Ft. Stevens, Pt. 3

by Fred Ray on April 26, 2006 · 0 comments

Last night Frank Cooling emailed me with the web address of the NPS study on the Washington “Circle Forts,” which gives quite a bit of background about the forts from the time their building commenced in 1861 through Jubal Early’s raid to the end of the war. Fort Stevens, for example, started out as Fort Massachusetts, and was renamed for Brigadier General Isaac Stevens, who was killed at Chantilly.

Cooling, a professor at the National Defense University in Washington, is probably the foremost authority on the Circle Forts and is the author of several Civil War books about them (Mr. Lincoln’s Forts) and Early’s 1864 campaign. He’s also been a leader in their preservation.

The NPS study alluded to above has a map of the battles of July 11 and 12, 1864, which gives some perspective to the photo I posted yesterday. The Confederate positions — and present-day Walter Reed — are 1000-1500 yards almost due north of Fort Stevens.

The NPS map (scroll down) shows the Union counterattack late in the day of July 12, but makes it look like most of the fighting took place on the picket line south of Walter Reed (then the Carberry house and property). Contemporary accunts make it clear, however, that the Confederates, though initially surprised, rallied and launched a counterattack at the top of the hill, with the fighting surging back and forth across the knoll two or three times before sputtering out at dark.

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