Recently I stopped by the location of this bookstore and found a good supply of "Images of America - Fort Myer" I approached one of the managers and introduced myself - offering to autograph all the copies in the store. So if you'd like an autographed copy of Images of America - Fort Myer, do stop by Books A Million on DuPont Circle.
Reactions Are Important - Chief Ones Are VERY Important!A creative work whether it be a photo, a painting, a sculpture or in this case a book -hangs in the balance of whether someone likes it or not. Getting a chief response, is unexpected! Each time it's put out there, there is a resulting response of like or not like. When I began the work to produce what has now become the FIRST book ever about Fort Myer, I wanted it to be the best. After many months of extensive research, field trips to libraries, history offices, The Library of Congress, the National Archives in College Park, MD and more, the pile of "stuff" appeared intimidating. How to mold it into something that people would read. AND like. I had learned that it was more than a US Army Post that was named after General Albert J Myer. More than the home of the US Army Band (TUSAB) - "Pershing's Own" more than the home of the 3d Infantry Regiment - "The Old Guard" It was history that needed to be chronicled and told to the public.
The Beginnings were a ChallengeAlong the way, my best friend from high school, who was career US Army, was my sounding board. He didn't see the "stuff" but was given ongoing "sit-reps" that often began "Did you know what I found yesterday?" After which he patiently listened as my latest find was being held up to the phone - he couldn't see it, but my words and excitement conveyed the import. The cover photo was long ago chosen and set, the back of the book proclaimed the work that I'd done for over a dozen years that prepped me for this event. I was fortunate to find a striking image of the 15th Cavalry - the same unit that George S Patton, Jr was initially attached to and brought him to Fort Myer for the first time in 1912. He competed in the Stockholm Olympics. When the book finally released on 13 JUN 2011, my friend promptly purchased two copies, one for himself, the other for his son who was currently serving in the US Army, attached to the 10th Cavalry - one of the original "Buffalo Soldiers" regiments. It was several weeks before I heard from him. He normally calls early in the evening. This time it was later than usual. He began the call by saying "I read your book and..." I waited for the reaction. He went on: "I expected it to be good. But no, it's not good, it's great. Over the months while you were gathering and composing, sifting and sorting, and finalizing, I concluded that you were doing your darnedest to make a good book. Well you ultimately set the bar high with this. And not only did you set the bar high, you jumped OVER the bar. Congratulations!"
FOUND A NOTE WORTHY ITEMOne of the nuggets in the book is a note from President Abraham Lincoln which opened up doors to the Whipple family (It's amazing what one family's role has been in the foundation and building of the United States of America!) Finding that first note (there's a second one that I'm still casually looking to locate) was a result of "God sitting on my shoulder..." Since it was not where it was supposed to be.
"...loves me like a rock...."One of my special forces brothers - He's actually "the second older brother I never had." - invited me to exhibit and participate in the bi-annual conference of The Rocks, Inc., a great association. It provides mentoring to active duty and retired military, primarily the US Army. The conference was held at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. One of the the guest speakers for the conference was the current Chief of Staff of the US Army GEN Raymond T Odierno. It was after his fantastic speech that I awarded him a copy of "images of America - Fort Myer" (He lives there in " Quarters One" Home to the Chief of Staff since 1906, when MG J Franklin Bell first occupied what was supposed to be the quarters of the post commander. It was built in 1899. It's historic too, since 1973, it's been on the National Historic Register) The General thanked me for the surprise gift and was on his way to his next event / meeting / encounter. I didn't think much more about it. At least he got a copy of it.
Surprise from The ChiefI went to my post office box and there among the mail was a monarch sized envelope neatly addressed to me with the return address that showed it was from the Pentagon - the Office of the Chief of Staff - WOW! I opened it immediately. Wanting to know just what was written inside. I beamed with joy when I read his words -How he liked the book and about My work at Arlington National Cemetery. And he's awaiting my next book too! Thanks Chief!
Heading for Arlington National Cemetery? or to the clothing store on Fort Myer? These are two of the new locations that will be carrying "Images of America - Fort Myer" or if you prefer to get your copy autographed or from online booksellers, you can purchase via the "Buy the Book" link above. The book, the first ever about Fort Myer, has been selected by Virginia Festival of the Book 2012 as a featured item. On the 23rd of March it will be presented and discussed at this the largest book festival on the east coast of the United States - held annually in Charlottesville, Virginia. Are you attending Virginia Festival of the Book? When are you planning to visit Arlington National Cemetery?
