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Arlington in Arlington County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Chain Bridge
 
Chain Bridge Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, October 28, 2007
1. Chain Bridge Marker
 
Inscription. In 1797, the merchants of Georgetown built here the first bridge over the Potomac River in order to compete with the Virginia port of Alexandria. The Falls Bridge allowed trade from the "upper country" of Virginia to move directly to Georgetown over the Georgetown-Leesburg Road. After the first two bridges were destroyed by floods, a chain suspension bridge, considered a marvel of engineering with a span of 128 feet between stone towers, was built in 1808. Although this bridge has been replaced by other forms of construction, the popular name Chain Bridge continues to be used. The present bridge was built following the flood of 1936.
 
Erected by Arlington County, Virginia.
 
Location. 38° 55.768′ N, 77° 6.998′ W. Marker is in Arlington, Virginia, in Arlington County. Marker is at the intersection of North Glebe Road (State Highway 120) and Chain Bridge Road (State Highway 123), on the right when traveling north on North Glebe Road. Click for map. Located just before the crossing of the Potomac at the Chain Bridge. Marker is in this post office area: Arlington VA 22207, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Mouth of Pimmit Run (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Pimmit Run and Chain Bridge (about 600 feet away); Clay and Randolph Duel (approx. 0.4 miles away); Fort Marcy, Virginia (approx. 0.6 miles away); a different marker also named Fort Marcy (approx. 0.6 miles away); Fort Ethan Allen (approx. 0.6 miles away); Auxiliary Battery (approx. 0.6 miles away); a different marker also named Fort Ethan Allen (approx. 0.7 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Arlington.
 
Two County Markers at the Chain Bridge Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, October 28, 2007
2. Two County Markers at the Chain Bridge
 

 
More about this marker. The best way to see the marker, and the Virginia side of the bridge is to park at a wayside area just to the west, where 41st Street North intersects Glebe Road (under the overpass of George Washington Parkway). From there one can walk a trail under the bridge where Glebe Road passes Pimmit Run. The trail leads to the mouth of the creek, and a side path scales up the embankment to the markers. There is a small pull-off on the west bound lane of Glebe Road opposite the marker, but is dangerous to access on most days.
 
Also see . . .
1. A History of the Chain Bridge. Excerpt from Mike High's The C&O Canal Companion, a highly recommended reference for any student of history treking through the Maryland - Virginia area. (Submitted on November 5, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 

2. Civil War Fortifications. During the Civil War, since the Chain Bridge offered an direct avenue for Confederate raiders based in Northern Virginia (particularly around Loudoun County) into the nation's capital, the approaches to the bridge were well guarded. Reprints from Harper's Weekly displayed at this link illustrate the fortifications built at the entrances to the bridge. (Submitted on November 5, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 

3. Lincoln and the "Sleeping Sentinel". Private William Scott was sentenced to death by firing squad after he was found guilty of falling asleep at his post guarding the Chain Bridge in the summer of 1861. As legend has it, President Lincoln was so moved by the story he raced to the execution to deliver an executive reprieve of Private Scott. Reality was far less dramatic, and unfortunately Private Scott was killed a few months later at a battle in Virginia. (Submitted on November 5, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 
 
Pillars of Older Bridges Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, October 28, 2007
3. Pillars of Older Bridges
Beside the modern bridge pillars are some masonry remains of the previous bridges.
 

4. Union Balloon Corps Used the Bridge. Lacking a gas source on the Virgina side, Thaddeus Lowe was forced to inflate the first balloons used in military history at the Washington Navy Yard. The inflated balloon was then towed, by hand, to the vicinity of Falls Church, crossing the Potomac over the Chain Bridge. All told the movement took some eight hours. (Submitted on November 5, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 
 
Additional comments.
1. Notable Civil War death at Chain Bridge
Captain James W. Lingenfelter of Co. A, 71st Pennsylvania Infantry, was the first Union officer from Oregon killed in the Civil War. He was killed while on duty at Chain Bridge on September 21, 1861. Prior to the war, he practiced law at Jacksonville, Oregon, and was acclaimed as one of the great orators of the region.

Lingenfelter joined Oregon U.S. Senator Edward D. Baker when Baker formed the 1st California Regiment at the start of the Civil War, later re-designated the 71st Pennsylvania Infantry. Lingenfelter was shot in the head by a Confederate sniper while on picket duty. Exactly one month later, Colonel Baker was killed at the Battle of Ball's Bluff in Leesburg, Va. Lingenfelter is buried at Caughnawaga Cemetery in Fonda, Montgomery County in New York.
 
Chain Bridge During the Civil War Photo, Click for full size
Civil War Photographs, Library of Congress
4. Chain Bridge During the Civil War
Seen here are the wooden planking and guardhouses mentioned in stories about the bridge from the Civil War period. It is said the planking on the bridge was removed each night to prevent Confederate raiders from entering Washington and perhaps kidnapping President Lincoln himself. (Civil War photographs, 1861-1865 / compiled by Hirst D. Milhollen and Donald H. Mugridge, Washington, D.C. : Library of Congress, 1977. No. 0750)
 
Note To Editor only visible by Contributor and editor    
    — Submitted August 31, 2011, by K.C. Piccard of Portland, Oregon.
 
Chain Bridge as it Looked in the Civil War Photo, Click for full size
Civil War Photographs, Library of Congress
5. Chain Bridge as it Looked in the Civil War
Another view of the Chain Bridge from Civil War photographs. Note the support pillars. A fine comparison to draw between the 1861 era bridge and the modern bridge dating from the 1930s. (Civil War photographs, 1861-1865 / compiled by Hirst D. Milhollen and Donald H. Mugridge, Washington, D.C. : Library of Congress, 1977. No. 0749)
 
 
Modern Chain Bridge Road Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, October 28, 2007
6. Modern Chain Bridge Road
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on November 5, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 3,480 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on November 5, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.
 
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