Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ranger Mannie Goes to Washington (part 1 of 2)

Monday began my tenure as a ranger on at the National Mall and Memorial Parks.  It's been quite a busy week.

This is the class of 2016 selected out of a pool of 250 qualified applicants. From left to right: Robert, yours truly, Leland, Natalie, and Mary.

Here we are on the roof of the Department of the Interior building looking for our resumes.

These next two weeks of training and orientation will have us visiting a variety of sites.

Among those we saw this past week were...

Ford's Theater for a behind-the-scenes tour of where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by that rat Booth...

And the Jefferson Memorial.

We had a great program by ranger Dave.

We boldly went where no visitor has gone before; this is the area underneath the Memorial with a sand floor and massive support columns.

So far, we've only had one rainy day, and luckily that day was spent entirely in the classroom.

The weather the rest of the week was glorious.

The new Martin Luther King Memorial is fantastic, 

and the program by Ranger John McCaskill was the best I have ever witnessed.  The talent pool at this park is just incredible.

Then it was off to a tour of the Washington Monument with ranger Mike Kelly.

Every Park Service site has a four-letter identifier; Antietam is ANTI, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site is FRDO, Gettysburg is GNMP, and the Washington Monument is WAMO.  

"Whammo!" From the sound of things we'll be spending a lot of our time working here.

George Washington - "First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."

Built over a period of time from 1848 to 1885 and opened to the public the following year, the obelisk, at 555 feet five and one-eighth inches, towers over Washington City.  It is the tallest free-standing stone structure in the world.

We took the elevator to the top for some breathtaking views of our nation's capital.

Then we had a very rare opportunity - a "walk-down" tour.

As our ranger led the way we got to see the interior of the monument.

Although the obelisk has been closed for a couple of years to assess and repair damage from the August 23, 2011 earthquake...

There are still some small reminders of the quake's effect upon the structure.

Vandalism isn't anything new, and in the 1890s fifty dollars was no small sum...

though not everyone was deterred.

As we descended we were able to see the commemorative stones which are embedded 
into the  interior walls.

This priceless stone from Alaska is a solid slab of Jade.

Three discs of petrified tree form the panel from the Grand Canyon state.

Stones are from states, organisations, individuals, and foreign countries.

And most contain patriotic inscriptions.

(for all my friends in Michigan)

We also had a tour of the Lincoln Memorial.

Here is the exact spot where Martin Luther King Jr., on August 28, 1963, stood to deliver his famous "I have a dream" speech.

The ranger gave a great program and all of us became aware of how much we'll have to learn 
to do our job well on the Mall.

We also visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial - The wall that heals"- and listened to Ranger Laura
talk about some of the individuals represented by the more than 58,000 names inscribed on the Wall.

Throughout this first week the "fantastic five" were guided by two experienced rangers - Ted and Krystal, (Ted is the tall guy in the middle).  They've both  been doing a really great job of getting us into the groove.

On the long (very long) commute home at the end of the week I was very tired but very happy to have this exciting new assignment.

Stay tuned for more.

On a train, somewhere southeast of Boonsboro,

Ranger Mannie

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