tv The Civil War 1864 Battle of Fort Stevens CSPAN December 1, 2019 10:02am-10:56am EST
past on american history tv, every weekend on c-span3. >> next on the civil war, national parks service ranger steve phan discusses the service initiative to build forts around washington, d.c. the battle of fort stevens, a campaign by confederate lieutenant general jubal early tested these defenses in 1864. this program was part of an emerging civil war symposium on forgotten battles. rob: one of the best things about coming to this is i get to introduce all my friends, so this is great. my next good friend is steve phan. if you are on social media, you know who he is. he is a rockstar star on social media. i will read his official bio. steve phan is a park ranger. prior to working there he worked at richmond national battlefield, rock creek park, etc.
he is an expert in military occupations, occupational command. he has authored articles on the american civil war. he holds a masters degree in american history from middle tennessee state university. i will go off script one second. he has done more to bring attention to the civil war than anyone ever has before. if you don't follow him before this event, follow him on facebook with the sense of washington, he keeps it fresh, keeps it real, and is bringing great information. [applause] steve: thank you, i appreciate that. can everyone see me in the back? sure i broughte up something that was bright
enough for everyone to see. i'm originally from denver. we call this united in orange. thank you, i want to express my deep gratitude to chris for the honor to present at the symposium here at stevenson's ridge in virginia. last year i was a part of the panel. it is an honor to be back and talk about the battle of fort stevens. you will hear me talk about the battle of fort stevens today and also the civil war defense of washington. you will hear that throughout the program today. we will talk about the only battle that took place within the confines of washington, d.c. small in scale of some of the big battles that we know and visit and read about. it is large and massive in regards to the political ramifications of the battle, especially to the lincoln administration.
i am a park ranger with the national park service. we manage 17 civil war sites around washington, d.c., we call that the national capital of region. at the end of the program, i will talk about the then and now of the civil war defense of washington and what we managed in the national park service. let's get right into it. for us short people. i found the on switch. we are good to go. we will talk about the origin of the defenses of washington and and it really started with the election of abraham lincoln in november, 1860. within about six weeks or so there will be the succession
crisis and south carolina breaks away from the union and the subsequent states. as early as december, 1860, james buchanan's outgoing administration tries to figure out what to do. the biggest thing they are focusing on is the safe and peaceful transfer of power from buchanan to the lincoln administration. how will this work? you have the image of the unfinished capitol building here were lincoln will be inaugurated in 1861. it will come down to the general himself, scott. he is recalled from new york city to washington, d.c., where he will make these headquarters. he has been the commanding general of the united states army for quite some time now. it is his mission to secure the capital. he will take every preemptive measure he can to secure the capital in the coming days, weeks, and months that will lead
to the inauguration. there it is. the first inauguration of abraham lincoln on march 3, 1861. just want to give an idea of what this looks like. the general had been planning this for quite some time. there was the physical presence on the ground. we have the calvary, armed soldiers on important avenues of approach to the city with artillery pieces. there are even soldiers incognito wearing civilian uniforms carrying pistols just walking. just to make sure abraham lincoln is peacefully inaugurated as president of the united states. that will happen. that is the first major step. from there, we will turn to the state right below washington, d.c., virginia. what was virginia going to do?
