Skip to main content

Fort Washington

Fort Washington

At this 180-year-old fort visitors explore the the outer defense for Washington, DC during the War of 1812 and the Civil War. During the War of 1812, British troops stormed the fort in 1814, which was called Fort Warburton at the time. The overpowered Americans retreated, but not before deliberately blowing up the stronghold so that the British could not use it. Secretary of War James Monroe quickly ordered the site rebuilt, since Washington, DC, had no other fort in the area to guard it from attack. Construction on Fort Washington dragged on until 1824, when it was finally completed.

The site saw little excitement during the so-called "Era of Good Feelings" that would last until the late 1840s. However, in the lead-up to the Civil War, Secretary of the Navy Isaac Toucey ordered a detachment of marines to garrison the fort. Yet Confederates never challenged the marines inside; Fort Washington rode out the Civil War in peace, and the soldiers were removed upon the cessation of hostilities in 1865.

In 1917, when America entered the World War that was then raging, military officials chose Fort Washington as a staging ground for soldiers who were to be sent to France. This was the last action it would see for 24 years. In 1941, two years after the fort had been turned over to the Department of the Interior to be converted into an endpoint for a bridge, the Army reclaimed the fort and used it to house the U.S. Army Adjutant General's School. In 1946, it was decommissioned and turned back over to the Deparment of the Interior to be used for public purposes.

Today, the site is home not only to the fort itself, but to a beautiful waterside park as well. Activities in addition to touring the fort include fishing and wildlife viewing. Civil War artillery demonstrations can be seen one Sunday each month from April through October.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.