Battery Kemble Park

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Battery Kemble Park
Battery Kemble Park.jpg
Battery Kemble Park, September 2009
Battery Kemble Park is located in District of Columbia
Battery Kemble Park
Location within Washington, D.C.
Location Washington, D.C.
Coordinates 38°55′49″N 77°05′39″W / 38.930203°N 77.094111°W / 38.930203; -77.094111Coordinates: 38°55′49″N 77°05′39″W / 38.930203°N 77.094111°W / 38.930203; -77.094111

Battery Kemble Park is a park in Northwest Washington D.C., administered by the National Park Service.[1]

Battery Kemble was a Union Army defensive site during the Civil War. The battery was located on Ridge Road (now Nebraska Avenue, NW), and included two 100-pound Parrott rifles, placed in such a way as to sweep Chain Bridge, Aqueduct Bridge, and Virginia beyond. Today, the parapet and gun positions are fairly well preserved and remain visible. The park is located south of Nebraska Avenue along Maddox Branch. Battery Kemble Park is bounded by Chain Bridge Road (to the west), MacArthur Boulevard (to the south), 49th Street (to the east), and Nebraska Avenue, NW (north). It is considered part of the Palisades neighborhood. The park is popular for running, sledding, nature walks, and is known to locals in the tri-state area (and the NPS itself) as a de facto dog park.[2][3] Newspaper articles date the park's use as a dog recreation area to as early as 1978. In 2009, one patron accidentally discovered an artifact near the park's main walking trail that attests to – and predates – written media accounts of Battery Kemble as a 'dog park': a stamped District of Columbia dog license tag from 1966.

Civil War defenses of Washington, or 'Fort Circle'[edit]

Battery Kemble was completed during the Autumn of 1861, as part of the Civil War Defenses of Washington, also known as the Fort Circle. It was named after Gouverneur Kemble of Cold Spring, New York, former superintendent of West Point Foundry, where most of the heavy Army and Navy guns were made during the Civil War.[4] Battery Kemble is on the high point of land, 387 feet (118 m) above mean low level of the Potomac River, where its guns could protect both Chain Bridge and Aqueduct Bridge. The artillery had "an extreme range of 3 miles, while it is under the direct fire, to a distance of at least 1,000 yards of the works."[5] The earthwork remains of the battery are distinct and well preserved.[6]

Battery Kemble was one in a chain of fortifications directly protecting the DC side of Chain Bridge. Other nearby fortifications included Battery Cameron (two 100-pounder Parrott rifles), Battery Parrott (two 100-pounder Parrott rifles), Battery Martin Scott (one 8-inch Seacoast howitzer, two 32-pounder cannon; later changed to two 6-pounder cannon and two 12-pounder howitzers), and Battery Vermont (three 32-pounder seacoast cannon). Battery Kemble was built to provide support to Fort Stevens and Fort Slocum and to guard northern approaches to the city.[7]

Wartime garrisons were manned by the 2nd U.S. Artillery, 9th New York Heavy Artillery, and Company A, 1st New Hampshire Heavy Artillery.

In 1861, an Army report described the initial conditions there:

Battery Kemble, Capt. F. E. Shaw commanding. – Garrison, one company First Maine Heavy Artillery – 3 officers, 1 ordnance - sergeant, 54 men. Armament, two 100-pounder Parrotts. Magazines, one; dry and in good order. Ammunition, full supply and serviceable. Implements, complete and serviceable. Drill in artillery, fair. Drill in infantry, fair. Garrison is sufficient.

"General Reports About The Defenses", Office Chief Engineer Army of Potomac, Washington, D.C., December 10, 1861.[8]

The soldiers' quarters at Battery Kemble (and Battery Cameron) remained unfinished, and in need of materials for completion, as late as 1864.[9] Contemporaneous accounts by Augusta Weaver, "a woman of means" living nearby, describe how soldiers stationed at Battery Kemble pillaged neighboring residents' pantries, her own included.[10] The property on which Battery Kemble was constructed was relinquished to the U.S. government by William A.T. Maddox, a career U.S. Marine Corps officer.[11][12]

The land for Battery Kemble Park was reacquired by the federal government sometime between 1916 and 1923, a period of time during which much of the land for the D.C.-area Fort Parks was acquired. The National Capital Parks and Planning Commission acquired approximately 2.8 acres (11,000 m2) for the "Fort Kemble" Park. However, it was almost fifteen years before the government corrected the name to "Battery Kemble."[13]:fn18

Fort Parks and Fort Drive[edit]

Battery Kemble had a prominent place in 50s-60s-era plans for Fort Drive, a plan originally conceived in the first decades of the twentieth century to connect D.C.'s Civil war defenses with a ring-shaped parkway ("not just widened streets"). The National Park Service and the District of Columbia signed a memorandum of agreement, on October 24, 1944, for the development of two Fort Drive sections, the first of which was from MacArthur Boulevard to Nebraska Avenue.[14] National Park Service Associate Director A.E. Demaray informed the Secretary of the Interior that 98 percent of the Fort Drive right-of-way had been acquired and that its construction "is believed to be of first importance."

