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Fort Ward, Alexandria, Virginia

Discussion in 'The Eastern Theater' started by James N., Sep 4, 2014.

  1. James N.

    James N. Captain Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    Reproduction gate of Fort Ward stands on the site of the original; the gorge or rear earthen wall would've abutted the wooden gate on either side.

    The Fort Ward Museum

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    Standing outside the remains of earthen Fort Ward, probably the best restored, maintained and interpreted fort within the system of Washington defenses, is this reproduction of a headquarters building of the typical picket post construction of these essentially temporary military structures. The building serves as the visitor center for Fort Ward, which is now owned and maintained by the city of Alexandria, Virginia.

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    Within the visitor center is an excellent museum featuring generic displays of soldier life as well as those specific to the Washington defenses and Fort Ward itself, like that above.

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    Many of the items on display were originally part of the superb collection of collector, expert, and author Francis A. Lord, whose several volumes on Civil War artifacts are indispensable; I recognized several of them. The armchair at right above is one of the set used in the Capitol for wartime legislators.

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    These are artifacts relating to the life of the common Union soldier of the war; note especially the segmented armor breastplate of the kind many deluded souls wore to the First Battle of Bull Run.

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    The uniform displayed at left is a reproduction of that worn by members of the so-called heavy artillery regiments that normally garrisoned the forts and batteries in the Washington defenses. The case at right contains original artillery artifacts and implements. Below, in a hallway was another surprise, an original V Corps brigade headquarters pennant or guidon.

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    Last edited: Sep 4, 2014
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  3. James N.

    James N. Captain Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    Fort Ward Restoration

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    Fort Ward, named for Commander James Harmon Ward, first Union naval officer killed during the war in a nearby incident on the Potomac River in 1861, was the fifth largest of the 164 forts and batteries constructed for the protection of Washington, D. C. Located in Virginia in what is now the Alexandria city limits, at the time it was out in the countryside. Fortunately, the city now owns the entire site which it protects and maintains. As can be seen above, the outlines of the irregularly-shaped earthwork are plainly visible.

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    Within the fort were two large bombproofs which served to further divide the interior and separate its bastions for additional protection from plunging fire. ( Their effectiveness was never tried, however, since like all the other defenses except Fort Stevens they were never attacked. )

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    The South Bastion, seen above, is now a gently rolling series of mounds and depressions which still give an impression of their original shape.

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    The exterior of the fort, unlike those at nearby Forts Foote and Marcy, has been cleared and is now maintained much as it would've been during the war. This work of restoration was done in the 1960's for the Civil War Centennial by the city of Alexandria. The dry moat surrounding the works as seen below remains cleared of vegetation and trees, preserving the fort's wartime appearance.

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    However, the outstanding feature of present-day Fort Ward is the authentic restoration of the Northwest Bastion, complete with its full compliment of guns, each numbered in place along the wall.

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    These are reproduction field guns of the type that were sometimes used in place of the heavier pieces like the Rodmans at Fort Foote that were intended to smash ironclads on the Potomac. These smaller-caliber guns could be deadly against the infantry formations that were more likely to attack the landward sides of the Washington defenses.

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    The two cannon here, both replica 4 1/2" ordnance rifles mounted on siege or garrison carriages, demonstrate the ways of mounting them for either service ( in background ) or transport; note that the heavy and very long tube or gun barrel has been lifted ( using a gun gin not shown ) and moved to the rear of the cheekpieces, thereby allowing elevation of the trail on the wooden blocks without putting the gun's muzzle in the dirt!

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    The doors to the powder magazines are likely dummies but give the idea of how and where ammunition for the bastion was stored; note that the inner faces of the works were grassed to prevent erosion and all woodwork was whitewashed for a neat and uniform appearance.

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    Another structure outside the main gate to the fort is this reproduction of a typical officers' hut or quarters.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2015
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  4. kfranklin

    kfranklin Corporal

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    Sorry to again be that guy. The major part of the restoration was completed in 1961 for the centennial by Alexandria itself. Interestingly shortly after the war it was home to a community of former slaves, and their graveyard is still on the park site.

    BTW Great pictures! You clearly made a good tour of the DC works.
     
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  5. M E Wolf

    M E Wolf Colonel Retired Moderator

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    Good photographs James N.M.

    Need to come when the 3rd US Regular Infantry, Co. "K" is there.

    M. E. Wolf
     
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  6. James N.

    James N. Captain Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    Thanks again - I have made the appropriate correction! I was confusing this with a film I saw elsewhere ( don't remember where, but probably Fort Washington, Md. ) on my trip about work done by the CCC. Yes, I had extra time and made a deliberate effort to see several of these, as future threads will show. I also saw markers for the cemetery but took no pictures.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2015
  7. James N.

    James N. Captain Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    It looks like this would be an excellent place to have Living History programs, much better than the usual park surroundings. Unfortunately, this will likely be my only opportunity to visit here so I tried to make the most of it!
     
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  8. M E Wolf

    M E Wolf Colonel Retired Moderator

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    Understood, sir.

    M. E. Wolf
     
  9. chellers

    chellers Brigadier General Moderator Trivia Game Winner

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    Very nice pics, James. Thank you for sharing.
     
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  10. Terence MacManus

    Terence MacManus Private

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    Civil War Artillery Demonstration at Ft Ward, Sept 10

    https://apps.alexandriava.gov/Calendar/Detail.aspx?si=14231

    Learn about the role of artillerymen at a fort in the Defenses of Washington from reenactors portraying the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery, a unit stationed at Fort Ward during the Civil War. Activities include cannon firing demonstrations, camp life, and equipment display. Program is weather dependent.
     
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  11. James N.

    James N. Captain Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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  12. dlavin

    dlavin First Sergeant

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    wow, never heard of it before...great read and photos, thanks so much
     
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  13. James N.

    James N. Captain Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    When in the Northern Virginia/D. C. area visiting it should be a must for anyone interested in the war in that region!
     

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