Fort Warburton and Warburton Manor

Jimmy Warburton has alerted me to the fact that one of the earliest forts built by the newly independent United States was called Fort Warburton. A search of the internet will reveal a number of articles on the fort.

It was built in 1808, on the Maryland bank of the Potomac River, as part of a series of forts designed to protect from any fallout from the Napoleonic Wars. However in 1814, when a British fleet approached, its commander destroyed the fort and retreated. It seems that the fort was already sometimes referred to as Fort Washington, and when it was subsequently rebuilt that is how it was formally named .

Fort Warburton was sited on Digges peninsular, part of the extensive estates of the Digges family. Edward Digges was a Governor of Virginia in 1655/6, a silk pioneer, and tobacco producer. By 1680 his son William Digges, a Deputy Governor of Maryland, had been granted extensive land and property in that state. This included Warburton Manor, located on 1200 acres bounded by Piscataway Creek, Swan Creek and the Potomac River.

Warburton Manor was located directly across the Potomac from Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. George and his wife Martha were friends of Thomas Digges, the then owner of Warburton Manor, and were frequent visitors, crossing the river by boat. George and Thomas also had a means of communicating by signals.

The manor was destroyed in 1819 when Fort Washington was rebuilt. The site is now part of the Fort Washington National Park. The Warburton name is preserved as a street name in a neighbouring development.

The one element that is missing from this story is the origin of the Warburton name in this area. It seems the area already carried the Warburton name when the land was first granted to William Digges, so it was presumably named by an earlier explorer, settler or colonial official, but I have found nothing to explain the name.

If anyone, especially anyone familiar with the area and its history, can provide an explanation I would be delighted.

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