• !5-inch Rodman Cannon

    Civil War Defenses of Washington

    District of Columbia

African Americans Work For The Union Cause

From the beginning of the Civil War enslaved people "voted with their feet" by walking off their owners' plantations to freedom. As African Americans came to Washington D.C. and found protection behind Union lines and the Defenses of Washington, they also contributed to the Union cause. Learn how former slaves joined in the effort to abolish slavery and support the Union by clicking the links below.

In 1861, Union Major General Benjamin Butler refused to return escaped slaves by declaring them the "contraband of war." The army employed many of them as laborers, and the soldiers called them "contrabands." more...

African American troops, designated United States Colored Troops (USCT), served in the Defenses of Washington. The USCT did not generally garrison the fortifications but worked as laborers. more...

Did You Know?

Rodman cannon at Fort Foote

The 15-inch Rodman cannon at Fort Foote in Prince George's County, Maryland, weighs about 50,000 lbs (25 tons).