Civil War Defenses of Washington

By Susan McElrath, Host Committee Member

If you want to explore other parts of the city and are a Civil War lover, you should check out the Civil War Defenses of Washington.


NPS Fort Stevens

Courtesy: National Park Service


The Fort Circle Parks is a collection of National Park Service properties in and around Washington, D.C. that commemorate the defense of the capital during the American Civil War.

The Washington area had 68 enclosed forts, 93 unarmed batteries for field guns, and seven blockhouses during the American Civil War. Most of these forts were never captured or came under Confederate fire. They were used to house soldiers and store artillery and other supplies.

Each of the forts was unique though they followed a standard construction process.

A partial list of the forts would include:


Fort Reno Sign

Courtesy: National Park Service


In 1919 the Commissioners of the District of Columbia pushed Congress to pass a bill to consolidate the  forts into a “Fort Circle” system of parks that would ring the growing city of Washington. In 1925 a similar bill passed both the House and Senate, which allowed for the creation of the National Capital Parks Commission (NCPC) to oversee the construction of a Fort Circle of parks similar to that proposed in 1919.The NCPC was authorized to begin purchasing land occupied by the old forts, much of which had been turned over to private ownership following the war. The duty of purchasing land and constructing the fort parks changed hands several times throughout the 1920s and 1930s, eventually culminating with the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service taking control of the project in the 1940s. During the Great Depression, crews from the Civilian Conservation Corps embarked on projects to improve and maintain the parks, which were still under the control of District authority at that time. By 1963, when President John F. Kennedy began pushing Congress to finally build the Fort Circle Drive, many in Washington and the National Park Service were openly questioning whether the plan had outgrown its usefulness. The plan to link the fort parks via a grand drive was quietly dropped in the years that followed.

If you have a car, you might want to try out the Fort Circle Park Hiker-Biker Trail. The 7 mile trail runs between Fort Mahan and Fort Stanton. For more information check out these sites.


Fort Circle Park Hiker Biker Trail

Courtesy: National Park Service


The closest fort to the conference hotel is Fort Reno. You can take Metro’s Red line in the direction of Shady Grove/Grosvenor to the American University/Tenleytown Station. Fort Reno is a short walk from the station.

Two of the forts offer free summer concerts. The 2018 concert schedules will be announced later this summer.  Check out these sites:


Fort Dupont Summer Concert

Courtesy: National Park Service

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