During the Civil War, the Union Army built 68 forts, 93 batteries for artillery, seven blockhouses, and 20 miles of rifle pits to defend Washington DC against a Confederate attack. Fort Ward was one of these installations, and it was the fifth-largest fort to defend the nation’s capital.
Built on what was known as the Arlington Line in 1861, the complex was designed with a perimeter of 540 yards and platforms for 24 guns. This was later expanded to 818 yards with room for 36 guns in 1863. It was named for the first Union Naval Officer to die in the Civil War. However, the fort never came under Confederate attack and was dismantled in November 1865. Today, the fort is well preserved with about 90 percent of its earthen walls still intact.
Fort Ward, located at 4301 West Braddock Road inside a 45-acre park, offers self-guided tours of the preserved earthwork and reconstructed military structures. There’s also a museum with exhibits and artifacts, an Officer’s Hut, Ceremonial Gate, and a reconstructed northwest bastion. The museum is open on Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and on Sunday noon to 5 pm.
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