the preparation for this, he has the commanders, most notably joseph mansfield. they are going to have their engineers scan the area and come back with the report. this is what the engineers say. you have to do something about northern virginia. i'm sure a lot of you that have been to arlington national cemetery, they call it arlington heights. if you look across the potomac river you could see washington, d.c. the great fear was the confederate army could roll up artillery to shelve the city. that was a justified fear. the moment they believed virginia would secede from the union, that evening, u.s. soldiers, including regulars, crossed the potomac river and occupied arlington heights. they shifted south towards alexandria. even months before the battle of
manassas, the union forces crossed the river and occupied virginia. i called this the union shield. you will see what i mean. the first spot will be the arlington heights. it was a great fear they could shelve the city from that area, especially when virginia breaks away from the union. it breaks off the river and occupies the heights. that is towards alexandria as well. by the end of may, 1861, there are 2000 troops on the virginia side. most importantly, they have already begun building. there is joseph mansfield, tasked with the department of washington. he will report directly to scott about what needs to be done to secure the capital. charge of the occupational
forces is him. i want to read this account to you. it is from the washington evening star. the day after the army crosses the river. at 4:00 this morning, a large wentr of government men across the river, loaded with shovels and all manners of tools. accompanied with the full force of carpenters and workmen. the united states forces are now visibly working on the heights of the virginia shore, commencing at daybreak. a lot of people believe this was built after the first forerunner at manassas. they had five or six already built by the time the battle of 1861.july they will build the operations that the army can move in. importantly, they are already covering the arlington
heights to make sure they could not shelve the city. then you have that quote right there. may 24, 1861, this is what i call the foundation of the defense of washington. you will see this evolve over the course of the war. you will see how big and elaborate the system of war can get. the image here of the new jersey troops -- i will talk about how that was done. it was made out of dirt and wood. there is an image of fort runyon sitting at present day where the pentagon is at. it was the largest for built in defense of washington. if you look at this image here, you could see right on top of the hill is a fort and this is
in alexandria. they are going to come into certain spaces and start building forts. this overlooks the town. it was a commanding position in alexandria. image of a sketch of the defense of washington, this was part of the arlington defenses. you could see the wood stockade. a noticeable feature as well is the sharpened sticks on the outside of the wall. almost every single one -- i will talk more about the construction here. everything is really going to change when this past day are ready. after the battle for bull run when the union army is driven back to washington, d.c., there is an order given from general scott saying retreat to the
protection of the forts. in a sense they have already served the function. when general mcclellan gets there this is where you will see the rapid evolution of the defense of washington. i call this the art of fortification. the gentleman that will be tasked with designing is john g barnard. i call him the father of the defense of washington. he served on general mansfield staff. he will be in charge of the defense of washington for about three years. i'm going to give you a number here. by the end of 1861, going into 1862, there are about 48 forts surrounding the city. that is incredible number. as i move forward in the program, that is actually pretty immense.
this is an image of soldiers building the forts. one of the first thing they will do is command high ground, occupied key avenues of approach to the city. they will cut down trees they are near a strategic area, too bad. they call it military necessity. we will occupy your crown. you will get it back when the war is over. ground.ll occupy your you will get it back when the war is over. into 1862, there was a connected system of fortification which every 800-1000 yard intervals had a fort. there was some sort of fortification. would we talk about washington, d.c. being one of the most
heavily fortified cities in the world, this is what we are talking about. maybe not what the defense of washington look like. they were cheap. by the time the civil war begins, they could knock down stone walls. these were only temporary. we are going to build these forts, secure the federal capital and when the war is over, we will return the land back to the land owners. we have the wall itself. it is about six feet deep. you see the sharpened sticks. from the birdseye view you can see the fort. the men can stand there if they are under fire. you could see where they store the ammunition and the powder.
these forts were designed differently. they adhered them to the ground they were sitting on. depending on what it looked like, they designed it to look a certain way. as you can see, there is an image here of what they call the arlington line. you could see the design covering as much space as they could. every avenue of approach to the city will be covered. the forts would evolve during the war. this is fort pennsylvania, built by the pennsylvania reserves. up near american university. this will be involved in the battle of fort stevens in 1864. the soldiers lived in tents around the fort. by 1962 into 1963 -- this is a great image or sketch of the
diagram of fort pennsylvania. it shows all the different structures around the fort. this fort occupied almost 100 acres of land. this is one of my favorite images. a relatively small fort. this is in northeast d.c.. you see what the defense of washington look like. first of all, you are looking north into maryland. it is pretty open, natural landscape. you have the ditch right there. you have artillery. this is what the defenses of washington looked like during the american civil war. 1861, there are about 48 forts. the entire circumference of the
city was protected. the builders of the forts won't be armies of the potomac themselves. they serve throughout the peninsula campaign. all of those campaigns, the original soldiers building forts. here is a diagram of what they look like on the virginia side during the war. you could see the fort, how large it was. each shifted a little bit different, depending on the ground it set on. fort, you could see it looking south directly into virginia. obviously they cut down all the trees. testfired with their cannons almost every single day so they knew all the ranges.