On Fort Myer, one of the gates to the Post is named after this Medal of Honor Recipient. He earned the MOH for actions at Cold Harbor in 1864 during the US Civil War. Though his accomplishments wouldn't stop there. He would go onto serve in the Spanish American War, the Governor of Puerto Rico. It would be while he was commander of Fort Myer from 1891 to 1894 that a troop of the 9th Cavalry - the Buffalo Soldiers - would also be posted to Fort Myer. His son, Guy Vernor Henry, Jr., also a graduate of West Point, class of 1898 and quite the equestrian (he competed in the 1912 Olympics and won a bronze medal), would also later command Fort Myer from 1927 to 1930.
Defending the Capital - Forts & BatteriesFew people know about the extensive Defenses of Washington. By the end of the US Civil War, Washington DC was the most fortified and protected city in the world. Nearly 70 forts and 90 artillery batteries surrounded the perimeter of the US Capital. For if one would consider that it was an island among those who had rebelled with the states of Virginia seceding and Maryland remaining a slave state. These Defenses of Washington are noted by a Commonwealth of Virginia historical marker and complemented by other historical markers erected by the Commonwealth and the US National Park Service and localities. On the southern side, Arlington House was used as the headquarters. It would be here that General Amiel Weeks Whipple and President Abraham Lincoln would often meet to have lunch and the President get the briefing while wrapping his arms around Whipple's two sons. When the war first began in earnest with the bombardment and siege of Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina harbor, Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort to the Confederates. Back in Washington DC, the Union Army soon went across the Potomac River and occupied the high ground of Arlington Heights (also known as part of the Custis-Lee estate) and quickly built fortifications at both Long Bridge (Fort Runyon) and Aqueduct Bridge (Fort Corcoran) to stop any invasion across those river crossings. It was thought then to be sufficient protection, until the Battle of Bull Run. Fort Cass, a lunette, had been built on Arlington Heights as a defense from an attack from the west. After the Union Loss at the First Battle of Bull Run, the US Army leadership convened and decided to augment the perimeter defenses. General George B McClellan would designate where and General John Gross Barnard would design and oversee the construction of the fort. It would be 1863 before the fort that would ultimately become Fort Myer would be built. Fort Whipple was built on the most Northeastern part of Arlington Heights overlooking Washington DC. Designed by General Barnard, it was considered an outstanding design for a fort. Placement was determined where General Amiel Weeks Whipple had ordered an observation balloon aloft to recon what the Confederates were doing to the west. An excellent map of the Defenses of Washington has been produced by the US National Park Service showing the sites and which locations are managed by the NPS. Additional reading about the Defenses of Washington and the battle of Fort Stevens is presented by The Civil War Trust During the Civil War the City of Alexandria Virginia was a center of activity for the Union. Since then the city has done a fine job to preserve and present its Civil War heritage with the restoration and preservation of Fort Ward with a museum and the more recent effort to construct the Civil War Bike Trail with the cooperation of Arlington and Fairfax Counties in Virginia. Images of America - Fort Myer tells the story of the one and only remaining active fort from the Defenses of Washington. Over 200 historical photographs are included in the book. Another book which details all the defenses - the forts and batteries with maps, photos from private collections is the revised version of Mr Lincoln's Forts that is written by Benjamin Franklin Cooling and Walton Owens. Another interesting read is the book just published in November 2011 is Civil War Northern Virginia 1861 (The History Press) (Civil War Sesquicentennial) written by William S. Connery.
