Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Long Bridge Across the Potomac River

The Long Bridge

The Long Bridge, the ancestor of the five bridges which are now collectively known as the 14th Street Bridge, was a wooden toll bridge opened in 1809 by a private firm called the Washington Bridge Company.  When the British burned Washington in 1814, President Madison and other government officials escaped into Virginia across the Long Bridge.  The Americans then destroyed the Virginia end to prevent pursuit by the British.  The British destroyed the Washington end to prevent a counterattack by the Americans.  It took four years to reopen the bridge.

During the Civil War, Washington became a major military supply depot.  Railroads were a relatively new invention which the military was using for the first time.  How to get supplies from Washington City, across the river to the battle front in Virginia became a central concern of war planners.  Rails were placed on Long Bridge, but fearing that the structure might collapse under the strain of too much weight, the generals had horses pull railroad cars and engines across the river into Virginia.  A new stronger bridge dedicated solely to rail traffic was built one hundred feet downstream, but this bridge was not operational until the war was almost over.  The Long Bridge was frequently damaged by floods over the following decades, but served until 1906 when it was replaced by the “Highway Bridge”.  The traffic in 1906 seems light compared to the 250,000 automobiles that now pour across the 14th Street Bridge daily.  At the turn of the century the average daily traffic over the Highway Bridge was fifty two single electric trolley cars, two hundred two-car trains, some one hundred automobiles, eight hundred double-animal teams, four hundred single-animal teams, five hundred pedestrians and eight horsemen.

Sherlock Hound recommends:

No comments: