The Defenses of D.C.

While of the 1814 British assault on Washington is almost certainly the city’s most famous battle, it was not the only one, or even the largest.  In the Summer of 1864, Confederate cavalry forces under Lieutenant General Jubal Early began a campaign of raiding directed towards the Capital, with the hopes of drawing Union forces away from ongoing campaigns in rebel held territory.  While loyal troops were eventually dispatched to help guard the city, Washington’s own ring of fortifications proved their value in discouraging an earlier attack.  These fortifications had been constructed in the wake of the Union defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run, and have continued to play a small but noticeable role in the city’s landscape.  Military road, for example, had originally been constructed to provide supplies to this network of fortifications.  Despite this, many of the forts now lie forgotten or at least unremarked upon.

This project will use History Pin to provide users a guide to the city’s fortifications.  As such, its primary audience will be inhabitants of and visitors to Washington DC, who want to learn more about the context of the environment they encounter; it will hopefully also be of interest to those studying the history of the city, or to military historians interested specifically in the history of fortifications.  In addition to simply providing the locations of these sites, this project will also provide users with accounts of these fortifications’ individual roles in seeing off Confederate attackers.  Where possible, the units involved in building and manning these fortifications will also be identified, with a description of the previous and later service of those units; if memoirs from those who served at these forts can be found, users will be provided with their titles and brief summaries.  The reason for making this a digital history project is straightforward: it allows for a larger audience to be reached, and for the informative material to be presented alongside the physical spaces it intends to inform the user about, without needing signs or other installations.

Outreach for this project would start with social media sharing via pages about Washington DC, its history, and even travel to the city.  References to it could also be inserted into Washington’s WikiTravel pages.  This would also account for how the project could be evaluated: if it is displayed to potential users via social media, then they could be asked to provide their thoughts on it by way of the same platforms.

One Reply to “The Defenses of D.C.”

  1. Creating a HistoryPin tour of forts in DC is a great idea. They are a big part of the history of the city and they are often left un/under-interpreted. My guess is that you could also find a good bit of public domain or out of copyright historical photos of forts and the history of the military presence in D.C.

    It would be great to hear more about the kind of thesis you would construct in building out this tour. That is, do we come to understand how much the military presence has shaped the structure of the city? Do we come to see the city in some other different way?

    If you did build this, it would be good to think about how you might be able to get the word out about it to various audiences in the area. While there is a ton of tourism that comes into DC, there is also a ton of options for what those tourists can/should do. So it’s likely best to think about some very specific subsets of tourist audiences to try and reach. The idea to connect with WikiTravel is great.

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