On October 1, 1964, the National Capital Planning Commission staff and other professionals took a bus tour to help decide whether it should "be developed as a park-like road, can it lend itself to be an intermediate loop, or should the forts remain isolated for just recreational use?" By May 1965, the local newspapers extolled a new proposal by Fred Tuemmler as a substitute for the Fort Drive. Tuemmler, whom the National Capital Planning Commission hired to re-evaluate Fort Drive, suggested the right-of-way land should "be reconstituted as a recreational facility" and, to emphasize that park recreation concept, rename it "Fort Park System." It would be "a place to get away from cars." Further, he saw it as a 30-mile (48 km) "ring of recreation and green space" around the city, running from Fort Greble Park to Battery Kemble Park, with hiking and bicycle paths.[13]:fns 21–24


Battery Kemble's current superintendent is Cindy Cox, who succeeded Adrienne Coleman as Superintendent of Rock Creek Park, as of January 1, 2010.

It is policed by the United States Park Police (District 3), Metropolitan Police Department (2nd District), and occasionally U.S. Secret Service.

Former Superintendents include Joseph Brown (5/24/1965 - 5/6/1967), J. A. Martinek (5/7/1967 - 5/29/1971), and Joseph Antosca (9/5/1971 - 4/27/1972).[15][16]

Art and music[edit]

The earthworks slope at Battery Kemble was depicted in a 1989 landscape painting by David Holt entitled, Hillside in Battery Kemball [sic] Park, Washington, D.C. In 1991, Gunnar Plake created Battery Kemble, a striking C-type photographic print on aluminum. A view looking southwest, across the driveway, and towards a grove of bamboo, inspired the 2006 Carlton Fletcher painting Battery Kemble (676). Howard Carr, a painter who lives nearby, cites Battery Kemball as the inspiration for most of his works.[citation needed]

Natural environment and geology[edit]

The park has abundant pine trees, and is home to many species of birds.[17] There is also a dense grove of bamboo. Maddox Branch, a tributary of the Potomac River, flows through the park.[18]


  1. ^ U.S. National Park Service (NPS). Washington, DC. "Battery Kemble." Civil War Defenses of Washington. Accessed 2012-10-28.
  2. ^ Williams, Brett, et al. "Rapid Ethnographic Assessment of Civil War Defenses of Washington and Anacostia Park Management Plans." NPS Denver Service Center, 1998.
  3. ^ Nadim Ahmed. "Running About Town: Battery Kemble Park." Accessed 2012-10-28.
  4. ^ The name was recommended by Brig. Gen. and Chief Engineer Defenses of Washington J.G. Barnard in a letter on January 7, 1863, to Maj. Gen. S.P. Heintzelman, Commander of the Defenses of Washington.
  5. ^ NPS (2004). "Civil War Defenses of Washington. App. C: Naming the Forts." Historic Resource Study.
  6. ^ NPS. Park Historic Structures Program. "Battery Kemble; Earthworks." List of Classified Structures. Structure No. 521-01. LCS ID 005362. Park: Rock Creek Park. Accessed 2012-10-28.
  7. ^ Cooling III, Benjamin Franklin; Owen II, Walton H. (6 October 2009). Mr. Lincoln's Forts: A Guide to the Civil War Defenses of Washington. Scarecrow Press. pp. 139–141. ISBN 978-0-8108-6307-1. 
  8. ^ NPS (2004). "Civil War Defenses of Washington: App. E: General Reports About the Defenses." Historic Resource Study.
  9. ^ NPS (2004). "Civil War Defenses of Washington: Maintenance of the Defenses." Historic Resource Study.
  10. ^ "Sunset on the Palisades; Watching the quiet passing of a fragile Washington neighborhood", Terrence Downs, The Washington Post Magazine; Pg. 17, Sunday, February 5, 1978.
  11. ^ NPS (2004). Civil War Defenses of Washington: The Land and the Owners." Historic Resource Study.
  12. ^ National Archives: Record Group 328, Records of the National Capital Planning Commission; General Records, Parks & Recreation, Planning Files, 1924-67; 535, Parks & Recreation, Battery Kemble Park.
  13. ^ a b NPS (2004). "Civil War Defenses of Washington: The Fort Park System." Historic Resource Study.
  14. ^ Barthelmes, Wes. In Battery Kemble Park: Citizen Groups Hit Fort Drive Project." The Washington Post, April 27, 1955
  15. ^ Originally, in 1965, Battery Kemball fell under an administrative region of the National Park Service designated as "National Capital-North", which included Rock Creek Park, Peirce Mill, the Old Stone House, and Fort Circle Parks from Fort Totten to Battery Kemble, Battleground National Cemetery, D.C., and others. During the period from June 1972 through March 1975, these areas were administered by the region designated "National Capital Parks - West and East and George Washington Memorial Parkway". The administrative name of this area was changed to Rock Creek Park on March 16, 1975. Currently, the administrative region designated as Rock Creek Park also now includes: Fort Bunker Hill, Fort Totten, Fort Slocum, Fort Stevens, Battleground National Cemetery, Fort DeRussy, Fort Reno, and Fort Bayard.
  16. ^
  17. ^[dead link]
  18. ^ United States Geological Survey. Reston, VA. "Maddox Branch." Geographic Names Information System (GNIS). Accessed 2012-10-28.

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