It came as a pleasant surprise. In the April 2013 issue of ARMY Magazine, the premier publication of the Association of the US Army, there was a review of “Images of America – Fort Myer.”
It was an honor to present to The Lincoln Group of Washington DC and provide them an insight to The Lincoln – Whipple Connection…
General Amiel Weeks Whipple and President Abraham Lincoln had a great
friendship that most people are unaware.
Whipple was summoned East when the US Civil War broke out and became assigned to General McDowell’s staff as an engineer. His career continued to rise from the major accomplishments this move initiated.
More will be shared on the Lincoln – Whipple connection in 2013.
In the meantime a hats off and thank you to the Lincoln Group for having me address their distinguished group!
” … Fort Myer includes over 200 timeless photographs. It is definitely worth a perusal.”
– BG Creighton W. Abrams, Jr USA (Ret.) in “ON POINT” The Journal of Army History
Few 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.
“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.
“Preserving the memories so others will remember…” ™
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.
Writing a book is a challenging project … finding information about the topic is also challenging … finding something to make it special is a key factor, but when you find something that’s rare and undiscovered, it makes the book outstanding!
Little did I know when I began the research for my book about Fort Myer, Virginia that I would discover a rare find – a note from Abraham Lincoln, which may have been tucked away since General Joseph G. Totten read it some nearly 150 years ago … or where and how I found it!
The first book about this historic US Army Post with origins during the US Civil War when it was known as Fort Whipple, “Images of America – Fort Myer” was published in June 2011 and on page 15 is Lincoln’s note that I found in the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.
Words couldn’t express my amazement when I discovered it or where and how I discovered it!
My research at the Archives was confined to the floor dedicated to still photographs. Yet as I meticulously explored the contents of every box I requested, sandwiched between two photographs was a sheet protector containing what I first thought was a blank piece of paper … until I turned it over. At the top it read:
Executive Mansion – Washington
May 13, 1863
As I continued to read, the note (which was re-written on the 14th) appointed William Whipple, older son of General Amiel Weeks Whipple to West Point. Recognizing the relationship, it quickly went onto the scanner to be included in the book. I didn’t realize until much later how rare a find it was since no one really knew about the note or even its existence!
General Whipple was the commander of the Defenses of Washington – they were comprised of 70 forts which ultimately surrounded Washington DC during the US Civil War. He used Arlington House as his headquarters. According to other accounts located during the research of the book, President Lincoln would drive over to have lunch with General Whipple and afterward wrap his arms around Whipple’s two sons as he got the briefing. This note combined with the research established that Lincoln did visit Arlington House during the Civil War and a friendship developed between him and General Whipple.
What I found at the National Archives made the book “Images of America – Fort Myer” outstanding.
By John Michael
The Archives are a vast storehouse of the United States historical items, some more important than others – all in all the location at College Park is only one in their network of “archives” If you have the chance to visit the Maryland location and do any research, you’ll soon find that you can spend much of your life there pouring over the collections.
“Images of America – Fort Myer” contains over 200 historical photographs. Many were found among the Signal Corps collection of still photographs stored at the Archives. When one is presented a box of 50 to 100 photographs, where the selection may have only included one photo in the box, it’s a wonder just what else is nestled within …. That curiousity resulted in some outstanding finds of images that have never been published before. It also resulted in finding for the first time ever a note written to General Joseph Totten by President Abraham Lincoln. It was written about the older of the Whipple sons, William Whipple, who by virtue of the note was appointed to West Point. Extending the branch of the Lincoln Legacy Tree that connected what would become first Fort Whipple and ultimately Fort Myer.
The note (which wasn’t supposed to be where it was found) was sandwiched between two photographs protected by a sheet protector. It now appears for the first time in print on page 015 of the book. The existence of the note combined with a second note also written about the Whipple sons, this one about the younger one, requested that he be appointed to the Naval Academy.
The contents of the first note appears below:
13, 1863 –
May 14, 1863,
My dear Sir,
I wish to appoint William Whipple, son of the General who fell in the recent battle on the Rappahonack, to West Point, next Spring, and I wish to file this as a remembrance for the subject.
Has anyone come across the second note?
After months of anticipation, the book “Images of America – Fort Myer” is in the market. Thank all of you who pre-ordered the AUTOGRAPHED copy of the book. Your author autographed book ships TODAY!
NOTE: You can still get an author autographed copy of the book… and it’ll ship immediately! Just go to “BUY THE BOOK” and click on the link.
The availability date JUNE 13, 2011, is quickly approaching for the book – “Images of America – Fort Myer” Virginia. The reaction from those who have previewed the book and the over 200 historic images within has been very gratifying and complimentary.
From a noted historian: “You’ve done yeoman work here in both research and composition”
From a previous member of The Old Guard: “Outstanding work, it really goes back in time to tell the story of a significant US Army Post.”
From a retired US Army Colonel: “Where did you ever find that note from Abraham Lincoln to General Totten? It’s priceless!”
Within the book there are presented many different influences that shaped and molded Fort Myer. With origins during the US Civil War as Fort Whipple – one of the 70 fortifications which protected Washington DC – this US Army Post has contributed much to the United States through the efforts of :
- US Army Signal Corps
- US Army Cavalry
- US Army Field Artillery
- US Army – Women’s Army Corps
- US Army Band – “Pershing’s Own”
- US Army 3d Infantry Regiment – “The Old Guard”
From inception of military aviation, national weather service, implementation of communications, standardization of affordable transportation and… Fort Myer is a gem among military installations and the book “Images of America – Fort Myer” provides a history spanning the first 100 years.