The District of Columbia, U.S. Civil War, Washington D.C.

The Defenses Of Washington D.C. – Since The Formation Of The United States

Ever since Washington, D.C. was established as the national capital it has been in need of defense from domestic and foreign armies.

During the War of 1812, several forts and encampments protected Washington, D.C. However, the United States defenses were overrun and the White House was bring down by the British Army.

A total of 163 forts were utilized by the Union Army to protect the Capital of the United States of America form Confederate attacks during the course of the U.S. Civil War.

During the Cold War, a few Nike missile sites, which formed a ring around Washington, D.C. provided a deterrent form nuclear missile attacks form the Soviet Union.

Confederate Captain Joseph Frederick Waring, The Bog Wallow Ambush, U.S. Civil War, Union Colonel George William Taylor

The Bog Wallow Ambush

Near midnight, on December 4, 1861, the 3rd New Jersey Infantry of the Union Army, under the command of Colonel George William Taylor launched the Bog Wallow Ambush at Braddock Road in Fairfax, Virginia as a retaliation for attacks Confederates had made on Union pickets.

Twenty four Georgia Hussars cavalrymen, led by Captain Joseph Frederick Waring, entered the ambush from the west.

The Confederates returned fire and left the shootout with four men wounded and one captured. The Union losses from the event was one killed, two wounded and one captured.

In present day, there is a historical marker on Braddock Road, that indicates the location of the union ambush.

Battle of Fairfax Court House, Fairfax County, Virginia, Fairfax, Virginia, Providence, Virginia, Richard Ratcliffe, The Third Fairfax County, Virginia Courthouse, U.S. Civil War

The Third Fairfax Courthouse – Site Of The First Land Battle Casualty Of The Civil War

In 1798, Richard Ratcliffe donated four acres of land for the construction of the third Fairfax Courthouse in the town of Providence, which is presently the City of Fairfax. In 1799, construction began on the Fairfax County, Virginia Courthouse, which was built next to present day Chain Bridge Road. A year later the third Fairfax courthouse was completed.

On June 1, 1861, the Battle of Fairfax Court House became the first land engagement of the American Civil War, with the first death of a soldier in action and the first wounding of an officer, after a Union scouting party clashed with the local militia guarding the Third Fairfax Courthouse.

During the course of the U.S. Civil War the Fairfax Courthouse was damaged several times as the structure changed hands between the Confederacy and the Union.

In present day the Fairfax Courthouse is the site of the Historic Records Center.

Oakton, Virginia, U.S. Civil War

Hunter Mill Road – A Pathway For The Confederate And Union Armies During The U.S. Civil War

During the Civil War, the area of Oakton, Virginia changed hands between the Confederates and the Union Army a total of ten times. Soldiers with the Confederate and the Union armies utilized the pathway known as Hunter Hill Road, as a pathway to the Battles of Antietam, Gettysburg and Manassas.

The Hunter Mill Defense League helped coordinate a research project for the various historical markers placed on Hunter Mill Road.

U.S. Civil War

The African American Union Soldiers Who Served During The U.S. Civil War

The issues of emancipation and military service were intertwined from the onset of the Civil War. News from Fort Sumter set off a rush by free black men to enlist in U.S. military units. They were turned away, however, because a Federal law dating from 1792 barred Negroes from bearing arms for the U.S. army (although they had served in the American Revolution and in the War of 1812). In Boston disappointed would-be volunteers met and passed a resolution requesting that the Government modify its laws to permit their enlistment.

The Lincoln administration wrestled with the idea of authorizing the recruitment of black troops, concerned that such a move would prompt the border states to secede. When Gen. John C. Frémont (photo citation: 111-B-3756) in Missouri and Gen. David Hunter (photo citation: 111-B-3580) in South Carolina issued proclamations that emancipated slaves in their military regions and permitted them to enlist, their superiors sternly revoked their orders. By mid-1862, however, the escalating number of former slaves (contrabands), the declining number of white volunteers, and the increasingly pressing personnel needs of the Union Army pushed the Government into reconsidering the ban.

