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Library of Congress Project
Civil War Map
May, 2007
What we’re doing today is map reading. I have several maps I want you to
look at, but we have to talk for a few minutes first, to introduce our subject, the
American Civil War.
[Fill in the blanks as we talk.]
When was it?
How long ago was that? ______________
Who was President back then? _____________________
Why was it a “civil” war? What does that mean?
Who was fighting whom? ________________________
Washington DC was deliberately created to be the Capitol of the United
States way back in ______. The states of ___________ and ______________
each gave land to create the 10-mile square Capitol city. The ____________ and
_____________ Rivers run through it. There was nothing but farm land, forests
and swamps there at the time. The towns of ___________________ and
________________ were nearby ports on the Potomac.
By the 1850s, the Americans were becoming seriously divided over the idea
of slavery. In the Southern states, slavery was seen as an economic necessity.
Their big farms and plantations needed lots of cheap labor to survive. Africans,
enslaved and brought to this country, provided that. The slaves and their families
were thought of as property, like animals, houses, wagons or furniture. They were
bought and sold (even here in Alexandria). In the North, slavery was looked on as a
terrible violation of the most basic human rights. Slaves were people, not
property, and they had the right to be free. Northerners felt that slavery should
be abolished. By 1860, tempers were flaring and violence had started to break out.
The Southern states decided they didn’t want to be part of the Union (the
USA) anymore. They wanted to set up their own country, where they could have
the laws they wanted, instead of having to submit to laws they didn’t agree with.
One by one, they seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of
America. (There were 11 states in the CSA. Can you name them?
_________________, __________________, __________________,
__________________, __________________, _____________________,
_________________, ______________________, __________________,
_________________, and _____________________. )
On May 24, 1861, Virginia officially seceded from the USA. The Capitol of the
Confederacy was established in ____________________________, under
President ________________________________.
This meant trouble for Washington.
Washington DC was the Capitol of the United States. Lincoln was trying to
hold the Union together. When Virginia withdrew, the part of the District that
was south of the Potomac, went back to Virginian control. The U. S. Government,
just north of the Potomac, was suddenly just across the river from the enemy.
Lincoln knew that the Confederate Army could now easily attack and possibly
capture Washington. The Confederate Navy could blockade the Potomac, so supply
ships couldn’t get upstream to Washington.
Lincoln acted quickly. The day that Virginia’s secession became law, he sent
the Union Army into Northern Virginia, to quickly occupy the area and hold it for
the North. Then they started building a ring of forts around Washington, to
protect it. These were not buildings or castles, but “earthwork” forts. The army
would choose a big hill, cut down all the trees and lay them around the hill with
their branches pointing downhill (to slow down enemy attack), then dig trenches on
the top and build gun positions, so that their cannons could shoot at any enemy
Fort Ward was one of these forts. Built between July and September, 1861,
and then enlarged in 1863, it was star-shaped, had a perimeter of 818 yards (2 ½
laps around this floor of TC) and had 36 cannons.
It never came under Confederate attack, but served as a deterrent. It was
abandoned in April, 1865, when the war ended. Why did the war end, do you know?
Look at the ring of forts map. By 1865, there were 161 forts and batteries
surrounding Washington, making it one of the best protected cities in the world.
The only fort that ever saw any action was Ft. Stevens, way up at the top of the
map. Most of the forts are now parks, like Ft. Ward.
Now look at the old map.
What’s it of?
When was it drawn?
Obviously, there wasn’t much out here.
What are the blue lines? ________________
The brown lines? __________________
Name them. Do any of them sound familiar to you?
What is l l l l l l l l l l l l l l ? ____________________
How many were there? _____ Name them.
Why would these make Alexandria important?
There are ______ forts pictured. Can you find them all?
Name them.
Which fort was the biggest? ___________
The highest? ___________
Where was the Generals’ Headquarters (HQ)?
What is a battery? ___________________
Why would they build a battery at Jones Point?
Look at the scale (the ruler) at the bottom of the map. Take your index
card, line it up with the corner at 0 and the long side of the card lined up
underneath the scale. Mark off a little ruler on the index card. (If the corner is at
0, put tick marks at ½, 1, 1 ½, 2, 2 ½, and 3 miles). Now use your card to measure
these distances on the map:
The Seminary to Ft. Ward
Ft. Blenker to Ft. Scott
Balls Cross Roads to Ft. Runyon
Long Bridge
Alexandria city: length _____ and width
The Boot Battery from Ft. Lyon
Ft. Ellsworth to the edge of Alexandria
_____ miles
Now look at your old map and compare it side by side with the new one.
Old Map
New Map
Little River Turnpike
is now
Leesburg & Alex Tpke
Old Fairfax Road
Leesburg Turnpike
Ft. Lyon
Ft. Ellsworth
Columbia Turnpike
Balls Cross Roads
Arlington Heights HQ
Ft. Runyon
Washington National Airport
Bolling Air Force Base
Are the scales of the 2 maps the same? ________
Which map is more accurate? Old or New
Do any of the railroad tracks still exist? _________________
Which ones?
Now look at the most detailed map.
Find T. C. Williams. Where would it be on the old map?
Show me.
Where do you live? Where would that be on the old map? Show me.