Wednesday, July 16, 2014

An Excursion to Ft. Ward for the 150th of Early's Raid on Washington

Last week marked the 150th anniversary of the Confederate raid on Washington. The National Park Service and local governments hosted a multitude of events to commemorate Gen. Jubal Early's daring advance into Maryland, his victory at Monocacy, and his failed attack on Ft. Stevens. I have been pretty busy recently, so I wasn't sure what, if anything, I could attend.  That said, I managed to find some time this past Sunday to go with my twin boys to the Ft. Ward Museum and Historic Site in Alexandria, which was holding a living history weekend to observe the Sesquicentennial of the Battle of Ft. Stevens. The fort is one of my all time favorite Civil War sites in the Washington area. I've seen a lot of living history events these past few years, but this one promised some great photo-ops and featured a concert by the renowned Federal City Brass Band. My boys also like the place as much as I do, and I thought they'd enjoy seeing and learning a few things about the Civil War while Mom was away at a meeting.

The camp of Co. K, 3rd U.S. Infantry, just outside the reconstructed gate of Ft. Ward.
The boys meet President Lincoln and Mary Todd.  Given that Old Abe personally observed the Battle of Ft. Stevens, I suppose you could say that his attendance at the event was a prerequisite!
Stacked rifles of Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry.
A view of the camp of Thompson's Independent Battery C near Ft. Ward's reconstructed northwest bastion. The howitzer seen here is usually positioned on an emplacement inside the bastion, but was moved to make way for a firing replica used in Saturday's reenactment of the Battle of Ft. Stevens.
Thompson's Battery's very own Parrott gun and limber inside the fort's northwest bastion.
Looking at the interior of the reconstructed northwest bastion. I never get tired of this site -- no other place related to the Defenses of Washington can compare!

Union reenactors from the 3rd U.S. Infantry held a skirmish drill on the museum's lawn.  Here, an officer explains the maneuvers to the crowd.
The reconstructed officers' hut at the fort was open for viewing. 
One of the exhibits at the event featured Civil War railroads. The living historian is pictured here with his collection of Civil War-era railroad relics such as spikes and link and pin coupling.
Jack enjoys the assortment of 19th century toys, including a cup-and-ball and Jacob's ladder.
The Federal City Brass Band plays on the lawn in front of the Ft. Ward Museum building. At the start of the concert, the group struck up Hail to the Chief  as Lincoln and the First Lady took their seats at the front of the audience. The group performed a wide array of patriotic tunes, including Battle Cry of Freedom and Yankee Doodle. The sound of period brass instruments on a hot summer day carried me right back to 19th century America.

All told, the commemorative event at Ft. Ward was a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon in a picture-perfect, family-friendly setting. The museum did a commendable job of putting together an informative living history program, and I am sure that Saturday's reenactment of the attack on Ft. Stevens brought the battle alive for many. Such events go a long way to helping the public connect to and understand the Civil War, including my own very curious preschoolers!


Leigh G. said...

Nice recap/photos. This is one site we've not visited yet, but is one on our "list" (we spend a lot of time going to battlefields and other historic sites). Good read, thanks!

Ron Baumgarten said...

Thanks, Leigh! I am glad you enjoyed the photos and recap. I hope you soon get a chance to check out the fort and museum! It is an interesting place.