the guys that occupied the forts had heavy artillery. we know this is an early image because you could see it be replaced as we get deeper into the war. we started with 48 forts. by the end of 1862 into 1863, there are 60 forts around the city. it is only getting bigger and bigger. the defense of washington evolved in direct accordance with the situation in the field. what i mean by that is they are responding to what the confederate army is doing in the field. the reason why the forts get expanded in 1862 is because the general's invasion of maryland.
engineers realized the confederate parts come south. they enlarge the forts, they even add larger caliber guns. this will be really important. that is when the confederate army is coming down in 1864. they are coming from maryland. protected the bridges as well. this is chain bridge. they literally have block houses as well protecting the real system. this is on chain bridge. two guns sitting on top of the bridge. every measure that was needed to protect the city was taken. they also had what we call batteries. they did the study of this event in the heavy innovation. they were not big enough, they needed to be expanded and they needed larger caliber artillery pieces.
this is one of our nps sites now. it held two 100 pound rifles. all in total, they will add rifles in00 pounds the defense of washington. several of those will be engaged. so, batteries still filled in the lines between the forts. back then, 800 to 1000 yards apart, they would fill the trenches and with batteries. a battery was an unclosed canon position. if you look closely at this image, you can see there is a building right there. the ambassador's residence is behind the battery. it is in immaculate condition in northwest washington, d.c. a little bit west of rock creek park. it is absolutely stunning.
the ambassador just retired recently. his secretary told me every time he would sign a card he would say home of the battery. we are very proud of it. some of these were kept unarmed. the idea was if the city came under attack, they could fill in the batteries with artillery pieces, it was in rock creek park. if you look at this image, you could see were the cannons would be poking out. there are six of them. this is sitting in rock creek park in pretty good condition. this is what the defense of washington looked like. what about 1864 and 1865 as the confederate army surges towards washington, d.c.?
48, we will go into 60, by 1864 there are 68 forts around washington, d.c. supported by 93 batteries. 98 mortars, 20 miles of earthworks. 30 miles of military railroad that connected the forts to each other. the army cut down 20,000 acres of trees. to build these forts. that, we go from five or six forts and by the time they get to d.c. there will be 68 forts around the capital. that is why i say it was one of the most heavily fortified cities in the world.
this is kind of what the fort looked like. this is where the soldiers came into the fort that. you can see the magazine where they store the ammunition. this is fort lincoln. this is in northeast washington, d.c. if we know anything about the war of 1812, they had a really large fort there. i want you to look closely at this image. this is of lincoln as well. this is a later war image. if you see in the corner, there is a rifle that could fire a 100 pound round three quarters of a mile. they started mounting these
rifles in 1863. one of the most popular images is this gun number 13. this is that fort totten. this is maryland. it is quite traumatic. you can see the number there. the 100 pound rifle was engaged in battle. we know this gun was fired in action. we have an image of a southeast fort near the anacostia river. we know it is a lakefront images well because you have the original wall there in the army started adding these popping out. think about all of the spots he might have gone to. you can cover the flanks of the
fort. they are constantly evolving during the war. this is an internal magazine. this is at fort stanton on the southeast side. the majority of the magazines were made out of earth, reinforced with wood. in this particular instance they had german engineers come into construct this magazine. this picture was taken by me last winter. it is in immaculate condition. 150 years later. they had basic species inside, inside, these were built to last. everyone will like these images here. they not only protected the land side of the city but the river as well.
