Fort Willard Park contains significant earthworks and archaeological remains of a fort built in 1862 by the Union Army. It was one of 63 forts that were built surrounding the District of Columbia during the Civil War as part of the Defenses of Washington. Fort Willard is located on a high point overlooking low ground along the Potomac River. When the landscape was cleared of trees the fort commanded a clear view to the Potomac River.
Fort Willard was constructed at the end of 1862 as Redoubt “D” to Fort Lyon by detachments of the 34th Massachusetts Infantry. It was later named in honor of Colonel George L. Willard, who was killed at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. Fort Willard was the southernmost fortification in the Defenses of Washington.
Major John Gross Barnard of the Corps of Engineers was in charge of construction of the Washington defenses. Fort Willard was built as a lunette with a ditch and parapet facing to the south and open to the rear with no ditch on the north side. Today you can still see the earthen fortifications, cannon platforms and the remains of a bombproof (bomb shelter) and magazine (arms and gunpowder storage). The ten support buildings including the cookhouse, officer’s quarters, and barracks were to the northeast and no longer exist.
After the Civil War, the site lay fallow for many years. In the 1930s the Belle Haven subdivision began to be developed and the fort site was reserved in an area that eventually became Fort Willard Circle. The relative isolation of this site within a quiet residential neighborhood has allowed for the archaeological and cultural features at Fort Willard Historic Site to remain relatively undisturbed and only subject to the natural processes of erosion and tree growth.
Regiments garrisoned at Fort Willard included:
• 34th Massachusetts Infantry
Related albums • See other albumsWashington DC Area Forts
Related locationsVA, Fairfax Co, Fort Willard
Related peopleGeorge Lamb Willard