12 September 2008 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 2 comments

The closing of the Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. has opened up a new opportunity to save a significant portion of the Fort Stevens battlefield. For those unfamiliar with the fight at Fort Stevens, Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early’s Confederate army arrived in Silver Spring, Maryland on July 12, 1864, ready to try to assault the works and then enter the defenses of Washington. The proximity of the Confederate army prompted a response by Grant, who sent the 6th, 19th, and 8th Corps to defend the nation’s capital. Elements of the 6th Corps arrived on July 12, as Early was preparing his assault, and a very significant skirmish, witnessed in person by President Abraham Lincoln, occurred. Early, realizing that the presence of the Federal infantry made it pointless to try an all-out assault on the works, broke off and withdrew back across the Potomac River. It was the only fighting of any consequence to take place in the defenses of Washington, and the only instance where an American president came under fire on the front lines of combat.

Sadly, only a small fragment of the works of Fort Stevens survives, and the overwhelming majority of the battlefield is today a fully-developed urban neighborhood along Georgia Avenue in the District of Columbia. Only the small fragment of Fort Stevens and the Battleground Cemetery, the nation’s smallest national cemetery, survive. Unfortunately, the fragment of Fort Stevens includes a powder magazine that provides an attractive target for the area’s many homeless persons.

Steve Stanley’s fabulous and invaluable map of the battle for Fort Stevens can be found here. This is, without doubt, the best map of the battle for Fort Stevens yet tackled. Be patient–it’s a big file that takes a moment to load. It’s well worth the wait, though.

A significant portion of the Confederate assault on Fort Stevens passed across the grounds of what is today Walter Reed, and there is even a marker on the grounds of the hospital to commemorate the fighting that occurred there. The Civil War Preservation Trust is launching a new campaign to preserve that portion of the Fort Stevens battlefield that lies on the grounds of Walter Reed, and I want to wholeheartedly endorse that effort. Please do whatever you can to encourage the Federal government not to sell the front portion of Walter Reed to commercial developers; help us preserve another fragment of an important Civil War battlefield.

Keep up the good work, guys.

Scridb filter


  1. Todd Berkoff
    Fri 12th Sep 2008 at 5:08 pm

    Eric — have you seen CWPT’s animated videos of the Battle of Chantilly and First Day of Chancellorsville? They are very well done.



    Todd Berkoff
    Arlington, Va

  2. Mon 15th Sep 2008 at 5:07 pm

    It’s going to be a tough slog. Water Reed is closing and developers are greedily eyeing all that prime real estate.

    One of the more amusing aspects of this is that Fort Stevens is now “inside the beltway.”

    It needs to be seen as part of a larger preservation effort of Washington’s CW forts, most of which have disappeared.

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