‘The Confederate Advance’
courtesy of ‘Rob Shenk’
Let’s go back 150 years. DC, or the Federal City if you will, is under siege; and not that happy go lucky, Steven Seagal Under Siege. An up-start new country materializes across the Potomac; and the newly elected president, one Abraham Lincoln, isn’t going to let them leave the Union without a fight. This disagreement quickly escalates into the American Civil War. There’s a quick, but brutal, battle at a place called Bull Run. Not much else happened in 1861, except for the Battle of Ball’s Bluff.
Wait, we don’t have to imagine what happened at Ball’s Bluff. Rob Shenk beautifully captures the reenactment. Looking at his pictures, wonderfully smoke filled that they are, takes you back to October 21st 1861. Musket flashes; a rainbow of woolen uniforms; the Stars and Stripes and the Stars and Bars competing for the field. It is as if you could hear the Rebel Yell and the Battle Hymn of the Republic on the wind. Simply put: excellent photographs.
courtesy of ‘Rob Shenk’
This Saturday is Fort Stevens Day, a celebration of the 146th anniversary of the only Civil War battle to occur in DC. Always needed an excuse to check out the Civil War Defenses of Washington? Now’s your chance!
Saturday’s event includes a kids’ activity tent, various historical presentations, and a Civil War heavy artillery demonstration. Check out the full schedule and directions to the park, and keep in mind that rain cancels the event.
‘Fort Gaines at Tenleytown 1864’
courtesy of ‘NCinDC’
Some of the myths about the city seem a little far-fetched, particularly the more historic ones about the layout of the city. Traffic circles meant to confuse invading armies? No J Street because Pierre L’Enfant held a grudge? Come on. Here’s another one I heard– there’s a system of forts on the outskirts of the District designed to protect the city from an invasion. This story, like the other two, has to be a myth, right? The only fort in the city I can think of is Fort Totten, which (as far as I know) is a Metro station and not some Civil War encampment, and I certainly can’t picture an entire ring of forts around the city. So this myth is pretty easily busted, right?
Not quite. It turns out to be true– there was an incredibly extensive network of forts that once surrounded the city, and today, many of these forts are again being linked together to create a greenway trail for recreational uses. The Fort Circle Park system was a surprise to me, and digging through the history of these parks turned up some other interesting facts.
Driving the George Washington Parkway north along the Potomac, you can almost miss the entrance to Fort Marcy Park. It’s not a well-known Civil War fortification, not being a sight of one of that war’s destructive battles, but it was one of the key components of the Union’s defense of the capital. (It’s also known as the place where White House Counsel Vince Foster’s body was discovered in 1993, but that’s not really relevant today.)
At the beginning of the Civil War, there was only one operational fort (Fort Washington, over in Maryland) to defend against Confederate encroachment. A huge effort was made to establish a defensive ring of forts around the capital, eventually resulting in a ring of eight enclosed forts and over 90 gun batteries by 1865. These preparations made DC one of the most heavily fortified cities in the world at that time.
IMG_4238, courtesy of Cavalier92
Located only two hours from downtown DC, Gettysburg is probably the most well-known Civil War battlefield in the nation. Originally begun as a memorial in 1864, the battlefield was established as a National Military Park in 1895 and transferred to the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service in 1933.
The quite Pennsylvania countryside around Gettysburg became the turning point of the Civil War during three days in July 1863. When the smoke settled and the clash of arms subsided, over 20,000 soldiers were injured and close to 50,000 were casualties of the brutal fighting. In the end, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was a broken force; the South would never recover from the defeat. Continue reading