Fort Stevens Civil War Defenses of Washington D.C.

Location: Washington D.C.

Webpage: National Park Service

General Description: Fort Stevens was one of the ring of forts that protected Washington D.C. during the Civil War.  Fort Stevens has been partially reconstructed and it’s claim to fame came on September 11-12, 1864.  In the summer of 1864 General Grant had General Lee in a deathtrap around Richmond and Petersburg.  The Union forces defending Washington D.C. were stripped in support of this action leaving the city only defended.  To try and relieve the pressure in Virginia, General Early was sent through the Shenandoah Valley to attempt to take Washington D.C. from the north.  The forces left in D.C. were primarily poorly trained recruits and too many generals.  Even though General Early defeated the General Wallace at Monocacy River, they were effectively delayed for a day giving time for battle hardened soldiers from Virginia to reinforce Fort Stevens.  On the afternoon of July 11 and through July 12, the Confederate forces attempted to take the fort and suffered heavy losses.  The Confederate troops withdrew on July 12 after General Early decided D.C. could not be taken.  Fort Stevens is also known as the site where President Lincoln was shot at by Confederate sharpshooters when he visited the Fort during the battles on both days.  This made him only the second sitting President to come under direct enemy fighters.  The first was President Madison during the War of 1812.



1) The reconstruction of the fort provided a good sense of what the Civil War defenses around Washington D.C. consisted of, although all the residential buildings surrounding the fort made it difficult.  Although they called them forts, Fort Stevens was really nothing more than a fortified gun emplacement and it was part of a ring of forts that overlapped their fields of fire surrounding D.C.

FortStevens_2 FortStevens_1

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