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.
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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
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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.
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Hail From the Chief

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 Challenge

Images of America Fort Myer, home of the Chief
Images of America
- Fort Myer
  Along 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 ITEM

One 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...."

The Rocks, Inc.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 Chief

I 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! Note from the Chief, General Raymond T Odierno                                             Thanks Chief!
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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
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He Bought the Book

We were sent this message and here in his own words is the reaction to the book about Historic Fort Myer:
Recently I purchased a copy of John Michael's outstanding book, "Images of America: Fort Myer", where he is recounting the history of Fort Myer, Virginia, a military outpost, if you will, that is bathed in American Military history. His work is truly a mini-museum laid out before you on 127 pages, that are filled with photographs, and I mean priceless photographs, and reinforced with factual information relating to the chronological events that not only shaped America, but its Army. I couldn't begin to share with you all that I read and saw within the pages of the magnificent book, because I don't think I could do it it justice. John Michael has truly poured his heart into his prose, and I personally believe that if you are either a history buff, or a Soldier who has once served on this Post of Generals, this book needs to be in your library, with many a "dog eared" page.
Bernie Bernwall (Wilson) Author of "What Wouldn't Jesus Do?" And, And, veteran of The Old Guard of the US Army, 3d Infantry Regiment" Get a copy of Bernie's book from Amazon:
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Remount Depot – Fort Keogh, Montana

Fort Keogh, Montana Established on 08 NOV 1878 by Brevet General Nelson A. Miles and named Fort Keogh as a US Army Post.  The original size of the military reservation was 100 square miles, or about 64,000 acres.  The infantry troops were withdrawn in 1907 and  became part of the US Army's Remount Service and a remount depot in 1909 until 1924 when the Army relinquished it to the US Dept of Agriculture. More about the US Army's Remount Service along with several historic photographs are found in the book "Images of America - Fort Myer" - the ground breaking / milestone setting book about this historic US Army Post with origins during the US Civil War when it was known as Fort Whipple.
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Here Comes the Cavalry

Here comes the CavalryIt 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.
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National Medal of Honor Day and Fort Myer

Congressional Medal of Honor - US ArmyToday 25th March is dedicated to the special group of military who have been awarded the highest distinction which the United States of America can bestow upon its military - the Congressional Medal of Honor or known just as the Medal of Honor.   Since its inception in 1861 after President Abraham Lincoln signed it into law, less than 4,000 medals have been awarded as of  March 2011.  The valor, heroism and bravery demonstrated by these men has been something which most never really hear about or read about their achievements. Five of the recipients have had association with Fort Myer over the last 150 years, where they either lived on Post in a senior officer position within the US Army or they were Post Commander. Brigadier General Louis Henry Carpenter was a Post Commander of Fort Myer from 1887 to 1891.  He received the Medal of Honor while he was a Captain, Company H, 10th US Cavalry on 8 APR 1898 for his service during the Indian campaigns in Kansas and Colorado SEP - OCT 1868 Brigadier General Guy V. Henry Sr. was a Post Commander of Fort Myer. He received the Medal of Honor on December 5, 1893.   General Henry also was instrumental in the recruiting of Soldiers for all the Buffalo Solider regiments - Infantry and Cavalry. Major General Leonard Wood was named Army Chief of Staff in 1910 by President Taft; he remains the only medical officer to have ever held that position. General Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright IV was also a Fort Myer Post Commander and comanding the 3d Cavalry and 16th Field Artillery. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and lived in Quarters One on Fort Myer. Additional insight to these men and significant events  are contained in the book "Images of America - Fort Myer"
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Women’s Army Corps on South Post

Women's Army Corps (WAC) WW II recruiting poster

WHAT WAS ONCE ARLINGTON CANTONMENT

Begun as the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) in MAY 1942, it became a branch of the US Army in 1943 then known as the Women's Army Corps (WAC).  During WW II some 150,000 women served in the Army and Fort Myer had its share.   Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby was the first director from 1942 to 1945. At Fort Myer, South Post, they were about 1,900 in number and housed in barracks at what was that time South Post of Fort Myer. They were the first women to serve in the Army other than nurses.  "Images of America - Fort Myer" includes several historical photographs which provide a glimpse of the past service of these women who lived on South Post.  The WAC would continue on as a branch of the US Army until 1978, when those who were serving, were included into the Army based on their military occupational specialty (MOS) Their history is rich and legacy long.  More accounting of their contributions, including a top-secret mission during World War II is found in the book by MAJ Elna Grahn In the Company of Wacs.  They shared South Post Fort Myer with the civilian women who worked in Washington, DC and other Soldiers from what was Headquarters Company of the US Army. South Post was the location of many events while it existed that are milestones in the US Army's history.  These are chronicled in the book Images of America - Fort Myer.

OVER 200 HISTORICAL IMAGES, MAPS and ILLUSTRATIONS

The book was released on 13 JUN 2011 and chronicles the first one hundred years of this Civil War era US Army Post when it was first called Fort Whipple in honor of General Amiel Weeks Whipple.   He commanded the Defenses of Washington using Arlington House as his headquarters.  An autographed copy of the book "Images of America - Fort Myer"  can be had on the page BUY THE BOOK.  Alternative choices of purchase are also offered.
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