THE HISTORY AN -r, CONSTRUCTION OF FORT STEVENS Theaia Prepared by John Reder Shipinan Presented to Maryland Beta Chapter of T«u Pets Pi January 13, 1933 -2- BIBLTOGRAPHY The infnpttifl tinn for this thesis was obtained from the following sources: War of Rebellion - i'ol. 37, Series 1 rje^enses of Washington - Maj. Hen. J. 0. Barnard Defenses o** "'ashington - W, ir . Cox The Evening Star of July 1864, 1902 Renin! sconce of ICsrly 1 s Attack of Washington - E. S. Dudley and P, G , Thome a Congressional Records Material Prepared for J. A. Goulden by the V/ar Dept . Memories of Company K of 150th Ohio Regiment - J, G, Cannon Rambling Through Washington - T, D. Gatchel Exercises at Port Stevens July 12, 1920 - Survivors Sixth U. S. Army Corps Interview with J. H. Duhanmel - Member of Oldest Inhabitants Society Interview with Guide ">t R*ttle-Ground Hemetery Interview with Judge J, H. Shepherd -3- THF HISTORY AND CONSTRUCTION OF FORT STEVENS SUMMARY Uhen the Civil War broke out the defenses of Washington were hardly worthy of the name. Sever*! forts were soon built to guard the roads entering "'nshington, The snail . earthworks on the Seventh Street Pike five miles from the capitol erected in October 1861 and called Fort Massachusetts was surprizingly inadequate. Consequently, it was enlarged in 186S into a formidable defensive fort and renamed Fort Stevens in honor of General I. I. Stevens. In 1064 General Jubal Early of the Confederate army boldly marched through Maryland and on July 11 attacked the fort intent upon capturing Washington. The fort was feebly manned but managed to hold until relief arrived in the form of the sixth corps. For a day and a half the battle raged. Throughout these hours President Lincoln remained at the fort in view of the battle field. Finally Ferly was forced to retreat and Washington was saved . Since the war the cemetery in which several soldiers had been buried was made a national cemetery but the bill to make the fort a national park failed to pass Congress. -4- THE HISTORY AND CONSTRUCTION 0^ FO r ?T ST^'VMR ^ARLY HISTORY Whea "Port Sun/ter was fired on April 12, 1861 at the be- ginning of the fhr— "- Civil War of the United States, the city of "'ashington was as defenseless as it was in 1814 when it was captured by the British. *n May 1861 th-- first serious effort was made to construct fortifications. There w^re no strong natural defensive features around. Washington nor was the city compact and concentre ted. Therefore when a group of officers under chief engineer General Mansfield assisted by Major H. 6. Wright (later commander of the Sixth U.S. Army Corps) were sent out, they had as their main object tbe securing of the roads entering Washington, However, the officers of tbe Engineer Corps were greatly hampered in their work by a clause in the congressional bill forbidding tbe expenditure for new fortifi- cations anv of the *150,000 appropriated for defense of Washington. W, V, Cox in sneaking of this condition says, "In and out of Congress it was claimed that there was no need of forts, for were not tbe bills and valleys covered with unselfish, self-pacrif icing , patri- otic volunteers, could not the stern, unvi elding determination of t>ese men be depended upon?" It w=is admirable faith but failed to realize that both, the Union and che Confederate soldiers were Americans, The battle at Bull Pun in July 1861 proved that the war was going to be lasting. It also brought to the minds in charge the defenselessness of Washington, It was said that after the battle the Confederates could easily have captured the city had tbev not been more demoralized by victory than the Union army by -5- defeat. It Is scarcely necessarv to dwell upon the necessity of holding and defending the nation's capitol. Capture of Washington bv the Confederates would nenn disaster. The new secretary of war, Mr, Ptinton, understood the situation and ordered the comnlss loners to disregard the l«w and prepare defenses for Washington. As a result 63 forts and batteries wer>e built. Major General J. G, Barnard describes then as "a ".onnected svstem of fortifications by which every point at intervals of BOO to 1,000 yards was occupied bv an enclosed ^ield fort; every important approach was swept by a battery of field guns and the who Id connected by rifle trenches". In those days the Seventh Street Pike (Georgia Avenue) was the leading thoroughfare to and from Washington. Passing outward along this street there was a gradual though not continuous ascent