they were fearful the confederate army could send shell thend shall -- city. model works in 18 three, this is one of our nps sites. this is battery rogers on the alexandria side. you have a 200 pound rifle and a 15 inch rodman gun. the rodman guns could fire a 400 pound round and penetrate. that is why these were put out. to give you an idea of how big those are, there is be right there. these guns were mounted and remounted in 1980. they were sitting on the ground. move, theso heavy to army just left them there. we came in and remounted them.
let's talk about the battle of fort stevens. it is really going to be the campaign of 1864. it is going to come down to jubal early. how does this begin? why don't we start with the beginning of 1864. given command of all troops in the united states army, is told by lincoln to take the war to the confederacy. that is what he was granted to do, as we know. as we have heard before, grant doesn't look the attacks and attacks. it has dramatic ramifications. prior to the campaign, the war department, especially abraham
lincoln mandated there be 25,000-30,000 men at all times. specifically, they have the artillery. started sending some of the heavy artillery. they are depleting the defense of washington. this i believe clearly showed lincoln's evolution as commander-in-chief. he knows there is a lot on the line. it is an election year. he is trying to win the war. what about the confederate perspective? by the end of june into july of 1864, pinned against richmond and petersburg. he is going to send this guy, jubal early. we were just talking about him. to original plan was not
march north that's going to be the union army of west virginia operating outside of lynchburg, virginia. he rear of the con federal capital right there. a force under john breckenridge. his first orders are to assist john breckenridge, drive the union army completely out of the -- so nd if possible this is what the general's report dated july 19, 1864. and this is talking about earliest movement from richmond west towards the shenandoah valley. this is from general lee. i resolve to send that would be adequate to accomplish that purpose and in possible strike a
decisive blow. at the same time, general early was instructed as success justified it that the enemy retreated down the valley to pursue him and an opportunity offered to follow him into maryland. it was believed that the valley could then be especially free from the presence of the enemy and it was hoped that by threatening washington and baltimore, general grant would be compelled either to weaken so much for their protection as to afford us an opportunity it attack him or that he might be induced to attack us. so there are a couple things lee wants here. the objectives were to remove the operating mission, threaten the north, if possible, and to weaken grant's sieges. around richmond and petersburg. all that does happen during the campaign. ou will see what i mean.
towards lynchburg, he will ride a few minutes later, and his movement will, in many ways, shock the union army under hunter in the valley, and they will vacate the valley. hunter does not retreat through the valley. he heads west towards west irginia. so, in one of his earliest tasks, you have the army in west virginia under david hunter. they went to the valley instead of leaving the valley completely open, and they would eventually ose. commanding the reserve division of west virginia at harper's ferry. he puts up a pretty decent fight before he is released.
for my friend in the back there, it is going to be lou walls and his initiative in washington c. so, what is going on with the high command here? moving down the valley, headed north towards the potomac river in maryland, there are reports there is a large enemy source operating in the valley. the chief of staff and the 49 -- and the information to john etersburg. david hunter is in the valley. he will take care of that. he tells them i don't think he is in the valleyfor abraham lincoln, grant has anymore. ecome a great opportunity.
grant believes, as does lincoln, that we can separate whatever force this is away from lee before he crosses the potomac river. they see this as opportunity in washington dc. let's get back to this map here. you have the red and blue lines here. on july 5, they cross the potomac river. he is headed towards frederick maryland. they realize there is a major threat to washington and baltimore at this point. what is going to happen? you will really appreciate my graphics here. let's send them out, the federal army has the interior lines, the navy, the transport ships. they are going to send out veterans, the first troops that
will be coming out will be the third division under james riggot. wait for it, my friend. all right? he is going to arrive in baltimore. from there, they will use transportation to take them out, where general walls is waiting for him. this really becomes a race ere. we also have the first and second division. on july 9, they realize they should send up the rest, as well. how about that? head of all the way to washington dc. they arrive on july 11, the same day he marches to washington c.
