Fort C. F. Smith (Arlington, Virginia)

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Fort C. F. Smith Historic District
Fort C.F. Smith 3b07395r.jpg
Part of the lunette's earthworks are on the right.
Fort C. F. Smith (Arlington, Virginia) is located in District of Columbia
Fort C. F. Smith (Arlington, Virginia)
Fort C. F. Smith (Arlington, Virginia) is located in Virginia
Fort C. F. Smith (Arlington, Virginia)
Fort C. F. Smith (Arlington, Virginia) is located in the United States
Fort C. F. Smith (Arlington, Virginia)
Location2411 24th St., Arlington, Virginia
Coordinates38°54′6″N 77°5′25″W / 38.90167°N 77.09028°W / 38.90167; -77.09028Coordinates: 38°54′6″N 77°5′25″W / 38.90167°N 77.09028°W / 38.90167; -77.09028
Area19 acres (7.7 ha)
NRHP reference #99001719[1]
VLR #000-5079
Significant dates
Added to NRHPFebruary 1, 2000
Designated VLRSeptember 15, 1999[2]

Fort C.F. Smith was a lunette that the Union Army constructed in Alexandria County (now Arlington County), Virginia, during 1863 as part of the Civil War defenses of Washington (see Washington, D.C., in the American Civil War).[3][4][5][6] It was named in honor of General Charles Ferguson Smith, who died from a leg infection that was aggravated by dysentery on April 25, 1862.[7] Fort C. F. Smith connected the Potomac River to the Arlington Line, a row of fortifications south of Washington, D.C., that was intended to protect the capital of the United States from an invasion by the Confederate States Army.[4]

The Army built the lunette on a bluff overlooking the Potomac River and Spout Run. Because of its elevation and location, the lunette could protect the Aqueduct Bridge from invaders traveling along each of the two waterways.[4]


Civil War[edit]

Following the Union Army's defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) in August 1862, the Army constructed Fort C. F. Smith in 1863. The lunette was located on property that Thomas Jewell had previously owned and that contained a red house.[4] During construction, the fort was therefore referred to "Fort at Red House".[4] The Army destroyed the house while building the lunette and nearby fortifications.

The lunette had places for 22 guns and had a perimeter of 368 yards (336 m). General John G. Barnard wrote in a report that "Fort C. F. Smith was carefully planned and constructed after our latest models."[4] The lunette had a southern and western face and two flanks, as well as a crémaillère line on the north side to protect it from attack up the ravines from the river.[6]

A May 17, 1864, report from the Union Army's Inspector of Artillery (see Union Army artillery organization) noted the following:

Fort C. F. Smith, Maj. W. A. McKay commanding.–Garrison, four companies Second New York Heavy Artillery–1 major, 15 commissioned officers, 1 ordnance-sergeant, 548 men. Armament, three 12-pounder field howitzers, two 6-pounder field guns, four 24-pounder siege guns, one 8-inch sea-coast howitzer, six 4 ½ -inch ordnance, and four 8-inch siege mortars. Magazines, two; dry and in serviceable condition. Ammunition, full supply and well packed. Implements, complete and serviceable. Drill in artillery, very ordinary; wants improving much. Drill in infantry, insufficient; wants more energy and attention given to it. Discipline, great want of improvement. Garrison is sufficient.[8]

In 1865, the lunette's armaments were: one 8-inch sea-coast howitzer, three 12-pounder howitzers, four 24-pounder siege guns, two 10-pound Parrot rifles, six 4 ½-inch ordinance, three 4-inch siege mortars, and six vacant platforms.[4] Fort C. F. Smith and other Union Army fortifications on and near the Arlington Line saw little or no fighting during the war; the Army's biggest enemies in the area were diseases such as malaria and typhoid fever, as well as handling live ammunition.[4]