until a onint about five miles from the capitol wh^re the cordon of defenses crossed the road. Here at a height of 321 feet above mean tide, a fort was built in October 1861 by troops from Massachusetts wbo/haned the fort after their beloved state. An irregular depres- sion in advance of the fort extending to the left towards Pock 1 C-reelr *nd to the right to the front Of ^ort Slocum exposed a large portion n? the country to vl^w fron the fort. he very insignifi- cant jvork originally thrown up as Fort Massachusetts occupying one of the most Important positions in *"-he system being found Inadequate was enlarged in September 1862 and again In May 1863. On April l f 1863 the name was changed from Fort Massachusetts to Fort Stevens, in honor of Brigadier General Isaac Ingalls Stevens, General Stevens had just lost his life at Chantilly, Virginia. "When his troups wavered under the terrific fire, General Stevens rushed forward to the leading regiment, siezed the colors from the wounded -6- besrer and calling on the highlanders to follow hiri, led them In the onslaught which hurled back the eneny. In the moment of victory he was shot down with the flag falling over him." During the war ™anv ind vifious troaps c*»mped in ^nd around ^ort Stevens. Some of the rnor-e prominent were* 7th Massachusetts. 10th rassaehusetts , 36th New York, a Rhode Island regiment, a Maine battery, 1st Ohio, and the 150th Ohio. However, it was not until July 1364 that the fort was called on to serve the capltol it guarded. CONSTRUCTION OT? THT-! FORT The ramparts of Fort Stevens extended from a point about 50 feet north of the present school house (which is on Georgia Avenue just south of Rittenhouse Street) in a northern direction for 160 f«et, then in a northwest direction for 140 feet, northwest at a more acute angle for 90 feet, then nearly west for 2S0 feet, southwest for 80 feet, and south for 114 feet. The two ends on the south connected by a stockade and a blockhouse stood about halfway between the entrance and the wast end of the fort. The fort had two magazines . one where Fmory Church now stands and the other to the west where the depression is still visible. A house belonging to Elizabeth. Thomas had to be torn down and the cellar enlarged for this magazine, on tne south side of the fort a "bombproof" wss built 150 feet long. It ran parallel to the stockade and approxi- mately 50 feet from it. The construction of this shelter can easily be seen from the acompanying drawing. On the east side of the fort at latitude 33" 57' 47.16" and longitude 77°l' 23.57" was the flag pole. Around the entire fort was an abatis which was trees, posts, and stakes driven in the ground and pointing outward. Just inside was dug a ditch about 6 feet deep, 8 feet wide at the bottom. _7- The dirt was piled on the side next to the fort forming a parapet. In the hollow ground south of the fort capable of sheltering large bodies of nen from artillery fire, were built barracks. These were Viilt partly from timber cut down and partly from lumber in fences ind houses belonging to Mr, M. G, Emory, snd other buildings t^e soldiers tore down without consulting the owners. The accom- panying drawing gives a much clearer ide? of the fort and also the « -pigments . -8- TOT^T STEVENS IN 1863 "PLBN yWWW\ SECT,- C-Q SECT OF POMBTTgQQF "Hirtname I. Fm tci Gun £ Field «un 3 T~i*ld Qan •* Field Gun 5. ?o Pour^e* 6. Z*i fsuhdet 7. ifo rfeimder /a 24 "PouYvdair and Vfio 12- a imK Ckiw 17. (4. 17. IS. It. 2ft 30 ftmnJef X Pound** J.4 Fbuntjei* XJrau/n from description given ky'M*}. Gen. ~BarMrd t V.SR -9- GENERAL EARLY' S . AT TACK In the spring of 1864 Grant vfas crowding Lee at Richmond, Hunter had defeated Jones near Staunton and was threatening Lynch- burg and things did not look so well for the Confederate Amy, Lee therupon determined to follow the example of Napoleon, who had made it the fashion of Furope to dash through all obstacles to the capitol of the enemy. So Lee divided his armv and on June 12, 1864 ordered General Jubal Early to take his own and General Ewell's troops ^nd attack Hunter, push on down the Shenadoah valley to Harper's Fer-ry, enter Maryland <md surprize Washington. Early struck Hunter, who retired down the Kanawha valley f crossed the Fotomac and was shelling General Slegel's forces at Maryland Heights before the Northern army realized he wasn't still in front of Grant at Richmond. On July 8 Early moved around Slegel's troups and on the 9th was at Frederick. Then Washington became truly