Fort Stevens: Washington's first line of defense during the Civil War
A few months ago, I posted a picture of Fort Reno--one of the ring of forts that encircled the National Capital during the Civil War. It was at Fort Reno that Federal troops saw the approach of Confederate troops led by Gen. Jubal Early and alerted the garrison at Fort Stevens, four miles to the east.
On July 11 - 12, 1864, the troops of Fort Stevens engaged Early's troops and repelled their attack. On both days, President Lincoln rode up from his summer cottage at the Old Soldiers' Home to view the fighting. At one point, he came under fire and, whether true or apocryphal, was told, "Get down, you fool!" by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. He is only the second president to come under fire, the first being James Madison during the War of 1812.
At the end of the fighting casualties stood this--Federals: 41, Confederates: 833. The Union dead are buried less than half a mile away from the fort in Battleground National Cemetery. Located on Georgia Avenue, the cemetery is tucked between residential housing and low-income apartments. It is the smallest military cemetery in the United States. If you're visiting D.C., a trip to Fort Stevens and the Battleground National Cemetery could be combined with a visit to Walter Reed, which is another three blocks to the north.
Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 3/08