- Battle of Fort Stevens
The Battle of Fort Stevens was an
American Civil Warbattle fought on July 11and July 12in Northwest Washington, D.C., as part of the Valley Campaigns of 1864between forces under Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early and Union General Horatio Wright. The battle resulted in a Union victory.
In June 1864, Gen. Jubal Early was dispatched by Gen.
Robert E. Leewith the Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginiafrom the Confederate line around Richmond with orders to clear the Shenandoah Valleyof Federals and then if practical, invade Maryland, disrupt the Baltimore and Ohio Railroadand if possible threaten Washington, D.C.The hope was that a movement into Maryland would force Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grantto send troops to defend Washington against the threat, thus reducing his strength to take the Confederate capital.
After easily driving off the
Army of West Virginiaunder Maj. Gen. David Hunterat the short-lived Battle of Lynchburgon June 18, the Second Corps, marched down the valley, entering Maryland on July 5near Sharpsburg. They then turned east towards Frederick where they arrived on July 7. Two days later, as the Second Corps prepared to march on Washington, Maj. Gen. Lew Wallaceleading a small rag-tag army, bolstered by the eleventh-hour addition of two brigades of the VI Corps sent from Richmond under Maj. Gen. James B. Ricketts, attempted to resist the Confederate advance at the Battle of Monocacy.
The battle lasted from about 8:00 a.m. until around 4:00 p.m., but ultimately the Early's corps drove off the small Union force, which was the only substantial Union army between it and the capital. After the battle Early resumed his march on Washington, arriving at its northeast border near Silver Spring at around noontime on
July 11. Because of the battle and then long march through stifling summer heat, and unsure of the strength of the federal position in front of him, Early decided to not send his army against the fortifications around Washington until the next day.
Early's invasion of Maryland had the desired effect on Grant, who dispatched the rest of the VI Corp and XIX Corps under Maj. Gen.
Horatio G. Wrightto Washington on July 9. The steamer carrying the Union force arrived in southeast Washington around noon on the July 11, at about the same time that Early himself had reached the outskirts of Fort Stevens with the lead elements of his troops.
At about the time Wright's command was arriving in Washington, Early's corps began to arrive at the breastworks of Fort Stevens, yet Early delayed the attack because he was still unsure of the federal strength defending the fort, much of his army was still in transit to the front, and the troops he had were exhausted due to the excessive heat and the fact that they had been on the march since
June 13. Additionally, many of the Confederate troops had looted the home of Montgomery Blair, the son of the founder of Silver Spring, Maryland. They found barrels of whiskey in the basement of the mansion, called Blair Mansion, and many troops were too drunk to get a good start in the morning. This allowed for further fortification by Union troops.
Around 3 p.m., with the bulk of their force present, the Confederates commenced skirmishing, probing the defense maintained by Brig. Gen. Martin D. Hardin's division of the XXII Corps with a line of skirmishers backed by artillery. Near the start of the Confederate attack the lead elements of the VI and XIX Corps arrived at the fort, reinforcing it with battle-hardened troops. The battle picked up around 5 p.m. when Confederate cavalry pushed through the advance Union picket line. A Union counterattack drove back the Confederate cavalry and the two opposing lines confronted each other throughout the evening with periods of intense skirmishing. The Union front was aided by artillery from the fort, which shelled Confederate positions, destroying many houses that Confederate sharpshooters used for protection.
Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary, and some officers rode out to observe the attack, and were briefly under enemy fire that wounded a Union surgeon standing next to him on the Fort Stevens parapet. Lincoln was brusquely ordered to take cover by an officer, probably Horatio Wright, although apocryphal stories claim that it was Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
John C. Breckinridge, former U.S. vice president and one of Lincoln's opponents in the presidential election of 1860, was one of the Confederate commanders; the Battle of Fort Stevens marks the only occasion in American history when two former opponents in a presidential election faced one another across battle lines and the only time in American history a sitting president was under fire in combat. Breckinridge was a cousin of Mary Todd Lincoln's and a beau in her youth. (Stephen Douglas - another Lincoln opponent in the 1860 presidential election - was also a beau of Mary Todd.)
