Favorite thing: The main fort area contains an officers barracks, enlisted barracks, a huge main gate, and numerous gun emplacements. This area is full of historical markers and the main base flag pole. At closing time the respectful National Park Service employee lowers the flag and lays it on the ground before he folds it. What a mor0n; he deserves to be fired.
Fort Washington's lower areas include the lighthouse, Battery White, and an old, abandoned barracks that might have been a post hospital at one time. On the sire of Battery White were two previous batteries, as well as the original fort at this site. The lighthouse was once surrounded by numerous outbuildings such as the keeper's house. Also in the area was a torpedo storehouse.
This area is accessible by car and by foot from the fort's upper areas. There is a small parking area and restrooms, as well as several trails and fishing areas along the water. From here you have views of Alexandria and Washington, DC to the north, and Mount Vernon to the south.
Two of the first building you see when entering the park through the front gate are the abandoned BX/Gym and the NCO Quarters. These two buildings are completely abandoned and boarded up. The pain is chipping, and the wood is beginning to crumble.
These buildings have no historic plaques or markers, so there is little information about their origins.
Battery Meigs was a mortar battery completed in 1902 and decommissioned in 1915. It was named after Brevet Major General Montgomery C. Meigs, Quartermaster General, U.S. Army from 1861-1882. The battery consisted of eight 12 inch mortars that fired shells weighing up to 1000 pounds to a range of several miles.
Today the battery is fenced off and much of it is used for storage. One section even has a porta-john in plain public view.
Originally called Battery D, Battery Humphries was completed in 1899 and decommissioned in 1928. Similar to Battery Decatur, it featured two 10 inch disappearing guns. It was named for Maj. Gen. Andrew A. Humphreys, Chief of U.S. Army Engineers from 1866-1879.
This is one of the better preserved of the batteries around Fort Washington. There is plenty of nearby parking and the insides of the battery can be easily explored by visitors.
Battery Smith is located in the southwest corner of Fort Washington Park. It was completed in 1903 and decommissioned in 1920. The small fortification was named in honor of 2nd Lt. Joseph P. Smith, 5th U.S. Infantry who was killed at Chapultepec, Mexico, 13 Sep 1847 during the Mexican War. The fort was armed with a pair of three inch guns.
Today this battery can be easily visited by visitors.
Battery Decatur was completed in 1899 and decommissioned in 1918. Originally called Battery B, in 1900 it was renamed in honor of Commodore Stephen N. Decatur. The battery featured two brand new "disappearing guns" which used the momentum of firing to drop down below the walls to be reloaded, keeping the soldiers manning the gun safer.
Today this battery is crumbling and fenced in, off limit to visitors.
Battery William White was completed in 1899 and deactivayed in 1921. It was named after Maj. William J.H. White, a surgeon who was killed in 1862 at Antietam, MD. This is the third fortification built just above the water level and below and in front of the main fort. A former battery here was armed with huge 15 inch Rodman guns and was used in the defensive layering scheme of the day to protect the mines by using its low elevation to skip cannon balls into enemy ships. In later years the main armament was four inch rapid fire cannons.
Today the concrete remains, but the cannons have been removed. The magazines are still intact, and you can easily see evidence of the earlier batteries. There are also several interpretive signs describing the history of this battery.