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    Civil War Defenses of Washington

    District of Columbia

President Lincoln Under Direct Fire at Fort Stevens

Lincoln Commemoritive Stone

Commemorative stone at Fort Stevens that pays tribute to President Lincoln's attendance at the Battle of Fort Stevens.

NPS Photo

Located atop the parapet of Fort Stevens is a commemorative stone dedicated to Abraham Lincoln and his involvement with the fort on the second day of the Battle of Fort Stevens. On July 12, 1864, President Lincoln stood atop the parapet of the fort to witness the battle and came under direct fire of Confederate sharpshooters. It is the only time in American history in which a sitting president came under direct fire from an enemy combatant.

Many individuals claimed to be the one to encourage President Lincoln down from the parapet. The most notable individual was a young officer named Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. His remarks to the president were short and straightforward:

“Get down, you damn fool!”

Holmes would eventually serve as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, 1902-1932.

The monument was dedicated by the veterans of the Battle of Fort Stevens on July 12, 1920. Originally, the monument was placed in the area of the parade ground of Fort Stevens but was resituated on the parapet at the conclusion of the reconstruction of the fort and powder magazine by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s.

Did You Know?

Denis Hart Mahan

The design for the Defenses of Washington was based on a textbook published in 1836 called A TREATISE ON FIELD FORTIFICATIONS, by Dennis Hart Mahan. Mahan was a professor of civil and military engineering at West Point.