Submit Content

Civil War 150 in Arlington: The Toll on the Trees

It’s hard to imagine now, given the county’s tree-lined streets and abundance of leafy parks, but during the Civil War much of Arlington was a tree-less, barren wasteland.

Thanks to its key strategic location across the Potomac from the District, Arlington County was home to 22 Union forts during the Civil War. In order to see an approaching enemy, soldiers often cut down 1-2 miles of trees around each fort.

The photo, left, illustrates just that. Fort C.F. Smith, now a county park along the George Washington Parkway in North Arlington, was surrounded by a denuded landscape that allowed soldiers to mount an effective, fortified defense against any Confederate force that might have tried to invade attack Washington.

Civil War historian Dr. Walton H. Owen II, author of Mr. Lincoln’s Forts: A Guide to the Civil War Defenses of Washington, says that while large expanses of trees were cut down, some were spared.

“Contrary to what many people believe, not every tree was cut down,” Owen said. “Trees located around homes that provided shade were often saved because that was the Civil War equivalent of air-conditioning.”

The means by which the trees were cut down is fascinating in its own right. Owen cited a quote from the book The Seventy-Ninth Highlanders: New York Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion, published in 1886, that discussed the domino-like felling of an entire forest.

It was an interesting sight to witness the simultaneous falling of a whole hill-side of timber; the choppers would begin at the foot of the hill, the line extending for perhaps a mile, and cut only part way through the tree, and in this way work up to the crest, leaving the top row so that a single bow would bring down the tree – then, when all was ready, the bugle would sound as a signal, and the last stroke of the axe be given, which brought down the top row; these falling on those below would bring them down, and like the billow on the surface of the ocean, the forest would fall with a crash like mighty thunder.

For the next four years Arlington and the rest of the country will be marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Among the upcoming events planned in commemoration, the Virginia Civil War HistoryMobile will be camped out at the Arlington County Fair from Wednesday to Sunday.

For more information on Arlington’s Civil War history, see the Arlington Virginia Civil War web site or contact the Arlington Historical Society.

Recent Stories

It’s a little less park-like than New York City’s High Line, but Arlington County has come up with a concept for new pedestrian bridge from Crystal City to National Airport….

Searching for a new place? Join the open house event at 1500 Arlington Apartments this Saturday.

Good news for coffee lovers who enjoy not taking extra steps to get their caffeine fix: Arlington’s lone drive-thru Starbucks is only closed temporarily. The cafe at 5515 Langston Blvd,…

Learn how reviewing your Master Insurance Policy can save money on your condo/HOA budget.

INF Care Virtual Concierge is a new and inviting option to remote assistance that leverages the best of what technology should encompass with quality interaction.

For the busy individual that needs a way to reduce stress and tackle caring for an older family member that lives alone.


For the maturing adult that just needs help with everyday tedious tasks, connectivity, and access to data on their everyday habits to pinpoint areas that need more attention.

Read More

Submit your own Community Post here.

Looking for a more convenient way to work out?

On the Go Fitness Pro offers in home personal training. We bring the gym to you, so you can save time and skip the hassle of going to the gym. Plus, our trainers are certified and experienced, so you can be sure you’re getting the best possible workout.

We provide all the equipment needed for a great workout or we can use the equipment that you have.

Schedule a free consultation today and see how we can help you achieve your fitness goals.

Read More

Submit your own Community Post here.

Mini Photo Sessions for Family & Pets

Mini Family & Pet Photo Sessions
Beat the rush and sign up to get your holiday photos now!

Bring your kids! Bring your dogs!

Check out the DeSilva Studios website. Look at the images and see if you like them

Vini Franchetti Wine Dinner

Join us as we explore Vini Franchetti & their two sister vineyards Passopisciaro (Sicily) and Vini Franchetti (Tuscany) for our Sicily/Tuscany Wine Dinner!

Sunday, Oct 9 @ 6pm

Special Guest: This wine dinner we will be hosting the wine maker


Subscribe to our mailing list