As a result, on July 17, 1862, Congress passed the Second Confiscation and Militia Act, freeing slaves who had masters in the Confederate Army. Two days later, slavery was abolished in the territories of the United States, and on July 22 President Lincoln (photo citation: 111-B-2323) presented the preliminary draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet. After the Union Army turned back Lee’s first invasion of the North at Antietam, MD, and the Emancipation Proclamation was subsequently announced, black recruitment was pursued in earnest. Volunteers from South Carolina, Tennessee, and Massachusetts filled the first authorized black regiments. Recruitment was slow until black leaders such as Frederick Douglass (photo citation: 200-FL-22) encouraged black men to become soldiers to ensure eventual full citizenship. (Two of Douglass’s own sons contributed to the war effort.) Volunteers began to respond, and in May 1863 the Government established the Bureau of Colored Troops to manage the burgeoning numbers of black soldiers.

By the end of the Civil War, roughly 179,000 black men (10% of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army and another 19,000 served in the Navy. Nearly 40,000 black soldiers died over the course of the war—30,000 of infection or disease. Black soldiers served in artillery and infantry and performed all noncombat support functions that sustain an army, as well. Black carpenters, chaplains, cooks, guards, laborers, nurses, scouts, spies, steamboat pilots, surgeons, and teamsters also contributed to the war cause. There were nearly 80 black commissioned officers. Black women, who could not formally join the Army, nonetheless served as nurses, spies, and scouts, the most famous being Harriet Tubman (photo citation: 200-HN-PIO-1), who scouted for the 2d South Carolina Volunteers.

Because of prejudice against them, black units were not used in combat as extensively as they might have been. Nevertheless, the soldiers served with distinction in a number of battles. Black infantrymen fought gallantly at Milliken’s Bend, LA; Port Hudson, LA; Petersburg, VA; and Nashville, TN. The July 1863 assault on Fort Wagner, SC, in which the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers lost two-thirds of their officers and half of their troops, was memorably dramatized in the film Glory. By war’s end, 16 black soldiers had been awarded the Medal of Honor for their valor.

In addition to the perils of war faced by all Civil War soldiers, black soldiers faced additional problems stemming from racial prejudice. Racial discrimination was prevalent even in the North, and discriminatory practices permeated the U.S. military. Segregated units were formed with black enlisted men and typically commanded by white officers and black noncommissioned officers. The 54th Massachusetts was commanded by Robert Shaw and the 1st South Carolina by Thomas Wentworth Higginson—both white. Black soldiers were initially paid $10 per month from which $3 was automatically deducted for clothing, resulting in a net pay of $7. In contrast, white soldiers received $13 per month from which no clothing allowance was drawn. In June 1864 Congress granted equal pay to the U.S. Colored Troops and made the action retroactive. Black soldiers received the same rations and supplies. In addition, they received comparable medical care.

The black troops, however, faced greater peril than white troops when captured by the Confederate Army. In 1863 the Confederate Congress threatened to punish severely officers of black troops and to enslave black soldiers. As a result, President Lincoln issued General Order 233, threatening reprisal on Confederate prisoners of war (POWs) for any mistreatment of black troops. Although the threat generally restrained the Confederates, black captives were typically treated more harshly than white captives. In perhaps the most heinous known example of abuse, Confederate soldiers shot to death black Union soldiers captured at the Fort Pillow, TN, engagement of 1864. Confederate General Nathan B. Forrest witnessed the massacre and did nothing to stop it.

The document featured with this article is a recruiting poster directed at black men during the Civil War. It refers to efforts by the Lincoln administration to provide equal pay for black soldiers and equal protection for black POWs. The original poster is located in the Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s–1917, Record Group 94.

Article Citation From The National Archives:

Freeman, Elsie, Wynell Burroughs Schamel, and Jean West. “The Fight for Equal Rights: A Recruiting Poster for Black Soldiers in the Civil War.” Social Education 56, 2 (February 1992): 118-120. [Revised and updated in 1999 by Budge Weidman.]

African American Confederate Soldiers, U.S. Civil War

The African American Confederate Soldiers Who Served During The U.S. Civil War

The American Confederate Government, at the first years of the Civil War, did not want African Americans serving as soldiers. At that time only slaves serving their masters were allowed on the battlefield. As the Confederate Army had a growing need for troops, the government approved having blacks serve as soldiers.