"Design for Completing Fort Nelson, Virginia"
By Benjamin H. Latrobe, 1798
Watercolor on paper
24 1/2" x 18 1/2" National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Office
of the Chief of Engineers
Latrobe's Fort Nelson, Virginia In 1798 Englishman Benjamin H. Latrobe surveyed
the fortifications on both sides of the Elizabeth River near Norfolk,
Virginia. His design for improvement of the existing 1794 Fort Nelson
defenses there included the addition of bastions or projections from the
exterior wall. Latrobe updated the placement of the battery at Fort Nelson
according to the latest 18th-century French design. Although the cannons
formerly had been fired through openings in the fort wall, the improved
design mounted them on high carriages along a continuous parapet. Latrobe
also widened the ditch around the fort and added protection for the barracks
and magazine. These improvements were not begun until 1802, and Fort Nelson
was abandoned in 1824. Latrobe became one of America's most renowned architects.
In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson appointed him supervisor of the construction
of the U. S. Capitol. After the burning of Washington by the British in
1814, Latrobe rebuilt the House and the Senate chambers in the Capitol.