Washington, D.C. was a garrison city during the Civil War with Confederate armies menacing the capital from every direction.
Early on in the war, the Union Army ringed the city with a series of earthen defense forts. Most of these forts have disappeared, leaving nothing but their names across the region (Fort Totten Metro, Fort Dupont Park, Battery Kemble), but two of them still stand. Fort Stevens, the target of Confederate assault in July 1864, is preserved as a memorial, complete with cannon and parapet, but more mysterious, and magical, is Fort DeRussy, which has been almost completely swallowed by forest. Located near the busy intersection of Military Road and Oregon Avenue, Fort DeRussy is accessible via a small, modestly marked dirt path into the woods of Rock Creek Park. Several hundred yards in, an even smaller path branches off to the left. and there, overgrown by trees and bushes, is a six foot dirt moat which butts up against dirt walls a dozen feet high. The walls form a ring, enclosing an area about the size of a basketball court.
Fort DeRussy’s shining moment came when confederates attacked Fort Stevens a mile to the east. During the battle Fort DeRussy’s 100-pound guns fired more than 100 rounds into the enemy lines, proving integral in stopping the attack. While its military career is long since over, today Fort DeRussy is still perfect for running maneuvers as it may be the best spot in Washington for a game of capture the flag.
Know Before You Go
From the northeast corner of Oregon Ave. and Military Road, follow the dirt path east into the woods for a couple of hundred yards. Take the path branching to the left, marked by a sign. The fort is 50 yards on.