Although the Battle is known as the Battle of Fort Stevens, it should be noted that Early’s forces were not all entirely in front of Fort Stevens. The main contingent of his forces were most definitely in front of Fort Stevens, but expeditionary forces from Tennalytown at Fort Reno all the way across to Fort Totten were probing to find a weak link in the defenses of Washington.
With Early’s men spread out over several miles, panic spread throughout the entire city as citizens and soldiers alike feared an attack. Soldiers were given contradictory orders and confusion reigned for the Union on the battlefield and inside the forts. Throughout the day the battle line wavered back and forth in front of Fort Stevens. Fort Slocum to the east and Fort DeRussy to the west aided in the defense of Fort Stevens. But even though the cannon of these three forts hammered into Early’s troops, Early’s resilient and determined forces came within 150 feet of Fort Stevens, about the location of present day Sheridan Street, NW.
At the conclusion of the first day of the battle, the soldiers inside Fort Stevens had proven their worth and remained in control of the fort. Early’s forces retired into sympathetic Southern Maryland and began the long night of anticipation for the next day of battle. Shortly before the sun set on that first day of battle, the faint calls of boat whistles echoed up the Seventh Street Pike from the docks in downtown Washington. Help for the beleaguered soldiers inside Fort Stevens had arrived.
Walk to the side of the fort along 13th Street. Hit NEXT when you arrive to learn about the second day of the Battle.