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The Introduction of the Civil War Defenses of Washington National Historical Park Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, as we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, my colleagues Representatives Donna Edwards, Jim Moran and Frank Wolf join me to introduce a bill to recognize and preserve the Civil War Defenses of Washington located in the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland. The defenses of Washington, including forts, unarmed batteries and rifle trenches, created a ring of protection for the nation's capital during the Civil War. This bill would redesignate the 22 Civil War Defenses of Washington currently under National Park Service jurisdiction as a national historical park, and allow other sites associated with the Civil War Defenses of Washington that are owned by a unit of local government in Maryland, Virginia, or the District of Columbia to be affiliated with the national historic park through cooperative agreements. This bill would also require the Secretary of the Interior to facilitate the storied history of the Civil War for both the North and the South, including the history of the defenses of Washington and the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864, being assembled, arrayed and conveyed for the benefit of the public for the knowledge, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.

The Civil War Defenses of Washington were constructed at the beginning of the war, in 1861, as a ring of protection for the nation's capital and for President Abraham Lincoln. By the end of the war, these defenses included 68 forts, 93 unarmed batteries, 807 mounted cannons, 13 miles of rifle trenches, and 32 miles of military roads. The major test of the Civil War Defenses of Washington came with the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864, when Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal Early, directed by General Robert E. Lee, sought to attack the nation's capital from the north, causing Union Forces threatening to attack Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, to be withdrawn. General Early was delayed by Union Major General Lew Wallace at the Battle of Monocacy on July 9, 1864, and was stopped at the northern edge of Washington at the Battle of Fort Stevens on July 11-12, 1864. The Shenandoah Valley Campaign ended when Union Lieutenant General Philip Sheridan defeated General Early at the Battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia, on October 19, 1864.

Nearly all the individual forts in the Civil Defenses of Washington--on both sides of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers--were involved in stopping General Early's attack, and the Battle of Fort Stevens was the second and last attempt by the Confederate Army to attack Washington.

Taken together, these battles were pivotal to the outcome of the war and the freedom and democracy that the war represented for this country. It is therefore fitting that we recognize these sites by redesignating them as a national historic park as we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
I urge my colleagues to support the bill.


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