DATELINE - Charlottesville Virginia: "Images of America - Fort Myer" has been selected as one of the books to be featured at this annual March 2012 event. From a field of nearly 1,000 books submitted, it was selected. Author John Michael will be onsite to present and discuss his ground-breaking first book about this unique US Army Post with origins during the US Civil War as part of the Defenses of Washington, when it was named Fort Whipple Fort Whipple was built in JUNE 1863 on Arlington Heights, Virginia within the acreage that was the Custis-Lee estate. It was in honor of General Amiel Weeks Whipple who was the commander of the Defenses of Washington's southern fortifications, who used Arlington House as his headquarters. The Post was later renamed Fort Myer to eliminate the confusion with the other Fort Whipple located in Arizona and to honor General Albert J. Myer, the US Army's first Signal Officer who located the US Army's Signal Corps School on the acres. Home to the US Army's two elite units: The US Army Band - "Pershing's Own" and "The Old Guard - 3d Infantry Regiment of the US Army, Fort Myer continues to provide defense of Washington DC - the Capital of the United States of America. More information about the event and times and locations within Charlottesville is at Virginia Festival of the Book 2012
In the 21 January 1933 issue of the Saturday Evening Post appeared a short story written by Leonard Hastings Nason entitled "Rodney" a retired horse from the Spanish American War that would spend the last of his days on Fort Myer in the care of the Soldier who took him into battle. Nason, who would later retire as a Colonel in the US Army, had written the WW I book "Three Lights From a Match," Better fortune would come of his story about a Soldier and the love he had for his horse, when the film crew came to Fort Myer later that year and filmed "Keep 'Em Rolling." Walter Huston was the lead actor and it also included the men of the 16th Field Artillery, who along with the 3d Cavalry were stationed at Fort Myer. The movie, unknown to most is the first full length picture show filmed on the Historic US Army Post. Featured in the movie was "The Caisson Song" originally written by field artillery First Lieutenant [later Brigadier General] Edmund L. Gruber, while stationed in the Philippines in 1908. The music would be later joined by different lyrics and become "The Army Song."
Some 65 years ago on 19 January 1947 from the US Army's Quartermaster - Remount Service came a foal that would become one of the most famed and visible horses that ever came from the service's four decades of operation. January 19th is the birthday of some really famous people - Robert E. Lee, Confederate General and from which the estate his wife, Mary Custis-Lee owned became Arlington Farms, Arlington National Cemetery and Fort Myer (earlier Fort Whipple & Fort Cass). Edgar Allen Poe - American writer and poet and an upcoming author "The History Guy" - William S. Connery, native of Baltimore, MD and author of the book 'Civil War Northern Virginia 1861' But back to "Blackjack" - He was named for one of the famed Generals - John J. Pershing who was in charge of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) during WW I ... He got his nickname "Blackjack" from when he commanded a unit of the Buffalo Soldiers. Pershing is one of the two 5-star Generals - known as "General of the Armies" - a distinction awarded him in 1919. (the other was George Washington) It was fitting indeed that the horse which was destined to become one of the most famous caparisioned horses be named after General Pershing. "Blackjack" came from the US Army Remount Service, one of the most positive influences on the horse industry in the United States of America, if not the world. Three remount depots were the prime provisioning locations Fort Keogh in Montana, Fort Reno in Oklahoma and Front Royal in Virginia (later Fort Robinson in Nebraska would replace Fort Keogh) although after World War I, there were 39 remount depots/sub-depots across the United States providing the horses to keep the US Army moving. According to all published accounts, Blackjack was the last of the Quartermaster issued horses foaled at the then Remount Depot Fort Reno. He became part of the US Army's 3d Infantry Regiment - The Old Guard - and attached to the Caisson Platoon's fine horses in 1952. Despite all attempts to have him saddled and draw a caisson, his temperment suggested otherwise. A fine looking horse with an air about him, his destiny was to become a caparisoned (riderless) horse - which is an honor reserved for those of officer rank of colonel and above in the US Army and Marine Corps. Those who became his "walker" were constantly challenged by his spirited personality. One attempted to ride him once and it was not a pleasant experience for both the rider and Blackjack. After participating in over 1,000 final honors, including his appearance in President John F. Kennedy's final honors procession, Blackjack was retired in 1973. When his health deteriorated, it was thought best to put him down, and in 1976 under the careful eye of a US Army military police officer watched the procedure. The horse who gave spirit to the final honors ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery was then cremated and his ashes put in a pine coffin that was ultimately buried on the east side of Summerall Field on Fort Myer. "Images of America - Fort Myer" with over 200 historical photographs tells the story of one of the most unique US Army Posts with origins during the US Civil War when it was know as Fort Whipple. An autographed copy is available for purchase.
"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")
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. For 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.