Albert 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.
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
“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 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…” ™
It was after the US Civil War, the nation was undergoing a period of healing from the “brother against brother” conflict. Fort Whipple, one of the original fortifications among the Defenses of Washington had continued on after all the other nearly 70 fortifications were abandoned. The first Chief Signal Officer, General Albert J. Myer had brought his Signal Corps School to Arlington Heights. It was 1880 when the name changed to Fort Myer in his honor.
In August 1886 the US Congress designated Fort Myer a military station and the Signal Corps School vacated.
With a vision in mind of turning Fort Myer into a Cavalry Show Case, LTG Phillip H Sheridan requested that it become a cavalry post. It was nearly a year later in July 1887, when Troop B of the 6th Cavalry from Fort Lewis, Colorado and Troop B of the 4th Cavalry from Fort Hauchuca, Arizona arrived. Major James Biddle of the 6th as commanding officer.
The cavalry had arrived and would spur a growth in permanent buildings including troop barracks, a riding arena, new stables. For several decades, the cavalry would provide the defense of the US Capital and ceremonial support in and around Washington, DC including final honors support at Arlington National Cemetery. In time the US Army would establish the Remount Service and nearly 1,500 horses would occupy the acres of Fort Myer.
Over 200 Historical photographs from the 1860s to the 1960s are within the book “Images of America – Fort Myer” that chronicle the emergence of this historic unique US Army Post.
In reading books like “The Civil War” by Buce Catton, one would never know about the Defenses of Washington. Missing from that work are the names of General John Gross Barnard, General Amiel Weeks Whipple and many more who contributed to defending the US Capital.
It was after the first battle of Bull Run or First Manassas, depending on which side of the Mason Dixon line you’re on, that General McClellan surveyed the defenses of Washington and decided that additional fortifications were needed. Even though the Arlington Line – a series of fortifications and batteries located on western side of Washington, DC - were in place, the defeat that the Union troops took got the Union leadership into action.
The result was in some cases a fort was placed as a secondary line of defense – one was Fort Whipple, named for the General who had commanded the defenses of Washington from the Custis-Lee Mansion. His desire to get into the fighting took him to Fredericksburg and later Chancellorsville where he was shot by a sharpshooter while sitting on his horse in May of 1863.
Assessments made from the extensive plans for this fort that overlooked the valley where Washington DC lay, was this was the ideal fort and set the model for ones that would follow. In the book, “Images of America – Fort Myer” the plans for this fortification and other related information is presented as the first 100 years of history of this fort, later named Fort Myer, in honor of the US Army’s first Signal Officer – General Albert J. Myer, is told.
After the Civil War, the US Army’s Signal Corps School moved to Fort Whipple on Arlington Heights overlooking the valley which included the US Capital. General Albert J. Myer, who would later become the US Army’s First Signal Officer as a result of his visionary contributions, considered it an outstanding location from where the skills of signaling could be easily taught. From a view of 5 to 30 miles, it also had the space to conduct lasting experiments of alternate signaling methods.
The two crossed flags in the branch insignia are the two variations of the flag used in the wig-wag system developed by General Myer. The torch provided illumination at night.
Fort Whipple would later be re-named Fort Myer in honor of General Myer.
In the book “Images of America – Fort Myer” these and other accomplishments, milestones and people who contributed are highlighted marking the first one hundred years of this historic US Army Post which is still in operation.
After the US Civil War, there were about 70 fortifications which surrounded the Nation’s Capital – Washington DC. They were abandoned by the US Army and the land reverted back to the original owners. Except for
When most people hear the name Fort Myer, they don’t think Virginia, but a place much further south in the United States.
The other location is an attractive place for tourism and nearby beaches with palm trees on the Gulf of Mexico. This other location WAS an US Army Fort built in 1850 as a military fort in response to Seminole Indians that were in conflict with the area’s few settlers.
So the confusion continues… perhaps once people begin reading the book “Images of America – Fort Myer” they’ll get a better understanding that Fort Myer is in Virginia (first named Fort Whipple during the US Civil War) and is home to the US Army Band – “Pershing’s Own”, the US Army’s 3d Infantry Regiment – “The Old Guard”. The fort is located right next to Arlington National Cemetery. It was named after General Albert J. Myer, the US Army’s first Signal Officer, the inventor of the wig-wag signaling method (the insignia of the US Army Signal Corps are a pair of crossed Wig-Wag Flags), who also started the National Weather Service.
Today, Fort Myer, Virginia with over a century of service to the United States of America is as an outstanding US Army Post, defending the Nation’s Capital – Washington, DC with origins during the US Civil War. Many more events and people who were stationed there have had major influences on the United States and the world.
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