we will talk about how close hey get. the 19th army corps. they were supposed to reinforce around petersburg. thank you, my friend. i spent a lot of time on that. we got reinforcements coming, but will they get there in time? it will divide the union army and the federal capital one full day. lou walls will have to make every exertion to save washington and baltimore. so, july 9, 1864, there is a half-hour pitch battle along the anks of the river. they will fight a very strong self-defense.
towards evening, they will be driven off the field. if you can see in this image here, james is going to be covering the left flank. when they're driven off the field he has no option but to head towards baltimore. think about this. he is retreating towards baltimore, there is nothing in he way of washington dc. he says the way to washington, before i get there, listen to this accountaccount from lou, as his army is retreating towards baltimore. what do you think about this? "from 9:00 a.m., to 5:00 p.m.,
when they overwhelm the numbers, retreating battered, forces of at least 20,000, they do not seem to be resuming. you will have to use every exertion to save baltimore and washington. i think the troops of the six corps fought magnificently. i was totally overwhelmed by the harpers ferry arriving during the battle to regiments of the six corps. i will try to get to altimore." pretty reassuring message he sent. on the morning of july 10, he makes a march towards ashington. he is about 40 miles away. ok, you will appreciate this, this is my favorite quote from the entire campaign around washington. i call it "reach from the tars."
we have got brigadier general west in new york city on recruiting duty, he writes the telegram to the chief of staff offering his services, and you ee his response. "we are greatly in need of privates." anyone volunteering in that capacity will be safely received. i will tell you this, my friends, there are a lot of supports in dc, a lot of artillery pieces, generals, not enough privates. mini give you an idea of what this looks like. the commander in chief, president lincoln at the top. the secretary of the war, stanton. the chief of staff often forgot
bout christopher columbus. he serves pretty well during the battle. we have talk about an out of for general, just hanging out looking for a job. they give him one. he does serve pretty well. you have got the famous general/engineer montgomery, the famous battle with 1500 government clerks. he is going to be in charge of the government clerks. what about this guy? he has been looking for a job since gettysburg. what happens to him? he goes over to the eastern branch, he reports back, the men
were calling back to eadquarters, he is told to organize union loyalists. he will be commanding volunteer companies. there is another general looking for another assignment, quincy gilmore, recently released of duty from the army with regiment utler. he is on his way to d.c.. they give him command of the 19th army corps. then you have horatio right. he is set up to reinforce the city. literally, reaching for the stars. so what is in this point? one of these men is an invalid, he can defend washington, and carcely baltimore. you have elements of the u.s.
treasury department guard. you can see the washington monument in the background, which is a pretty cool image. you have elements of the general reserve corps. they will see some pretty heavy ction during the battle. here is another image of them. you can say the officer there is missing his arm. there are going to be elements, as well, unattached. there will be a couple of regiments organized for the capital. you have 108 national guard roops. these men -- listen to this, the soldiers that fight at fort stevens are college tudents.
peed this up a little bit. we will talk about the battle now. you will see it will be coming from frederick maryland. we will get to rockville, maryland right here. his infantry shifts to the east and down towards dc. his calvary will head down to eorgetown. he will run right below that, with georgetown. coming out of the rockville pike, you can see the ship coming down, we call it georgia avenue today. this was originally called for
pennsylvania, there was a tower here, they could not see for miles away because of the ust. what happened on the morning of july 11? he would make his advanced directly toward the capital. this is where the battle really begins at. he said he will run into resistance from the veteran reserve elements, the ohio national guard, and other s1 roops protecting the city. so, let me read to you an account real quick. what does he see when he arrives in washington? this is what he writes to lee.
