Civil War Defenses of Washington Collection

Fort Totten
Officers of Companies A & B, 3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery at Fort Totten

In 1860, the Union capital, Washington, D.C., was a sleepy city of approximately 62,000 residents. Washington was almost completely unprotected, with Fort Washington, the lone fortification, being 12 miles south or the city. With Virginia, a Confederate state on one side of the city, and Maryland, a slave-owning state on the other, Washington was vulnerable. In response to this danger the Union army constructed fortifications for the city, which by 1865 included 68 forts, 93 detached batteries, 20 miles of rifle pits, 3 wooden blockhouses, 32 miles of military roads, several stockaded bridgeheads, and four picket stations. Along the circumference of the 37-mile circle of fortifications were emplacements for a total of 1,501 field and siege guns of which 807 guns and 98 mortars were in place. The defenseless city of 1860 had become one of the most heavily fortified cities in the world.

Collection Summary

Not currently available.

Collection Size



Mike Antonioni
(National Capital Parks–East)

Last updated: April 20, 2016