My last stop on the tour of Civil War forts of Arlington was not in Arlington at all. After visiting Forts Ethan Allen, C.F. Smith, and Bennett, our group drove to Fort Marcy, just across the line in Fairfax County. Fort Marcy belongs to the National Park Service and is located off the G.W. Parkway North, just before the Rt. 123/McLean exit. I visited Fort Marcy last spring, but had not realized just how well the remains of the fort were preserved due to the foliage and overgrowth. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there is much more to see. The Park Service still has a long way to go to interpret the site, but armed with our guide David, and his engineering drawings, we were able to explore the remnants of this important fort.
Fort Marcy, like nearby Fort Ethan Allen, was constructed to defend the approaches to the Chain Bridge along the Potomac. The fort was also located next to the critical roadway of the Leesburg & Georgetown Turnpike. Soldiers under Brigadier General "Baldy" Smith, including regiments from Vermont, began construction in September 1861 on land belonging to local businessman Gilbert Vanderwerken. (Readers may recall that Fort Ethan Allen was also built on poor Vanderwerken's property!) The fort was 736 yards in perimeter with emplacements for 18 guns. The fort was originally named after "Baldy" Smith. However, in late September, it was renamed in honor of Brigadier General Randolph Barnes Marcy, chief-of-staff and father-in-law to Major General George B. McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac.
|Brigadier Gen. Randolph B. Marcy, the fort's namesake (courtesy of the Library of Congress)|
By 1862, erosion had taken its toll, and the Union Army was forced to renovate the fort. Although the perimeter was reduced to 338 yards, the 18 gun emplacements were retained. The army also made improvements to the magazines and embrasures. Soldiers from several units garrisoned at Fort Marcy during the war, including the 4th Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, the 4th New York Heavy Artillery, and the 6th Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery.
We entered the fort's interior through a modern cut in the south wall of the fort. The fort has several well-preserved features, including the ramparts, ditch, gun emplacements, and bombproof.
|Looking towards the fort's entrance, or sally port, near Chain Bridge Rd. (Leesburg & Georgetown Turnpike during the Civil War). The rise of the fort's walls is visible to the left and the right of the entrance.|
|Looking eastward along the fort's south wall. The ditch, or dry moat, is clearly visible in front of the wall.|
|View from the ditch of the exterior slope of the west wall.|
|View of an auxiliary battery position on the exterior of the fort's west wall. Such auxiliary batteries, together with rifle trenches, added extra protection.|
|Gun emplacement at the northwest corner of the fort. This gun appears to be a 6-pounder, which is not included on the list of armaments for Fort Marcy.|
|A closer view of the above gun emplacement. The outline of the embrasure in the fort's wall is visible.|
|Remains of the bombproof in the interior of the fort, roughly east of the fort's western side.|
|Sketch of the bombproof and sally port as viewed from camp, from Heavy Guns and Light: A History of the 4th New York Heavy Artillery (courtesy of Wikipedia). |
Following Fort Marcy, the group returned to Fort Ethan Allen Park. Overall, I greatly enjoyed Arlington's tour of Civil War forts. The four-in-one deal is a welcome opportunity for those with busy lives -- or twins at home like me! Our guide was knowledgeable and helped us to get a real feel for what remains of some of the forts around Chain Bridge and Key Bridge. Additional information on future tours can be found on the Arlington County Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources homepage.
Note on Sources:
My background information for this series of posts comes largely from Mr. Lincoln's Forts: A Guide to the Civil War Defenses of Washington by Benjamin Franklin Cooling III and Walton H. Owen II. This book is the "Bible" of sorts for those interested in the forts around D.C. I would highly recommend the book if you want a detailed look at this subject.