The site of Fort Washington was originally selected by George Washington in 1794 as the location for a fortification to protect the new capital city. It was originally named Fort Warburton after the Warburton plantation, owned by the Digges family, on whose land it was built. The fort was finished in 1809 and re-named in honor of George Washington. Fort Washington is strategically located along the Potomac River where the channel narrows. The 1809 fort no longer exists but can be detected in aerial views of the site. It was located in front of (on the riverside) the present fort and was star shaped with a circular gun battery. The British described it as "most respectable."
Fort Armaments in 1814:
* Two 32 pounders
* Two 50 pounders
* Nine 24 pounders
* Approx. Ten 18 pounder Columbines
In August 1814, the Fort was manned by 49 men under the command of Captain Samuel T. Dyson, US Army. On August 27th, with British forces in Washington and British warships, under the command of Captain James Alexander Gordon, heading up the Potomac, Captain Dyson ordered the fort destroyed to prevent its capture.
Captain Dyson was arrested, relieved of his command and court-martialed for his actions. He was found guilty of destroying government property and abandoning his post. In his defense, Dyson stated that he was acting on orders from Brigadier General William H. Winder.
Twelve days after the destruction of the fort, orders were issued to construct new defenses; the work was finished by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 1824.