Norton Introduces Bill to Preserve D.C. Region Civil War Defenses
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As she prepares to speak at an event marking the Battle of Fort Stevens 155th anniversary this Saturday, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today introduced a bill to recognize and preserve the Civil War Defenses of Washington located in the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland. These defenses were constructed at the beginning of the war, in 1861, as a ring of protection for the nation’s capital and for President Abraham Lincoln. In the summer of 1864, Fort Stevens became the battlefield where Major General Horatio Wright held off Confederate attacks attempting to take the nation’s capital. The battle was personally observed by President Abraham Lincoln.
Norton’s bill would designate 22 Civil War defenses under National Park Service management as the Civil War defenses of Washington National Historical Park, including Fort Stevens, and would allow other sites associated with the Civil War Defenses of Washington that are owned by the District of Columbia and local governments in Maryland or Virginia or private entities to be affiliated with the national historical park through cooperative agreements. The bill would also require the Secretary of the Interior to facilitate the storied history of the Civil War for both the North and the South. In addition, the bill would facilitate highlighting the defenses of Washington and the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864 for the benefit of the public.
“Taken together, these battles were pivotal to the outcome of the war and the freedom and democracy that the war represented for this country,” Norton said. “Particularly considering Sunday’s commemoration of the Battle of Fort Stevens, it is very fitting that we recognize these sites by designating them as a national historical park as we remember and commemorate the Civil War.”
By the end of the war, these defenses included 68 forts, 93 unarmed batteries, 807 mounted cannons, 13 miles of rifle trenches, and 32 miles of military roads. Nearly all the individual forts in the Civil War Defenses of Washington – on both sides of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers – were involved in stopping Confederate attacks, culminating in the Battle of Fort Stevens, which was the second and last attempt by the Confederate Army to attack Washington.