Fort Myer Pet Cemetery

Hail to the Pets – The Fort Myer Pet Cemetery

Hidden History - The Pet Cemetery

Once queried about the pet cemetery on the post, it was a puzzle that deserved to be solved. Among the acres of Fort Myer, there are hidden secrets often paved over or built over as time marches forward.  Carved from the 1,100 acres of the Custis-Lee estate, those which provide the boundary of the gem in the US Army's crown of posts ...  this one of great historic import.  In its early days when it was known as Fort Whipple,  named after General Amiel Weeks Whipple, it formed a key part of the ring of forts and artillery batteries of the Defenses of Washington.   Put in place to defend the Capital City, that is still part of its mission over 150 years later.

Post Name Change to Fort Myer

With the name changed to Fort Myer in honor of General Albert J. Myer, the first Chief Signal Officer of the US Army, the post became a cavalry showcase when General Phillip Sheridan had the vision of one of the fine branches of the US Army.  Yet today, gone are the drill fields where the cavalry practiced their mounted charges with sabers drawn...gone are the trenches used to train for World War I ... gone are the Three Sisters that the US Navy erected to communicate with the fleet  and gone is the pet cemetery where the beloved animals that brought delight and more to their owners. Located on the South side of the post with the wall of Arlington National Cemetery to the east, the plot of land was where the pets were laid to rest.

Finnigan buried with military rites.

Fort Myer Pet Cemetery The photograph shows one of the sad scenes at the funeral of Aloysius Smith Neff Finnigan, buried with military honors at Fort Myer, Va. Finnegan, in case you don't know who he was, he was the mascot of the guardhouse at Fort Myer. He left a colonel's home six years ago to live with the unwilling guests of the guardhouse and every morning since then the little Aberdeen terrier rode the ash wagon as it made the rounds. Thus, it was fitting that the ash wagon served as his caisson. Reaching the grave, the regiment band played a funeral dirge, a fitting funeral oration was read, a squad fired three salutes, taps were sounded, and with the muffled roll of drums, his friends marched back to the guardhouse. Even his canine friends were there to pay their silent tribute. One of them, Barnacle Bill is shown sitting atop the mound of dirt from the grave as the casket is being borne forward

BUY THE BOOK

Images of America - Fort Myer is a pictorial chronicle of the first one hundred years of history containing over two hundred photographs, maps, and images.  Beginning in the 1860s and carrying through the 1960s it provides a view of what was over time.  An autographed copy of the book can be purchased at BUY THE BOOK.
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
Wright Flyer over Fort Myer

US Army Buys the Future of Aviation

Historic Flights Originated on Fort Myer

Wright Flyer over Fort Myer
Wright Flyer over Fort Myer
On 02 August 1909 another military aviation milestone was reached. It was when the US Army Signal Corps secured the Wright Flyer from the Wright Brothers. For the sum of $30,000.00 of which $5,000.00 was a bonus for exceeding the requirements of speed of flight,  - They flew from the Fort Myer to Alexandria Virginia and back at the speed of 42.5 mph. It marked the Future of Aviation as the United States was now  the first country in the world to own an aircraft. The saga began in September 1908 when the first military flights began on Fort Myer - circling the drill field with Arlington National Cemetery as the backdrop to history being made on this US Army Post. Orville Wright had appeared with his Wright Flyer prepared to answer the US Army Signal Corps' request for a heavier than air flying machine. He successfully demonstrated the capability of the Wright Flyer.  Despite the crash caused by a shattered propeller that dropped Orville and LT Thomas Selfridge from the sky at about one hundred feet.  Orville suffered broken bones in his leg and broken ribs.  Selfridge fared worse with a concussion that later resulted in him passing.  He then became the first military aviation fatality.   Section 3 in Arlington National Cemetery is where he is at rest.

Wright Brothers Return in 1909

When the US Army agreed to a return appearance, the Wright brothers, both Orville and WIlbur returned in June 1909 with a brand newly built airplane designated the "Military Flyer".  It was then flown several times for both duration of flight and speed.  After the second speed test flight which included Orville flying from Fort Myer to Alexandria Virginia and return,  the US Army was convinced of the value of what the Wright brothers produced. The US Army bought the future of aviation with the acceptance of the Military Flyer.  Later in August, after a balloon reconnaissance by Lt Frank Lahm,  land in College Park, Maryland was leased to become the first US Army Signal Corps Airport.   The airport continues until today thus holding the distinction of the oldest airport in the world.   An aviation museum sits alongside the runway where the Wright brothers trained the first US Army pilots.   Later other aviation companies would get there start among those acres.

