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Washington DC Area Forts, Washington, DC


Historical Marker

Historical Marker

To your right is "Point Reno," the highest point in Washington — 409 feet above sea level, to be exact.

This unsurpassed vantage brought the Civil War (1861-1865) to Tenleytown. After the Union defeat at Bull Run in July 1861, northern troops took the Dyer farm here to establish Fort Pennsylvania. Soldiers cleared the farmhouse, orchards fields and, as neighbor Ann Forrest Green noted with alarm, "every particle of poultry." The fort, renamed in 1863 to honor Major General Jesse Lee Reno, was one of 68 built to protect the city. In the summer of 1864 Confederate forces knew it was one of the city's strongest defenses, with long-range cannons and a signal tower visible for miles.

On the morning of July 11, 1864, President Lincoln visited Fort Reno. Later that day, lookouts spied the dust of Confederate troops advancing from the north. Some headed this way on Rockville Road (Wisconsin Avenue), but most took the Seventh Street Road (Georgia Avenue), homing in on the apparently weaker Fort Stevens, three miles to the northeast. Luckily, the broiling heat delayed Confederate General Jubal Early's attack. giving defenders time to reinforce Fort Stevens. Fort Reno cavalry meanwhile engaged the advancing enemy only a few block north of here, with both sides suffering casualties. The fort's cannons shelled the enemy nearly four miles away.

Early's forces lost the ensuing Battle of Fort Stevens, the only Civil War engagement fought in the District of Columbia. Some 30 years later the city erased any remnants of the fort when it constructed an underground water reservoir. The reservoir's red-brick tower — actually a water tank — became a Tenleytown landmark visible from Virginia.

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Washington DC Area Forts

Related locations

DC, Washington, Fort Reno

Related people

Jesse Lee Reno

Posted By: Ray Gurganus

Updated: 9-23-2021