After the Civil War ended in April 1865, the Army dismantled and abandoned Fort C.F. Smith during the fall of that year. Wooden structures and revetments were removed. The Army destroyed the lunette's magazines and bomb-proof in order to salvage their wooden structural remains. Used lumber, timber, hardware, and tools were sold at public auctions.[4][9]

1965 historical marker at Fort C.F. Smith (2013)

Thomas Jewell's family then succeeded in recovering their property.[4] The Deming and Yates families took ownership of the property from 1888 to 1924.[4] Charles Lindsay owned the property from 1924 to 1926.[4] The Hendry family then owned the property from 1927 to 1993.[4]

Construction of 24th Street North destroyed about one-third of the lunette's remains.[4] However, the development of the property into a private estate provided a measure of protection to the remains of the lunette north of 24th Street.[4]

In 1965, the Arlington County government erected a historical marker near the site of the lunette's remnants.[5] The Arlington County Board designated the lunette to be a local historic district on February 28, 1987.[10]

In 1994 and in succeeding years, the County government acquired the lunette's property, created the 19 acres (7.7 ha) Fort C.F. Smith Park, and preserved the lunette's remnants at a cost of over $11 million.[11] On February 1, 2000, the National Park Service listed the fort on the National Register of Historic Places.[1][4][10]

The Virginia Civil War Trails[12] has erected a historic marker near the fort's site.[6] The Arlington County government hosted an event celebrating the opening of a new visitors center in Fort C.F. Smith Park on March 31, 2018.[13]

Existing remnants[edit]

Earthworks in Fort C.F. Smith Park (September 2013)

With the exception of those that construction of 24th Street North removed, the earthen remains of the lunette survive largely intact within Arlington County's Fort C.F Smith Park.[4][11] Gun platforms 8-11 are clearly visible, as is a well. The fortification contains bastions that are unusual within lunettes. The ammunition magazine is also still visible, as is the bombproof area. Soldiers would use the bombproof if they were under siege, as it functioned as a traverse that localized the effects of shell bursts. Parapets, which protected the soldiers from fire, and the gorge, which protected soldiers from flanking fire, also remain visible.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. ^ "Virginia Landmarks Register". Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Archived from the original on 2013-09-21. Retrieved 2013-05-12.
  3. ^ Cooling, pp. 115-122 Archived 2018-03-12 at the Wayback Machine: Touring the Forts South of the Potomac: Protecting the Northern Flank of the Arlington Lines—Forts Strong and C.F. Smith: Fort C.F. Smith.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Culhane, Kerri (John Milner Associates, Inc.) (1999-05-19). "National Register of Historic Places: Registration Form" (PDF). Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-02-18. Retrieved 2018-03-08.
  5. ^ a b Swain, Craig, ed. (2008-02-02). ""Fort C.F. Smith" marker". HMdb: The Historical Marker Database. Archived from the original on 2018-03-10. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  6. ^ a b c Swain, Craig, ed. (2008-02-02). "Fort C.F. Smith: Defending the Capital". HMdb: The Historical Marker Database. Archived from the original on 2018-03-10. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  7. ^ Mesch, Allen H. (2015-07-14). Teacher of Civil War Generals: Major General Charles Ferguson Smith, Soldier and West Point Commandant. McFarland. ISBN 9780786498345. Archived from the original on 2018-03-28.
  8. ^ Howe, A.P., Brigadier-General, Inspector of Artillery (1864-05-17). Scott, Robert N. (ed.). Report on the inspection of the defenses of Washington, made by the order of the Secretary of War: Fort C. F. Smith, Maj. W. A. McKay commanding. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Published under the direction of the Secretary of War (1880-1891). Series 1 (Military Operations), Volume 36, Part 2, Chapter 48 (Operations in Southeastern Virginia and North Carolina). Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office. p. 886. LCCN 03003452. OCLC 224137463. Retrieved 2018-03-15 – via HathiTrust Digital Library. (See: Official Records of the War of the Rebellion)
  9. ^ "Disposition of the Fortifications". The Civil War Defenses of Washington: Historic Resource Study: Part II, Chapter I: Silenced Guns. National Park Service. Archived from the original on July 12, 2017. Retrieved 2018-04-06. In certain instances, the Army felt that the accompanying buildings and fixtures were worth too much to turn over to the land owner and offered them money instead. To liquidate these valuable buildings and fixtures, the Army held auctions. In Alexander's accounts of auction sales during the week of December 9, 1865, he reported that he had received $1490 for the sale of abatis at five forts, a flagstaff, an implement house, the stockade in the rear of one fort, and timber, lumber &c. at three forts and "All other materials in Fort C.F. Smith." Specific winning bids were, "...., $43.00 for the stockade in the rear of Fort C.F. Smith ... ."
  10. ^ a b "Fort C.F. Smith". Projects and Planning. Arlington County, Virginia government. Archived from the original on 2016-05-20. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  11. ^ a b (1) "Fort C.F. Smith Park". Parks & Recreation. Arlington County, Virginia government. Archived from the original on 2018-03-10. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
    (2) "History of Fort C.F. Smith". Parks and Recreation. Arlington County, Virginia government. Archived from the original on 2018-03-10. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
    (3) Cooling, p. xii Archived 2018-03-12 at the Wayback Machine Introduction: The State and Fate of the Defenses of Washington.
    (4) Hall, Charles W. (1994-08-14). "Land Shields Legacy From Civil War". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2018-03-28. Retrieved 2018-03-14. In 1902, there were plans to build an estate on top of it, and county officials later rejected plans to build a housing complex for the elderly. Ultimately, the fort suffered only one great loss to development, when North 24th Street was paved over the southern third of the fort.
    Last month, County Board members voted to spend $5.2 million to buy a 14.7-acre farm on which the fort is located.