OVER 200 Historical Images

"images of America - Fort Myer"  chronicles the first one hundred years of this historic US Army Post from when it was built in the 1860s and known then as Fort Whipple until the 1960s when among the 3d Infantry regiment appeared the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps.   An autographed by the author copy of the book is avail able at BUY THE BOOK.
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            
Tour of the Defenses of Washington DC

Tour – Historic Civil War Defenses of Washington DC

Historic Tour of the Defenses of Washington DC

One never knows what one will find if you rummage around the United States' attic...
Fort Ward Gate Alexandria Virginia
Fort Ward Gate
Alexandria Virginia
Driving around the "DMV" - District, Maryland & Virginia - one will often see signs of the US Civil War -  National Park Service signs that announce a fort such as Fort Davis or Fort Foote or Fort Totten with little but a few earthworks mounds to see and hardly any sign of what was there over 150 years ago.  Yet by the end of the war, there would be 68 forts along with some 90 artillery batteries that would be the defense of the perimeter of the Capital City of Washington DC.  Major General John G. Barnard was the engineer who designed most of these fortifications. He is often called the "Father of the Defenses of Washington DC".
Fort Stevens Washington DC
Fort Stevens
Washington DC
  Today, only a few of those fortifications and artillery batteries still exist in more than just those signs and mounds of earth -  Fort Stevens in Washington DC and Fort Ward in Alexandria, Virginia are two that have been conserved in entirety or partially to show part of  the Defenses of Washington DC.

National Park Service Presents a Tour

It was 1938, the 75th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg during the US Civil  War.  It was when the Civil War was something fresh in the minds of the people who experienced it,  the National Park Service provided a tour of "the Defenses of Washington DC"  From that tour here is a twenty page booklet that was provided to those who took the tour. (Be patient - the book may take a bit to load)
The book "Images of America - Fort Myer" contains over 200 historical photographs.  They were selected from new research among the archives of America.  An autographed / personalized copy is available.   Order yours TODAY!
College Park Airport

On To College Park, Maryland!

Military Aviation School at College Park MarylandBecause of the US Army Signal Corps and the aviation success at Fort Myer, College Park, Maryland became the site of the longest continual operational airport in the world.

Wright Flyer at Fort Myer

It was late July 1909. The Wright Flyer had flown from Fort Myer Virginia to the edges of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia and back. The US Army Signal Corps' Officers were pleased that the speed results exceeded the 40 MPH threshold.  With the return of the Wright Brothers entry in response  to their request for a heavier than air flying machine, the Army had a viable aircraft.   It was now up to the Wright brothers to provide the training.  But where?   The small number of acres at Fort Myer were too confining.   Besides, the public interest guaranteed that there was always a crowd of people ready to watch this new form of transportation when they held the trials at Fort Myer. The US Army still used gas filled balloons then.  LT Frank Lahm on a regular observation flight discovered a flat parcel of land some 10 to 12 miles to the Northeast. It was near the Baltimore and Ohio railroad tracks, which later would serve as competition for the air-land races that these new aviators would compete.  So the US Army leased the land in August of 1909 and a new chapter... perhaps books of transportation began.  It was here that the Wright brothers trained the first pilots:  Frederic Humphreys and Frank Lahm.  It would also be here that many familiar aviation companies began -  among them Curtiss-Wright. The War Department established the first military aviation school with Lieutenant Henry H. Arnold as one of the instructors.  The airplane saw its first use in warfare in WWI as the US Army Air Corps was established in 1926 - they renamed the US Army Air Service. Arnold college_park_airport_2would later go on to lead the new United States Army Air Forces in 1942 which became the United States Air Force in 1947. It would be at College Park, where civilian aviation began with the Rex Smith Aeroplane Company.   Later another first, the building of the first aircraft by the Christmas Aeroplane Company in 1911.  A year later, the company would deliver it's next model craft to respond to the contract to deliver mail by air for the  US Postal Service.  In 1918, the first regular airmail delivery between College Park and both Philadelphia and New York City began lasting until 1921. As more and more applications of aviation were  discovered and used, the industry grew as did the number of  airports across the United States and around the world.  Though College Park, Maryland still  holds the distinction of being the first.  The saga continues at the airport and the adjacent College Park Aviation Museum which is worth the visit to see some of this history up close and personal. The book,  "Images of America - Fort Myer"  holds a treasure of over 200 "timeless photographs" that deliver the first 100 years of this US Army Post.  
Fort Whipple - the Commanding Officer's Quarters