The skirmishing continued into
July 12, until Early finally decided Washington could not be taken without heavy losses too severe to warrant the attempt. His corps withdrew that evening, headed back into Montgomery County, Maryland, and crossed the Potomac Riveron July 13at White's Ferry into Leesburg, Virginia. Early remarked to one of his officers after the battle, "Major, we didn't take Washington but we scared Abe Lincoln like hell." It would be nearly another day before the Union pursuit under Wright would set out after them.
Fort Stevens is now maintained by the
National Park Service. The fort is located near 13th Street NW between Rittenhouse and Quackenbos Streets NW. The battlefield cemetery is located nearby, at 6625 Georgia AvenueNW.
* [http://www.cr.nps.gov/hps/abpp/battles/dc001.htm National Park Service battle description]
* Kennedy, Frances H., ed., "The Civil War Battlefield Guide", 2nd ed., Houghton Mifflin Co., 1998, ISBN 0-395-74012-6.
* Leepson, Marc, "Desperate Engagement: How a Little-Known Civil War Battle Saved Washington, D.C., and Changed American History", Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2007, ISBN 0-312-36364-8.
* [http://www.nps.gov/batt/ Battleground National Cemetery]
* [http://www.nps.gov/rocr/ftcircle/stevens.htm National Park Service website for Fort Stevens]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Fort Stevens (Washington, D.C.) — The fort came under direct Confederate attack by troops led by Maj. Gen. Jubal Early in the Battle of Fort Stevens on July 11 and July 12, 1864. President Abraham Lincoln rode out to the Fort on both days to observe the attack, and was briefly… … Wikipedia
Bataille de Fort Stevens — 38° 57′ 51″ N 77° 01′ 44″ W / 38.9641, 77.0288 … Wikipédia en Français
Fort Reno Park — is a park in the Tenleytown neighborhood of Washington, DC. It is the highest point in the city, and was involved in the only Civil War battle to take place in the District of Columbia. The highpoint was resurveyed and a new USGS Benchmark was… … Wikipedia
Stevens — may refer to:Automotive* Stevens (constructor), a former racing car constructor * Stevens Duryea, early U.S. carGeographical locationsIn the United States* Stevens County, Kansas * Stevens County, Minnesota * Stevens County, Washington * Stevens… … Wikipedia
Fort DeRussy (Washington, D.C.) — Fort DeRussy was an American Civil War era fortification constructed in 1861 as part of the defenses of Washington, D.C..It participated in the Battle of Fort Stevens, contributing a large amount of cannon fire in the course of that battle. Today … Wikipedia
Fort Bayard (Washington, D.C.) — Infobox Military Structure name=Fort Bayard partof=the Civil War defenses of Washington, D.C. location=District of Columbia coordinates=coord|38.9563| 77.0912|region:US type:landmark|display=inline caption=A line art drawing of the layout of Fort … Wikipedia
Fort Stanton (Washington, D.C.) — Infobox Military Structure name=Fort Stanton partof=the Civil War defenses of Washington, D.C. location=Anacostia, District of Columbia coordinates=coord|38.8600| 76.9772|region:US type:landmark|display=inline caption=An ammunition magazine… … Wikipedia
Fort Kearny (Washington D.C.) — Infobox Military Structure name=Fort Kearny partof=the Civil War defenses of Washington, D.C. location=Tenleytown, District of Columbia coordinates=coord|38.955254| 77.066098|region:US type:landmark|display=inline caption=An ammunition magazine… … Wikipedia
Fort Corcoran — Infobox Military Structure name=Fort Corcoran partof=the Civil War defenses of Washington, D.C. location=Arlington, Virginia coordinates=coord|38.904126| 77.071753|region:US type:landmark|display=inline caption=The rear entrance to Fort Corcoran … Wikipedia
Fort Jackson (Virginia) — Infobox Military Structure name=Fort Jackson partof=the Civil War defenses of Washington, D.C. location=Arlington, Virginia coordinates= caption=The Long Bridge and two of its guards, as seen from the Washington side of the Potomac River.… … Wikipedia