Civil War Defenses of Washington Fort Plans Now Available Online

The Cartographic Branch holds thousands of drawings, plans, and maps relating to forts, fortifications, and other military structures. These can be found in a variety of record groups and series, including RG 77 Fortification Map File (NAID 305749), RG 77 Miscellaneous Forts File (NAID 305806), RG 92 Post and Reservation Maps (NAID 305818), RG 92 U.S. Army Forts and Facilities Maps and Plans (NAID 641035), RG 92 Blueprint File (NAID 562281), RG 153 Maps and Plans of Former Military Reservations within the United States (NAID 731298), and many others.

Through a project with the Civil War Defenses of Washington Unit of the National Park Service, the Cartographic Branch has digitized over 700 architectural and engineering drawings for the forts making up the Defenses of Washington, DC, during the Civil War. These records are from RG 77, Fortification Map File, Drawer 169, Drawer 170, and Drawer 171 and are available in the National Archives Catalog.

The Civil War Defenses of Washington refers to a series of forts and smaller earthworks that ringed the city of Washington, DC during the Civil War. These were designed to protect the nation’s capital from attacks by Confederate forces. There are for some better-known forts like Fort Stevens, Fort Totten (near the Fort Totten Metro Station), Fort Ward, and Fort DeRussy (in Rock Creek Park), but also for many smaller and lesser-known fortifications scattered throughout the surrounding areas.

305749_dr170_sht120_01
Fort Totten with Battery and Rifle Pits. From RG 77, Fortification Map File, Drawer 170, Sheet 120 (NAID 122207143).
305749_dr170_sht086_01
Plan and Sections of Fort Stevens. Confederate forces attacked Fort Stevens in July 1864. From RG 77, Fortification Map File, Drawer 170, Sheet 086 (NAID 122207061).

The plans for the forts range from hand-drawn manuscripts and rough sketches (like the plan for Fort Stevens above) to finished and often quite ornate and beautiful drawings (such as the plan for Fort Alexander below).

305749_dr169_sht007_01
Plans and Sections of Fort Alexander. From RG 77, Fortification Map File, Drawer 169, Sheet 007 (NAID 117886407). 

While many of the plans show the overall layout and design of the forts, others show architectural details for barracks buildings, power magazines, and other specific structures within or around the forts.

305749_dr170_sht141_01_01
Detail of Gateway at Fort Ward. From RG 77, Fortification Map File, Drawer 170, Sheet 141 (NAID 122207185). 
305749_dr170_sht084_01
Section of Stone Magazine at Fort Stanton. From RG 77, Fortification Map File, Drawer 170, Sheet 084 (NAID 122207057).

These are only a small sampling of the plans, drawings, and maps that we hold for the Civil War Defenses of Washington. We encourage you to browse through these plans and drawings in our catalog to learn more about the forts that once ringed Washington, DC. You can search for a specific fort by typing the fort name into the main search box, or browse all of the Washington, DC area forts by clicking on the links for the three file units: Drawer 169, Drawer 170, and Drawer 171.

To learn more about the Civil War Defenses of Washington, see the website of the Civil War Defenses of Washington NPS Unit: https://www.nps.gov/cwdw/index.htm.

One thought on “Civil War Defenses of Washington Fort Plans Now Available Online

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.