Happy Birthday Fort Myer – Defending the Capital for 150 Years

Headquarters - Fort MyerBeginning as Fort Whipple in 1863 as one of the Defenses of Washington, Fort Myer continues today in its original mission of defending Washington DC. Fort Marcy may have a sign on the George Washington Parkway... Fort Stevens has been partially reconstructed and preserved as is Fort Ward. But ONLY Fort Myer continues to defend with the celebrated Oldest Infantry Regiment in the US Army - the 3d --- The Old Guard. The acres have changed much in those century and a half. The drill field where hundreds of horses with mounted riders rode, kicking up dust or where the Wright Flyer flew overhead, the rustic trails where the troopers practiced their saber charge and trenches were dug to train for WW I and later where the Jeep from Bantam Car Company was tested and approved, are gone. Where Rodney retired and a tribute to the US Army Remount Service was made with the movie "Keep 'Em Rolling" - The first commercial movie filmed on Fort Myer, including the first instance of "caisson drag racing" on the drill field. Chapel on South PostSouth Post - Fort Myer where during WW II nearly 2000 WACs (Women's Army Corps) lived and a complement of Soldiers who worked in the newly built Pentagon. Also the site of the "Troop Chapel" dedicated by Chief of Staff George Marshall - and then was duplicated 500 times across the US Army. The Military Police school called South Post home from the beginning. US Army units that have called Fort Myer home have included numerous Cavalry Regiments - Capped off by the 3d - "Brave Rifles" and squadrons of the 9th and 10th - The "Buffalo Soldiers". Home to the Signal Corps School where General Albert J Myer continued the use of the acres after the Civil War was over to teach the wig-wag system of signaling as well as the heliograph. The National Weather Service was born and developed on these historic acres with the needs promoting the exploration into aerial flight. Alexander Graham Bell's invention saw its first use among the US Army Signal Corps as the first long distance line ran between Fort Myer and their headquarters across the Potomac in Washington. The mark of Patton ... among each of his tours on Fort Myer,  General George S. Patton, Jr., he left an imprint that affected the US Army The Old Post Chapel on Fort Myer Virginiaand or the Post, from the Society Circus, to the iconic "Old Post Chapel"  - the design borrowed by the US Navy.   Patton Hall, known to most as "the O Club" is a standing tribute recognizing his contributions to Fort Myer. Even the US Navy left an imprint upon the acres when it erected the first radio towers, "The Three Sisters" which enabled communication with the fleet and capability to communicate with Europe and across the United States. Fort Myer is home to the US Army Band "Pershing's Own" since the 1940s.  The other long time resident unit is the 3d Infantry Regiment, "The Old Guard".   Together. they form a partnership to perform all the ceremonial duties and events within the National Capital Region - the most honorable among those duties and events is the support for the final honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Whipple, Myer, Patton, Marshall, Pershing are only a few of the names that are among those who over the years set their mark on the Arlington Heights acres.

Happy Birthday Fort Myer!

PS ...  You too can own an autographed copy of the book "Images of America - Fort Myer" ... The First Book About this Historic US Army Post.  It contains over 200 "timeless historic photographs" which chronicle the first 100 years of the Post.Made in the United States of America

Battle of Chancellorsville

150th Anniversary – Chancellorsville – Beginning of the End of Whipple

Battle of Chancellorsville
Battle of Chancellorsville
After the Battle of Fredericksburg, General Amiel Weeks Whipple along with his command moved onto Chancellorsville...  sadly, it would be the beginning of the end for the dear General.  Of note it would also be the end of Lee's favorite General, Stonewall Jackson, lost to "friendly fire" - few would know about Whipple. For many months, General Whipple as the commander of the southern Defenses of Washington was nestled inside the confines of Washington DC with Arlington House as his headquarters.  A frequent visitor was Abraham Lincoln, who would come and have lunch with Whipple at the Custis-Lee mansion overlooking the nation's capital. That all ended when Whipple took a command and headed south.  His future as a commander was short lived as Chancellorsville continued the lost of life that began at Fredericksburg.  Whipple escaped the carnage that the Confederates inflicted on the advancing Union army.  Despite the wave after wave of Union soldiers crossing the Rappahannock River. with the Confederate position on Marye's Heights, all of which were repulsed with heavy losses.  General Whipple was not among those lost at this battle. It would be "Lee's Best Battle"  where General Whipple, while supervising the building of a salient, would become the target of a Confederate sharpshooter.   The bullet would hit the General in the abdomen, mortally wounding him.  He was rushed back to Washington, DC, where he passed a few days later.  Lincoln would attend his funeral as a friend.  He also made plans to assure that General Whipple's two sons were taken care of appropriately.  Both would be assured of appointments to become military officers.  Charles William was readily assured, having reached age of appointment, by the May 13, 1863 note from Lincoln to General Totten.   The note appears in the book, Images of America - Fort Myer, as it was discovered during the research for the book at the National Archives.
wig wag signal flags

