Fort Stevens, Washington DC

2.1
Fort Stevens was part of the extensive fortifications built around Washington, D.C., during the American Civil War.
The fort was constructed in 1861 as "Fort Massachusetts" and later enlarged by the Union Army and renamed "Fort Stevens" after Brig. Gen. Isaac Ingalls Stevens, who was killed at the Battle of Chantilly, Virginia, on September 1, 1862. In 1861, it had a perimeter of 168 yards and places for 10 cannon. In 1862, it was expanded to 375 yards and 19 guns.
It guarded the northern approach to Washington, D.C., the Seventh Street Turnpike. By 1864 Fort Stevens was one part of a thirty-seven mile-long arrangement of fortifications, consisting of sixty-eight forts intended to defend the capital.
The fort was constructed as a part of a defensive ring around Washington. Following the Union defeat at Bull Run, Congress voted to augment the city's defenses, which consisted of a single fort (Fort Washington) twelve miles to the south on the Potomac. (Eventually, "68 forts, 93 batteries, 20 miles of rifle pits, and 32 miles of military roads surrounded the capital and Washington became the most heavily fortified city in the world.")
In September 1861 Union troops took possession of a property owned by a free black family Elizabeth Proctor Thomas and her siblings at the Seventh Street Turnpike, seeing it as "an ideal and necessary location for a fort." The soldiers ultimately destroyed her home, barn, orchard, and garden to build what was then named Fort Massachusetts.
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Fort Stevens Reviews
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4.2
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  • A friend formerly from California and I went on a weekday morning to visit this critical battlefield. We were able to find parking on a nearby residential neighborhood street without any problems. STO...  more »
  • I toured Fort Stevens with a National Parks Service Ranger and that made it much more meaningful than if I had simply visited the site alone. There are some signs and markers to explain key happenings...  more »
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  • An important fragment of Washington's (then huge) Civil War defensive system surrounded by an urban landscape. The site consists of two earthwork wall (and accompanying outside ditch) cut with gun embrasures. Two large iron 30 Pounder Parrott Rifles (cannon) are in place in tow of the embrasures. There is also a powder magazine bunker, although the doors are closed and it cannot be entered. There is a bronze 3D map showing the layout of the entire fort during the Civil War (the existing site representing only a fragment of the original Fort Stephens). Mounted on a stone, there is a bronze has relief plaque showing an event during Confederate General Juble Early's 1864 raid on Washington. President Lincoln visited the fort to observe the attack and walked the parapet to watch the attackers. The President drew Confederate fire, which struck one of Lincoln's military aides. However, Lincoln did not descend until (allegedly) confronted by a young Captain Oliver Wendell Holmes (later a Justice of the Supreme Court) who called the President a "damned fool" and ordered him off the wall....a command Lincoln (sheepishly?) obeyed. Worth seeing, especially during the infrequent times when Civil War reenactors are present to interpret the site.
  • Excellent example of Civil War fort guarding Washington. Was attacked during the war by forces under jubal Early. No parking lot available, street parking only. Hard to find sometime.
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