ilarmed. Reports cane in that the rebels numbered anywhere from 5,000 to 40,000. Early quickly exacted a $200,000 tribute at Frederick and moved out to meet General Lew Wallace who was sup- posedly strongly posted at Monocaey River. Wallace was defeated and so ambitious was Farlv to capture Washington that he did mot follow Wallace but marched on to ^ockvllle which wag 10 miles from ■^ort Stevens. Here he was engaged for an hour nnd a half by Lowell's cavalry which had come from ^alls Church, Virginia to determine the strength of Early's forces. As soon as F^rly brought his antillery into use he retreated to Tenallytown. The rapid and audacious movement of General Early had startled the Union. It was probable that Washington would be cap- tured by the rebels. The Washington defenses had been stripped to -10- aid General Grant and the Confederates were very strong and were incited by t^e prize and inspired by the boldness of the undertak- ing. In Washington there were barely enough artillerymen for a single relief n** gunners. There was only one -fifth enough infantry »▼» liable to man the parapets and a small brigade/most of whom were unmounted. General Falleck expressed conditions In his statement "i«r p b^ve fire times as n^ny generals a s wp want but ire ^re greatly in need n" privates. Anyone volunteering in t • at capacity will be thankfully received." Numerous pleas were made **or volunteers. More desperate pleas than were ever made during the World Wnr. Any man who could shoulder a musket was sent to ^ort Stevens, The con- valescent soldiers were rushed out. The government cl rks were taken from their desks, handed a musket, and marched out Seventh Street. Sailors, marines, the veteran reserve?, boys, all were utilized. General C, C. Augur was in command of the depa^tnent of Washington while General A. McD. McCook was in command of the troops ^nd fortifications. The swiftness of Early's approach gave little time for preparation. On the tenth, McCook examined the ground for the first time. TFT? FATTLF A^ t^o^T STFVFNS On Monday morning, July 11, 1864, General McCook received t>e n^ws that General "Parly had left Rockville and was on the way to Washington b^ wny of "~.hr Seventh Street Pike. McCook moved his troaps into the trenches on either side of Fort Stevens and pre- pared to defend the capitol. In the meantime, however, the Union forces had not been idle, 1f hen Grant realized the gravity of the situation, he thought at first of returning to Washington himself. However, he finally -11- decided to hold his position at FIchmond and send the majority of the sixth corps under General H. G. Wright, These troops started fro^ City Point, Va . , on the James River. July 7 by boat. Also a sm^ll part of the 19th corps returning fron New Orleans was ordered to Washington. What a picture 1 . Early with his fighting legion ad- vancing from the north, a mixture of men at Fort Stevens, knowing nothing of the coming relief, prepared to "do or die*', and at the s^e time ^leets hearing aid in the form o^ the sixth corps and a part q** the 19th on the way. !f 'ho would get there first? At eleven o'clock Early entered Silver Springs and McCook ordered M.s picket lines to retreat slowly contending the grnund until *>>ey reached Port Stevens, Shortly after noon ^arly came into ^ull vipw o-f* Fort Stevens end found it feebly manned. At that tire he had little doubt but thit the Confederate flag would be over Wishing ton before sunset. He ordered his aide, Rodes, to bring his tired, dusty troops into line and move "into the works". Put during the next few hours before his troops (who had just m?de a long, fast mnrch from Richmond to Harper's Ferry to Washington) could execute his command, he saw trained troops move out of the works, deploy and form a skirmish line. The sixth corps had ar- rived'. President Lincoln had met them at the wharf and led them up Seventh Street to the fort. Thus at about 5 p.m. on July 11 the co^ps moved in and General fright took command. The clerks, c*t*zens, and handful of soldiers had held long enough. It is said th*t i/P Mr, Francis P, Blair's wine cellar in Silver Springs had not bR(=n so tempting, Farly 'vould hove arrived in time to break through Fort Stevens before the sixth corps arrived. When t^e sixth corps arrived. Early held a consultation -12- wl -h Ms generals, Breckenridge, Rodea, ^ansfiur and Gordon. It was dec'ded to attack at dawn. At this point, the Union Army is credited with a Mt of strategy. A paper was printed announcing the