Fort Stevens is located in Washington, D.C. at 13th Street and Quacenbons. It is the site of a skirmish between Union and Confederate Forces during the American Civil War. Its significance would be that it would become the only battle where Confederate Forces had managed to bring the war to the District which was then the Union Capital. While often not known as well as other major battles such as Antietam (Sharpsburg, Maryland) or Bull Run (Manassas, Virginia) it holds great significance to the Civil War Heritage of Washington D.C. In fact, President’ Lincoln’s Visit would become the most significant event to occur during the battle.
Backstory and Context
Fort Stevens originally was commissioned in 1861. As the Union began to mobilize for the war, defense Fortifications were much needed around the otherwise vulnerable Union Capitol. It was originally named Fort Massachusetts since it was built by servicemen who mostly from there. It got its new name from the Union Brigadier Isaac Stevens, who would fall at the Battle of Ox Hill in Chantilly, Virginia in 1862. Before the war ended, Fort Stevens itself would see a Battle come to its doorstep.
The Battle began in mid-1864, when General Ulysses Grant departed from Washington with additional troops for his campaign into Southern Virginia. This, however, made Washington, more vulnerable to attack. Confederate General Robert E. Lee did not waste this opportunity and sent Jubal A. Early (one of his inferior generals) to coordinate an attack. General Early took 20,000 troops and had them march into Maryland where he struck Union forces at Monocracy near Frederick, Maryland. Early managed to make it to Fort Stevens, where almost managed to take it down, however Union forces were able to hold him off. President Lincoln visited during to battle where he had exposed himself to danger, where General Early would recall that he “we didn’t take Washington, scared the hell out of Old Abe.”
Today Fort Stevens is a federal park open to the public. While the actual Fort has only been partially restored, there are monuments and cannons up to remember what took place here. It is also renound for hiking and biking as well as other recreational activities. It is site where those who want recreational activity as well as those who want to learn more about the wartime defenses of Washington D.C. can go. More importantly, than all that it stands as a reminder of how vulnerable the Union Army still was in the waning years of the American Civil War.
1. National Park Service. "Fort Stevens-Civil War Defenses." Accessed June 4, 2015. http://www.nps.gov/cwdw/learn/historyculture/fort-stevens.htm .
2. Civil War Trust. "Washington’s Civil War Defenses and the Battle of Fort Stevens [archived web page]." Accessed June 4, 2015. https://web.archive.org/web/20150526044325/http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/fortstevens/fort-stevens-history-articles/washingtons-civil-war.html