Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fort Stevens and the Tiny Cemetery

Imagine President Lyndon Johnson on the front lines in Vietnam or FDR flying in a bomber over war torn Germany. Modern Presidents orchestrate wars form the White House, never coming close to being in danger. That was definitely not the case during the first 100 years of the United States' existence. Considering our own revolutionary break from Great Britain, their subsequent visit during the War of 1812 and American Civil War, the first half of our history as a nation was quite contentious, with countless battles fought all over our country and just off its shores.

We in the District of Columbia are relatively safe from invading forces now-a-days. However, on two days in 1864, the District was directly attacked by the Confederate Civil War forces. During the battle the sitting President, Abraham Lincoln, climbed up onto a parapet to personally view the action at Fort Stevens. He, of course, was shot at by the opposing forces and decided to take cover at the advice of a nearby fighting soldier. The United States thankfully won the Battle of Fort Stevens and the Lincoln incident marked the only time that a sitting President of the United States had come under direct enemy fire. There were over 900 casualties including 41 Union deaths.

The District's only Civil War battlefield, Fort Stevens was rehabbed in the early 1920s and some of the earthworks are still recognizable. Nearby is one of the smallest National Cemeteries I've seen, the Battleground National Cemetery, the resting place of the 41 Union soldiers who died in the battle. The Cemetery is located at 6625 Georgia Avenue NW and Fort Stevens is located at the corner of 13th and Quakenbos Streets NW. The sites are within walking distance of each other and both can be reached from the 70 series buses.