arrival of two full corps of Grant's army. This was immediately suppressed after allowing a copy to fall into the hands of a Con- federate spy. Since the announcement had been so quickly suppressed the Southern heads considered it true. The news got to Early and delayed his attack long enough to allow General Wright to get his ^orces under way. So at dawn on July 12 the Federal Amy attacked, T^e batteries of the Union opened fire nnd as previously arranged after the 36th shot from ^ort Stevens, three regiments dashed forward and three mora followed. Though the rebels offered stubborn "•est stance , several important points were captured. According to General '^eaton "The whole attack was as gallant as it was success- ful *-nd t>e t roups n<^ver evinced more energy and determination". The commanding o'T'cer of every regiment in the brigade was either killed or wounded. Early's troQps were finally forced to retreat and crossed the Potomac near Poolesville and crossed through Loudon County in Virginia. Thgoughout the battle President Lincoln had been beside General Wright on the parapet at Fort Stevens. Wright reported "I entreated the President not to expose his life to the bullets of the enemy, but he seemed oblivious to his surroundings. A surgeon standing beside him was wounded by a 'minnie ball'. Finding my entreaties failed to mske any impression on him, I said 'Fr. Presi- dent, I know you are the Commander-in-Chief of the armies of the United States, but I am in command h<=re and as you are not safe w>>ere you are standing and T am responsible for your personal -13- sa^ety. I order you to cone down.' Mr. Lincoln sniled and then rr>ore in consideration of my earnestness than from inclination stepped down and hook a position behind the parapet, Fven then he rould persist in standing and looking out on the battlefield." Perhnps the story of the battle would be mor*e inpressive i** told in the words of one o r * the contestants, J, H. Laird, a member of Company K, 150th Ohio, which was stationed in Fort Stevens. Here is his account "Sunday the 10th about noon the ^lack Morse Cavalry (escort of the President) dashed up to our position. Mr. Lincoln left his barouche , entered the fort and passed from gun to gun. In his long, vellowish, linen cost and high hat he looked like a cure -worn farmer in tine o^ drought and famine. "We were called into line to salute him as he passed. TI e tipped bis hat in recognition but seemed too anxious to smile. "In the evening o p that Sunday we were moved frera our board bottom bunks in the barracks b*ek of the fort to bed on the grass in the ^nrt whieh seened ouite soft in comparison .vith our former he's. 'Vhen the morning of the 11th dawned bright and hot, we in the fort seemed to be 'waiting round' for coming excitement. A little after 10 o'clock it came. The commandant of the fort called loudly, 'Charge the guns',' and pointing up the pike he added 'See th*»t cloud of dust? The enemy will be down upon us soon.' There was a scurrying to the magazine with a confusion of calls, "This was the hour when the Confederate General Early ^is-losed a force on the seventh street road near the Lay house, quite within range of our guns. When the guns were charged, we had time to see our pickets in the distance firing and falling back. -14- ^or some o^ us this ms the first powder we had seen burned In battle . "Wagana loaded with house furniture, chicken coups, and excited wotaeia were noting within the lines. Some of our boys with torches stood beside houses near the fort to burn them in esse of the envy's neir approach, our picket men c*ne In to the defenses *nd wppft assigned places at guns. They were no~ all there. It w^s aske^ 'where la "edi^nt, Hudson, and Leach? ' "There had been talk among us^s to a chance to go to the front but now the froat had come to us. We were conscious that our defense was Inadequate. We knew little of the reinforcements that were coming in upon us. Like Elisha's frightened servant our sur- prized eyes were soon opened to see men filling the breastworks that united the forts. We certainly were glad to see them. ""ford came from the skirmish line that ammunition was needed. An old buggy was loaded and four men were to push it down. It was my duty to an point the men. I felt I was sending them to their death but they all came back alive. "In connection with the separating wall of the parts was a lookout joined to the wall on its west side and to the parapet on the north or front, A small group of persons