• !5-inch Rodman Cannon

    Civil War Defenses of Washington

    District of Columbia

Fort Ricketts

Captain James B. Ricketts

Fort Ricketts was most likely named for Captain James B. Ricketts, and later Major General who was an officer of artillery and a Mexican War veteran. He commanded a battery at First Manassas where he was wounded four times and taken prisoner by the Confederates. Fort Battery Ricketts may have been named for Captain R. Bruce Ricketts (no picture available).

Photo Courtesy of NPS

Fort Ricketts was constructed to protect the Maryland or eastern end of the two bridges crossing the Anacostia (at the Navy Yard and two and a half miles upstream at Benning's Bridge) and to occupy the heights above the Navy Yard and Washington Arsenal. Fort Ricketts was constructed after the Battle of First Manassas, when it was determined that the fortification of the entire city would be necessary. At this time, the construction of Fort Ricketts and seven other works began in order to fortify a six mile area from a narrow and contorted ridge between Oxon Run to the south and the District of Columbia boundary on the north. Fort Ricketts, in particular, was built to sweep a ravine in front of Fort Stanton that it could not cover.

Fort Ricketts was a small fort with a perimeter of 123 yards equipped with four guns requiring a garrison of 206 men (42 artillery and 164 infantry).

In September 1865, advertisements were placed in Washington, Baltimore, and Alexandria newspapers, calling for sealed bids on the abatis, timber, lumber, and other materials within the listed forts. Among these was Fort Ricketts. The four government buildings at Ricketts--an 18 by 22 foot officers quarters, a barracks measuring 20 by 50 feet, the 16 by 50 foot mess hall, and a long guard house--were also sold.

Did You Know?

Samuel Cooper

The Civil War Defenses were generally named after well known Union officers (many deceased during the war). This was not always the case. Fort Williams was first named Fort Traitor because the owner, Samuel Cooper(left), pledged an oath to the Union only to become a Confederate later on in the war.