YAH!” the Regimental Battle Cry of the Brave Rifles announced their arrival...
It was 1919, World War I was over and those who went  "Over there..." began to return home to the United States.  The 3d Cavalry Regiment came home to Boston with Headquarters and 1st Squadrons moving onto Fort Ethan Allen in Vermont.
Fort Myer would then receive 3d Squadron, but it would be re-designated 2d Squadron when the 3d Squadron was deactivated.   Over the next two plus decades, the troopers of 2d Squadron would  defend the nation's capital and also be called upon to provide ceremonial support - honor guards and escorts for visiting dignitaries, final honors support within Arlington National Cemetery which earned them the title of the "President's Own" for their service.

Escort to First Unknown Soldier

In 1921 when the first unknown was laid to rest within Arlington National Cemetery near the amphitheater, the "Brave Rifles" provided the ceremonial escort.  It was the regimental bugler, Staff Sergeant Frank Witchey, who would sound TAPS at the ceremony.  Sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were provided by the 3d Cavalry until 1941.

Display of Skills and Talents

"Brave Rifles" - Saddle Blanket Insignia
Saddle Blanket Insignia
Over the years while at Fort Myer, the troopers of the "Brave Rifles" would delight and entertain the residents of Washington DC with their excellent horsemanship skills and talents during horseshows, polo matches and  the Society Circus.  The latter  is an event that has evolved into today's Spirit of America hosted by the US Army and executed by the US Army's 3d Infantry Regiment - "The Old Guard" and The US Army Band - "Pershing's Own" within the Washington DC area and several US cities.
The "Brave Rifles" would ultimately relinquish their horses and leave Fort Myer in February 1942.  They would head to Georgia - Fort Ogelthorpe first then onto Fort Benning to get mechanized in preparation to deploy during World War II.
"Images of America - Fort Myer" which is based on over two years of research, contains over 200 historical photographs that presents the first one hundred years of this US Army Post with origins during the US Civil War when it was known as Fort Whipple.