stood on this lookout which was about ten feet from our gun. The central figure was Lincoln. Near Mm was General Wright and an »nny surgeon. Bed I ant, hot with excitement , care in from our picket lines, * bullet hole in his cap. Scarce knowing what he said he called out, 'President, you had better come down, the rebels will shoot you.' A few minutes lster I saw the surgeon fall with a wound in his leg. "About 5 o'clock on the afternoon of the 12th we were -15- told to fire five rounds at the Lay and the Reeves houses. The Lay house was soon in f lanes. The forces of the enemy were scat- tering in disorder behind it. The sixth corps men sprang to their feet and charged. The musketry continued until after nightfall. By eleven that night the conflict ended. "As I was returning to the fort I saw a nan crawling with his leg shattered, I carried him to the barracks where in the light I saw he wore a grey uniform. They had to amputate his leg and the shock w=is too much for him and he died begging us to tell his wife in Nor-th Carolina." This is the story of the only battle fought within the D1 street of Columbia during the Civil War, "What Gettysburg is to the northward movement of the Confederate forces representing the farthest advance into the federal section, "Fort Stevens is to Washington representing the nearest approach to the capture of the seat o*" government" so says the editor of The Evening Star on March. 14, 1902. The statistics of the battle are of some interest. Early claims 8,000 muskets, 40 pieces of artillery with 600 men to nun them, ^nd 2,000 cavalry making a total of 10,600 men. However, the accuracy of these figures were questioned by officers of both the South and t^e North, General Wallace at ft'onocacy estimated 20,000 men, General McCook said 30,000 men and at South Mountain General Couch counted 60 pieces of artillery. Official records show 1,255 of Farly 's men captured representing 99 regiments of Infantry, 36 regiments of cavalry, 10 regiments of artillery, and 6 not specified. From these figures it was estimated that Early's -16- forces totaled 22,400 men. At t^e beginning of the battle McCook reported ^e had 7,885 nen, The arrival of the sixth corps brought the total to about 20,0C0 ^en. The Union had 54 killed and 319 wounded, the Confederates had 600 total killed and wounded, THF FORT ANP BATTLF GROUND CFWETFRY SINCF THE ^AR The war being over the fort for a tine was garrisoned but after a while wis abandoned. After several yeai»shad passed and the historical significance of the fort was realized, the "Port Stevens - Lincoln TM.l*tar-r Park Association wis organized, W, Tr . Cox, a trember of the organization, purchased the l«nd though the fort was by then partially demolished. In 1902 Senator Proctor presented a bill in Congress which was to make the fort into a national pork and the snail cemetery on the east side of fieorgia Avenue (where some of the soldiers had buried some of their comrades after the battle) to be made a United States National Cemetery, As nhe fort was so nearly demolished <md so little land was available it was not made a park but the government did take over the cemetery. On July 12, 1920 the Survivors of the Sixth Corps erected a s^all monument on the parapet where Lincoln had stood and on this monument placed n bronze tablet in memory of Lincoln, Wright, and their comrades » Tn 1925, Honorable S. E. Cook presented another bill in congress to m*ke Fort Stevens a National Military Park, However , it was not passed. At present all th n t remains of the fort is the ditch of t^e north and west sides and a flagpole which has been erected close to the monument put up by the Survivors of the Sixth Corps. But the cemetery which is near Walter Reid Hospital Is well kept with a man in constant attendance. -17- VIEWS OF FORT STF ir ENS Looking east Inside of fort showing regaining * ■=«+; hworks which were the northwest corner o** the original ^ort. Note "onunent ^nd r lsgpole erected In 1920. Looking e«st inside of ^ort. Note depression fin ^ont ^ f " ^l^gpole 11 w^ere one of the rr.ig^zines w^*> located -18- ^IEWS OF FORT STEVENS Monument narking tbe spot where Lincoln stood and watched the battle. Bronze tablet on nonunent -19- \WP LajR JteK 1 v : llt ffi^ Looking west *long dlteh Looking south *long ditch Karthworks »t west of Fort -20- VIEWS 0E BATTLE GROUND CEMETERY Showing nnnurents erected by survivors in r-frnrj of their coT , ^^'' , des Entrance Gun at entrance said to be one used In battle of Eort Stevens.