Washington, D.C.: The Most Heavily Defended City In The World | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Washington, D.C.: The Most Heavily Defended City In The World

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Military Road was created as an artery connecting the nearly 70 forts that protected Washington, D.C., during the Civil War.
Rebecca Sheir
Military Road was created as an artery connecting the nearly 70 forts that protected Washington, D.C., during the Civil War.

About 150 years ago, the region saw the creation of Military Road: an artery that would link a network of 68 forts built in a ten-month period to defend Washington, D.C., during the Civil War.

Historian Paul Dickson describes the road as 'the glue that held it all together.'

"When the Civil War started, they had one fort, which had been built for the War of 1812: Fort Washington," Dickson says. "But the city itself was defenseless."

But when the Civil War 'got serious,' he says, "they started to realize they had to build real major fortification." President Abraham Lincoln knew if the Confederacy took Washington, the South would win the war. So by the Civil War's end, Dickson argues Washington, D.C. was the most heavily fortified city in the history of the world.

Dickson describes the forts surrounding D.C. as "huge earthworks, huge mounds into which the soldiers could retreat." Moats surrounded them, along with barbed wire and sharpened sticks."

In July 1864, Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early attacked one of the 68 forts - Fort Stevens - in hopes of taking the city. President Lincoln rode out to the fort to observe the attack, and became the second sitting president ever to come under fire. An officer ordered Lincoln to take cover, and by the end of the battle, nearly two-dozen men were dead, but the fort - and city - were saved.

Dickson says he's especially fond of Military Road, because of its importance in local, and national, history. "How many people on the street right now, this guy in that car over there, does he know... this was a major piece of our history."


[Music: "Wide Open Road" by The Triffids from Wide Open Road]

Photos: Military Road

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