Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Visit to the Big Guns of Fort Foote Maryland

During the Civil War a ring of protective forts was built surrounding Washington DC making it the most fortified city in the world. Fort Foote, built in 1863 was the southernmost of these forts and had a commanding view of the Potomac River.  Manned by Heavy artillerymen, among the main armament of the fort was an enormous 15" Rodman gun.

The 49,000 pound smoothbore Rodman had a range of up to three miles and charged with thirty pounds of black powder, hurled a ball weighing 440 pounds!

The works, though softened by time are very much in evidence today.

The commanding view of the Potomac too is very much the same.

Susan manages to hold up the tube of this massive gun.

Artillerymen with long pikes levered these wheels to return the gun from it recoil position back into battery position along its sliding carriage.

Similarly, long pikes were inserted into the holes of the deflection wheels to pivot the gun left or right along iron tracks.

The guns are anchored on a central pivot pin allowing for a wide field of fire.  The carriage of the gun is inclined up toward the rear to absorb the recoil of the heavy gun, essentially having it slide "uphill" to expend the force of the recoil.

Never fired in anger, the gun was, however, fired numerous times for ranging purposes and demonstrations.

Incremental elevation was performed at the breach of the gun.

Two of the original guns remain.  The fort remained an active Potomac defense for several years.  During the war only one Rodman was mounted but in 1867 two, presumably these two, were present.  Imagine the power of man, beast, and derrick which must have been required to haul these guns to the fort and mount them into position.

Do put Fort Foote on your "short list" of cool Civil War sites to visit when in the
national capital area.

Here's my contribution to the Rodman mythos that I posted on my toy soldier blog
a couple of years ago:

Tomorrow I start my new job on the National Mall.  Wish me luck!

From way northwest of our nation's capital,
Ranger Mannie

Saturday, September 13, 2014


I have only three working days left at Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (FRDO).
Although I'm not in to historic homes, I have enjoyed the experience.  I've met some really good people there and I expanded my knowledge of a really great American - Frederick Douglass.  I'll be forever grateful to Julie the site manager for giving me that position.  As I was leaving Antietam I was scrambling for a place to land.  The only spot available was at FRDO, and Julie really bailed me out of a tight situation.

                                                       (I didn't take this photo, by the way, I just pulled it off google)

I start on the National Mall (NAMA) on September 22nd.  The first two weeks will be orientation and training, which I'm really looking forward to.  From rangers who work there and who have worked there I've consistently been told two things about the job; the first is that "it is what you make it" and the second refrain is "its really fun".  I plan on making it a really great experience.

I look at this as a stepping stone on the long trip back to Antietam, which I think will happen some day.

I know that I'll be taking lots of pictures which I'll be posting here.  I just want to get started.

See you soon.

From just north of Boonsboro,
Ranger Mannie


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Welcone to Cedar Hill

One more thing before I leave...

 On the hill behind me is Cedar Hill the final home of Frederick Douglass.  This Anacostia home was purchased by Douglass in 1877 for $6,700; in today's money that would be 1.3 million dollars.  By the time Douglass lived here he had become a very wealthy man, deriving his income from his public speaking, his publishing ventures, his writing and his various public offices.

 This life-size bronze of Douglass allows visitors to see his great stature (physically and metaphorically).

High atop cedar hill the house has commanding views of Washington DC.

 This is the desk at which Douglass wrote his final autobiography.  His study contains a portion of his personal library of over a thousand books.

The east parlor was the formal parlor where Douglass met with VIPs including politicians, newspaper publishers, the old abolitionists, women's rights advocates, and other notables.

We are very fortunate to have a set of photographs of the rooms from the time Frederick Douglass lived here. The rooms are arraigned in the way they were in the time of Douglass and about 75% of the artifacts were his.

Pictured here is Douglass's first wife Anna Murray Douglass.  They were married for 44 years. She bore him five children and they had 21 grandchildren.  She was a free black woman living in Baltimore when she and Douglass met.  She sold many of her personal items to finance his escape from slavery.

 Two years following Anna's death in 1882, Frederick Douglass married his second wife, Helen Pitts.  It was a controversial marriage as she was white, and perhaps even more scandalous to the upper-crust of Washington DC society was that she was twenty years younger than Douglass,  She was the same age as Douglass's Daughter Rosetta and this was a source of friction between the two women.

The West, or Family parlor, was the scene of music, laughter, games and fun.  We seldom associate Frederick Douglass with the word "fun" but indeed he was - giving his grandchildren piggyback rides throughout the house, playing leapfrog from the family parlor well into the adjacent dining room, and instructing them in the finer points of croquet - one of his favorite pastimes.

The house is filled with a wealth of domestic items including this kerosene powered flat iron...

and this classic stove from Sears and Roebuck.

Many visitors (and this particular Ranger)  find themselves coveting this beautiful crock for ice water. Imagine using it for iced tea or lemonade.

"If these walls could talk"  The dining room table is set just a Douglass left it.  Luminaries including Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman dined at this table.

Frederick Douglass was very much in demand as an orator, sometimes spending up to six months a year traveling to Europe where people wanted to hear the story of his life, his escape from slavery and his views on abolition, women's rights, and a variety of social justice issues.  This is his travel trunk with "F. Douglass" painted on the side.

The views from the upstairs hallway...

are nearly breathtaking.

This is Douglass's bedroom.  Note the dumbbells on the floor in front of the chair. Douglass was a very physically-fit and robust man who worked out every day.

This is Anna's room.  She was an invalid the entire time she lived at Cedar hill which was a scant four years.  A stroke ended her life in 1882.

Helen's room is just down the hall.  Helen was what could be considered a more "modern" woman as evidenced by her sewing machine and especially by her typewriter.  Helen was a clerk typist at the DC Register of Deeds office where she and Frederick Douglass met.  They married two years following the death of Anna.  They had many shared interests including travel, politics, women's rights, music theater and the arts.

Sunglasses worn by Frederick Douglass

The chimneys of Cedar Hill.

Treat yourself to a visit to Cedar Hill in the historic district of Anacostia. It's a fantastic resource that helps to tell the story of a truly great American.  Make a reservation for a tour at

I hope you've enjoyed this brief look into the life of Frederick Douglass through the lens of the house he lived  in for 18 years.

Still chasing history, from the heart of Anacostia,

Ranger Mannie

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Big News!

BIG NEWS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After eight years of waiting and working I've finally received a permanent appointment with the NPS.  I start on the National Mall in Washington DC on September 8.  This is very (very) good news.

Now the hope is to work my way back to Antietam!

Soon from high atop the Washington Monument,

Ranger Mannie

Monday, April 14, 2014

Victory Lap and Fare-thee-well

This was a beautiful morning to take one last hike in the park.  I've been walking these trails for eight years now, usually with my camera and always on the lookout for the things that make this place so special.

You'd think that after so many years I'd have run out of special moments here, but every walk upon the battlefield brings something new - today it was the frogs singing from the Roulette pond.  Every day something new, every day another view.  I never know what to expect when I mount the steps to the observation room - the valley, Elk Ridge, and South Mountain never look the same way twice.  I'll miss giving programs in that room with visitors in front of me and that magnificent view behind me.

I've had many wonderful experiences here.

I met, proposed to, and married my wife here.

I've made lasting friendships here.

I've learned so much here.

And some day, I hope to return here.

Best wishes, from just north of Sharpsburg,

Ranger Mannie