In 1862 the battle between the Monitor and Merrimac, at Hampton Roads, created panic in Washington. As the war progressed, many European countries seemed eager to join the fight on the side of the Confederacy. Fort Washington, on the Potomac River 16 miles below Washington was considered too far away to be adequately supported. Therefore the protection of the city from naval attack became a major concern and army engineers began building earthworks to resist naval bombardment.
Commodore Andrew H. Foote (National Archives Photo)In the words of General Barnard they were "in many respects, model works. Fort Foote was constructed for the purpose of defending, in connection with Battery Rogers, the water approach to the city. It was situated six miles below Washington, on a commanding bluff of the Maryland shore, elevated 100 feet above the river. The fort was essentially completed in the fall of 1863, and was designed as a water battery of eight 200-pounder Parrott rifles and two 15-inch guns." Fort Foote was named in honor of Rear Admiral Andrew H. Foote who distinguished himself in the actions against the Confederate forts on the Mississippi Rivers and died of wounds on June 26, 1863.
Since Fort Foote was a seacoast fortification, care was taken to insure that it could resist moisture and naval shells. General Barnard described the work in his 1881 report: "The revetments of breast-height and slopes, and all the vertical walls of the interior structure, as magazines, bomb-proofs, galleries, &c., were made almost wholly of cedar posts, while the roofing of these structures were mainly of chestnut logs." The front of the fort was over 500 feet long and the earth walls were 20 feet thick. A central traverse ran the length of the fort and contained bombproof magazines and storage areas.