    (5) "County Buys Historic Fort C.F. Smith". Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association Newsletter (September/October 1994). 18 (2). Archived from the original on February 14, 2001. Retrieved 2018-03-28. The Arlington County Board voted July 9, 1994 to acquire 14.7 acres of land in northeast Arlington as a public park. According to the Chair, Arlington County Board, this is one of the most significant land acquisitions in the County's history. .... On September 9, 1994, the Board acquired the property for $5.25 million from the Anne P. Hendry Living Trust and Ernest and Judith Hendry. This property is located at 2411 N. 24th Street and overlooks the Potomac River. This acquisition includes a Victorian farmhouse and one of the best preserved remains of a Civil War fort located in the Washington, D.C. area, Fort C.F. Smith. .... The Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) recommended in its report to the County Board dated December 11, 1986, that the County Board approve historic district designation for the Hendry tract, 2411-24th Street North (z-2321-87-HD). The HALRB recommended the designation of the entire Hendry tract [as an Historic District] to provide legal mechanisms to protect the four historic resources intertwined on the property: a Civil War fort; a Victorian-vernacular main house and cottage with an outbuilding possibly built during the Civil War; an arboretum of specimen trees; and the Potomac Palisades.
    (6) Wheeler, Linda (1997-03-08). "Arlington's Parkway Residents Protect Historic Heritage". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2018-03-28. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
    (7) McKeon, Nancy (2013-05-10). "Green Acres: When you stumble onto a piece of heritage property, Rule No. 1 is to treat it with respect". Arlington Magazine. Archived from the original on 2018-03-28. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  12. ^ "Virginia Civil War Trails". Virginia Is For Lovers. Archived from the original on 2018-03-11. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  13. ^ (1) "Fort C.F. Smith Visitor Center Grand Opening". Parks & Recreation. Arlington County, Virginia government. Archived from the original on 2018-03-28. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
    (2) Stewart, Kathy (2018-03-31). "New visitor center at Fort C.F. Smith Park shows Arlington's Civil War history". WTOP. Archived from the original on 2018-04-01. Retrieved 2018-04-01.


External links[edit]