the Visitor Center
The first fort protecting Washington DC was destroyed during the War of 1812. Plans were quickly drafted by Pierre L'Enfant to design a new fort, but disagreements between the man and the government forced a delay in the building process. The fort officially opened in 1824 and was manned for over a century with its most important time of service being during the Civil War.
Parking is a short distance from the yellow Visitor Center which has a few exhibit rooms, a restroom, and a bookstore. Stopping here first gave me the chance to pick up a self guided tour of the fort. I paused to look at the fort from the Visitor Center before walking the few mintues downhill to it.
I marveled at the mechanism that used to work the drawbridge.
lantern in one of the casements
On the main parade ground, I noticed the 95-foot tall flagpole. The flag flown during the fort's years of service could be seen by those living in Alexandria well across the river. I then explored the northwest demi-bastion. Designed to fire guns from two different levels, I enjoyed peeking into the lower rooms (the casements) which actually were never used to fire weapons (instead they stored supplies and even housed women workers for a time). Above, I walked around the former gun positions and followed the wall across the top of the main gate and behind the barracks (not open to the public although it was possible to pick in through the windows and see either repair work or a few display cases). At a few spots I looked out across the river and could see DC in the distance, the Washington Monument sticking up. The Postern Gate and Sally Port provided glimpses of the world beyond the walls.
Later I walked down to the waterfront area where at one time another set of cannons had waited to attack the enemy. These cannons could skip their cannonballs across the water and cause low hull damage.
Less than a ten-minute drive from Fort Washington, the remains of Fort Foote are one of the few reminders of the 68 forts that once defended Washington DC during the Civil War. I had known that the capital had extra protection during the war but I had no idea how extensive that system had been. Wandering around in the wooded area where the fort had once been, I was fairly unimpressed, just seeing hills of dirt, now covered in grass. Then I came over the top of one of the embankments and two huge cannons (15-inch barrels) loomed over the river. The weapons, too awkward and large to move, were left from the time that the fort was operational. With the leaves down, I was able to see the river fairly well although the view of DC was obstructed.
The area has quite a few picnic tables available for relaxed meals.