A Book by Albert J Myer Discovered

wig wag signal flagsAlbert J Myer was a medical doctor by training, yet his contributions went far beyond the realm of medicine.  He was the first Chief Signal Officer of the US Army.  To his credit, he is the reason there is a Fort Myer. When he developed the Wig-Wag System of signaling, it became a revolutionary concept that improved communications especially in time of battle.  It was used by both the North and the South during the US Civil War. After the war, he continued his work and first established the Signal Corps School at the downtown offices in Washington DC.  Practical use and training was difficult for two reasons:  lack of space for the students, which included both US Army Soldiers, and students from the US Navy.  the second was sufficient space to practice using the signal flags and or torches (they comprise the US Army Signal Corps branch insignia) General Albert J Myer then sought out a place outside the city confines of Washington.  It was Fort Greble , another of the Defenses of Washington during the Civil War.   It was found to be unsatisfactory. So his search continued.  It was on Arlington Heights where he found the best location - Fort Whipple - the location would later carry his name and become Fort Myer. Since the surrounds about all the fortifications which numbered nearly 70, were clear-cut of trees for line of sight and line of fire for the artillery,  it was best suited to have wig-wag students stand on the heights and a complement down at the Washington Monument to practice their signaling. A book was discovered published in 1870 by General Albert J. Myer, the First Chief Signal Officer of the US Army, entitled "Extracts from the Manual of Extract from the Manual of SignalsSignals."  It was clear that an US Army Signalman was provided the correct equipment to "Get the Message Through...."  The kit was wrapped in what appears to be canvas that included straps for securing it and pouches on the interior to contain the staffs.  Each contained one each of the two types of wig-wag flags,  three staffs to raise the flags (or torch) high enough to be seen by the recipient.  In addition, a haversack was included to hold the two torches for night signaling and a canteen filled with fuel for the torches. Signalmen also marched in formation when assembled as a unit. Their kits hoisted and carried on their shoulder as if it were a weapon.  Kits were also subject to inspection. They also had a manual of kits and flags similar to a manual of arms that a Soldier would have in carrying their weapon. The book also contains information about "field telegraph trains" and how they were used to assist in the placement of telegraph wire strung on lances.  These trains consisted of a battery wagon, and a combination of wire wagons and lance wagons. For more interesting history about Fort Myer including over 200 historic timeless photographs,  Buy the Book, an author autographed copy is available.
Brave Rifles - 3d US Cavalry Distinguished Unit Insignia

3d US Cavalry Saber Drill on Fort Myer

Brave Rifles - 3d US Cavalry Distinguished Unit Insignia
3d US Cavalry

The 3d Cavalry - the "Brave Rifles"

After WW I, Fort Myer was where the famed 3d Cavalry - Brave Rifles - were stationed until they relinquished their horses in 1942 and headed to Georgia to become mechanized.  When this film was made,  COL George S Patton Jr. was commander of Fort Myer and the 3d Cavalry. Thanks to my extensive network, a video clip which was made in 1934 surfaced of these troopers exercising their mounts with sabers drawn on the drill field on Fort Myer.  This joins the other three items that I've found that were filmed on Post:
  • the 1909 flight of the Wright Flyer with Orville Wright & LT Frank Lahm
  • the 1934 Movie "Keep 'Em Rolling"  that introduced the Caisson Song
  • the 1957 segment of The Big Picture with TUSAB* & TOG** on Summerall Field

SABER DRILL

For your viewing pleasure,  I present below  to you the Brave Rifles on Fort Myer performing one of the last saber drills (one can see the "Three Sisters" in the background as the troopers head down the drill field) You can learn more about the "Brave Rifles" and the historic Fort Myer where they were posted in the book  "Images of America - Fort Myer" * TUSAB = The US Army Band **TOG = The Old Guard  - 3d INFANTRY Regiment