The Battle of Fort Stevens is the best-kept Civil War secret in Washington. It was the only Civil War battle fought within the boundaries of the Union Capital. A historic building and marble rostrum on the site in Rock Creek Park are now being restored with a million-and-a-half in federal stimulus funds.
President Abraham Lincoln dedicated Battleground National Cemetery as the final resting place for 41 Union soldiers who died in the Battle of Fort Stevens. Under restoration are the Lodge, where the cemetery’s superintendant lived and worked, and the rostrum that was built on the site to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Stevens. Memorial Day ceremonies took place there for years.
For Civil War buffs, Battleground National Cemetery is located about a half mile from Fort Stevens on Georgia Avenue in the Brightwood neighborhood.
It is amazing so little is known about the only battle within city limits. The Battle of Fort Stevens is the only Civil War fight that President Lincoln actually witnessed. He was nearby watching at Fort Stevens when he actually came under fire from nearby Confederate forces. The battle raged for two days -- in July of 1864. The confederate army was beaten back enough to give up their march on the little fortified Union capital.
Today Battlefield National Cemetery has a flagpole marking the center with 41 marble headstones surrounding it. Four granite pillars rise in memory of the four volunteer companies who fought at Fort Stevens. The entrance to the cemetery is flanked by six-pounder, smoothbore guns of the Civil War era.
Knowing what happened there, it is easy to see why someone with good historical judgment advocated for federal money to restore this little known, but historic Civil War site in the Nation’s Capital.