Tag Archives: Fort Whipple

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.

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

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.

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            

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

KINDLE VERSION – NOW!

Images of America - Fort Myer
Images of America
Fort Myer
It's here... the kindle version ...  the book "Images of America - Fort Myer" was in the queue to be converted and released for   the Kindle and the application for your tablet or Android phone version.   Arcadia Publishing has sent an alert that it's available now. Historic Fort Myer began in 1863 as Fort Whipple, one of the nearly 70 forts that formed the Defenses of Washington.  Since the 1940s, it's been the home of The US Army Band "Pershing's Own" and the 3d Infantry Regiment, "The Old Guard"  (named by General Winfield Scott). For those of you who still prefer a paper copy - especially if you would like an autographed copy -  it's time to head to  BUY THE BOOK and select your choice. In either case, you'll be presented with over 200 timeless photographs complemented by interpretive text that will capsule the first one hundred years of this US Army Post -  1860s to 1960s.   It is the only remaining fort from the Civil War era that is still "ON POINT" - it's also where the famed Buffalo Soldiers - the 9th and 10th Cavalry had squadrons posted twice.   And forgotten ways of transportation - the trolley lines - one which began as a horsecar that came out of Rosslyn , Virginia and ultimately electrified was extended to Nauck area of Arlington County, Virginia. So whatever version you choose, the kindle version or the regular paper book, you'll be getting an excellent book that presents such historic events such as: the first military aviation flight, the showcase for the US Cavalry, the little known "Society Circus" - begun during Patton's second of four postings to  Fort Myer, impressive photos of  the South Post of Fort Myer,  the "Fort Myer and Arlington National Cemetery" connection and most of all the first time published note from Abraham Lincoln which was discovered during the research for the book.   Don't have a Kindle yet?    Here's where you can get one direct from Amazon...     the Kindle version is available   ...

ARMY Magazine Reviews the Book

From ARMY Magazine,APRIL 2013 Copyright [year] by the Association of the U.S. Army.
ARMY Magazine -
April 2013
    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."
"Images of America: Fort Myer pays tribute to those who served there... the images reveal the changing history of a national landmark affected by world events, advancing technology and evolving demands."
A telephone call announced the news.  It was a surprise to hear the words that a review of the book  was in the April 2013 issue of this respected publication. It is truly an honor to have the book featured in this great magazine of the Association of the US Army.   The entire review is located on the AUSA website or on pages 76-77 in the magazine. With over 200 historical photographs, the book chronicles the first one hundred years of this Civil War era  fortification. Then it was known as Fort Whipple - one of the Defenses of Washington. Named for General Amiel Weeks Whipple. The book - the FIRST BOOK about Fort Myer -  also contains a previously unknown, handwritten note from Abraham Lincoln. It's published for the FIRST TIME on page 15 of "Images of America - Fort Myer." Purchase an author autographed copy at Buy the Book    <====  Images of America - Fort Myer

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.

Defenses of Washington DC During the Civil War

Arlington Heights - Defenses of Washington DC
Some Forts of Arlington Heights Virginia

Defending the Capital - Forts & Batteries

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.

Virginia Festival of the Book

Virginia Festival of the Book 2012DATELINE - 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