Monday, September 21, 2009

The Haunted Bridge(s)

Prior to Washington, DC becoming a city, an old farming road connected what was then the port of Georgetown, MD with farming communities further down the Potomac. When the city was laid out, this road very roughly followed what is now Pennsylvania Avenue. It crossed into Georgetown just south of the current O St Bridge via a wooden bridge with no rails.

Moving forward a few years, during the War of 1812, the British burned Washington, DC. American troops attempted a defense of Washington but were routed at the Battle of Bladensburg, just outside Washington, DC boundary on US 1. Following this defeat, the American troops scampered back through the City of Washington and regrouped on the high ground above Georgetown, just across Rock Creek from where we are today. British forces followed them as far as Capitol Hill before halting. Having fulfilled there primary objective of embarrassing the Americans, the British decided to burn public buildings in Washington, including the unfinished Capitol and, of course, the White House. Fortunately for the Americans, a fierce storm rose up that evening, extinguishing the fire at the Capitol and preserving at least some of it.

However, in that same storm, a drummer boy helping to rally American troops evacuating Washington was either blown or pushed (accounts differ) over the edge of the wooded bridge that stood here. Since then, residents have reported hearing muffled drumbeats when the creek is quiet. Sadly, since Rock Creek Parkway was built in the twenties, there have been few quiet nights here, and hence no modern reports of drumbeats.

The wooden bridge met it's end in an equally tumultuous fashion. It had been falling apart for many years when a wagon attempted to cross on a foggy night. As he crossed, he felt the bridge start to come apart. Since it can be a bit difficult to back a team of horses up, he whipped them to a frenzy trying to make the side upon which we are now standing. Despite his frantic efforts, the bridge collapsed just before the teamster could make the opposite side. Occasionally, on foggy days, it is said that if you stand in the right spot, you can see the teamster whipping his horses and trying to make it across before they all plunge to their death.

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