on the morning, we continue the march, but the day was so hot, even at the very early hour in the morning, and the dust so thin, that many of the men fell y the way. it became necessary to slacken our pace. nevertheless, when we reached the location, the men world almost completely exhausted and not in a position to make an attack. he talks in detail what he saw in washington. they were constructed very cientifically. every approach was led by crossfire of activity including from heavy guns. it became apparent they had been strongly reinforced. a pretty dramatic dynamic
account. he does say at the end it was not exactly the case yet, because you can see here the message from the tower in fort stevens that the enemy was 110 yards from fort stevens. you can see the times, 1:30 p.m. at 12:00 p.m., there is a message that comes from headquarters that the army had landed off the potomac river, they would make their way up to reinforce. what about lincoln? uly 11 and july 12, 1864, even in the after-hours, when the battle initially began, when he hears they have arrived up the river, he rides down to greet them. there are accounts of the president greeting them, wishing them well, telling them if they
run into confederate soldiers, he famously tells the soldiers "you can't be late if you want to be early." we appreciate that. one of my favorite lines. here is fort stevens in 1865. if you look in that road right there, that is where he will be coming down on the morning of july 12 in the afternoon of july 11, into july 12. we are basically out of time here. when he gets 110 yards from fort stevens, internally within the city, and forced him back a thousand yards from fort stevens, that is the watermark. by the evening time, the six quarters on the field take position behind the northern defenses and the 19th corps lements arrive, as well.
the battle is shifted and the divide in the city is over. here is a really great image of fort stevens in 1865. you can see how open that is. that's silver spring, maryland. place close attention to that tree right there. it will be the center between fort stevens and the other fort. he did not leave the city, he angs out around this area. the 100 pound -- will go into ction. the next day, on july 12, he rode out and found troops were
ready to the fort and he had no chance to take the city. we will talk about abraham lincoln real quick. he arrives on july 12 in the late afternoon, escorted to the front by horatio of the six corps, and the president is nder fire. there is a count from a surgeon walking with the president, he says i heard something, someone had been shot, standing right next to lincoln. he falls down wounded. somebody tells the president, "get down, you fool, get the hell out of here, go find protection." after the battle, 34 people claimed they told lincoln to get down. we can talk about that after. the battle is going to went on july 12, one of the six corps leaves the fort.
if anyone has been in wheaton, maryland, they renamed it after he battle. they will attack north on both sides and draw the confederate out of washington, d.c. that was one of the most important battles of the american civil war. thank you very much. [applause] >> we have time for one question about the battle of fort stevens. > you guys are slow. >> fort stevens was rebuilt in the 1930's. what you see is that construction right there. >> we stand and introduce
yourself. >> from chesapeake, virginia. did any confederate artillery shell get into washington dc early, and got to that point? the ford fired back at them. >> he was trying to get to the city so quickly, that the majority of his artillery was in the rear and they were taking heavy artillery fire, as well, but they were able to put shells in the city, not very effective. >> one last question. introduce yourself. >> i'm from urbana, maryland. why did he wait 24 hours for the ransom, why not go down and be ahead?
>> when he runs into lou w. on july 9, he thought he was placing troops, which he was. the issue was he runs into the third division of the six corps. when he realizes that veterans are on the field, he realizes he is out of time. that is why the next day he rushes the army as quickly as possible to washington dc. i don't know all the details about the whole ran something. >> as he was talking about it, ryan leaned over to me and said, "you know, someone should write a really good book about that." ryan did write a good book about that. he will be happy to answer your questions. steve will be available to answer questions, just look for the man in the orange blazer. we will take a five-minute break. ladies and gentlemen, steve
han. >> watch american history tv all week. features this weekend, today at 6:00 p.m. easterly on oral histories from the richard nixon residential library, hillary rodham clinton as their experience during the impeachment of richard nixon. >> it does fall to you while you are in the house to examine abuses of power by the president . be as circumspect and careful as john dor was. strain yourself from grandstanding and holding news conferences and playing to your
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