The plaque reads:
FORT ETHAN ALLEN CHAIN BRIDGE GULF BRANCH SANCTUARY FOR WILDLIFE AND NOT SO WILDLIFE HEREINAFTER REFERRED TO AS …
… HISTORICAL SITE OF CIVIL WAR FORT ETHAN ALLEN WHICH COMMANDED ALL THE APPROACHES SOUTH OF PIMMIT RUN TO CHAIN BRIDGE DURING THE WAR OF NORTHERN AGGRESSION (1861-1865)
Of particular interest is the phrase “War of Northern Aggression.” It’s safe to say that this term, used by some southerners to refer to the Civil War, has been out of favor in Arlington for some time.
The plaque is attached to a large stone on the corner of N. Richmond and Stafford streets, near where the fort once stood. Behind it is a small but lush green space, surrounded by a wood rail fence. But “the Sanctuary,” according to neighbors, is the name a housing developer gave to the homes he built in the area.
Many residents of this 18-home community, who say their homes were built on land owned and developed by the Caruthers family, find the plaque near the entrance to their neighborhood a little strange. (We were unable to reach the Caruthers family to comment on the plaque.)
“The thing that mentions the War of Northern Aggression?” said Maxwell Denney. “I mean, it’s just ridiculous.”
Other locals also find the terminology out of place.
“I thought this plaque… was rather odd,” said a tipster who emailed ARLnow.com. “While I recognize that Virginia seceded at the Civil War, a modern-day reference to the ‘War of Northern Aggression’ (at the site of a Union fort) strikes me as somewhat peculiar.”
Officials we talked to said they are not sure of the story behind the plaque.
The Arlington County Historic Preservation program, Arlington Public Schools, the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation, and even the people at the Madison Community Center — none knew anything about the plaque. Arlington historic preservation officials said the plaque does not belong to the county and they had no record of its installation.
Update at 5:05 p.m. — Commenter AnonymousArlingtonian linked to a 2011 Arlington Connection article that points to Preston Caruthers as the plaque’s builder. The plaque also was mentioned in a Falls Church News-Press column in 2011, but the author of that column, Charlie Clark, told us today he doesn’t believe Caruthers installed it.
Update at 6:45 p.m. on July 24 — Clark has updated his previous assertion, saying he has since confirmed the plaque was indeed installed by Caruthers.
Update at 9:50 a.m. on July 25 — Falls Church News-Press columnist and Arlington history enthusiast Charlie Clark has walked back his earlier statement on who wrote the three-decade-old plaque mentioning the “war of northern aggression” that is on display on private property on N. Stafford Street at the Madison Center and Fort Ethan Allen.
Clark over the weekend contacted the Caruthers family and learned that it was indeed developer Preston Caruthers who created the sign, which the family has long seen as a humorous way to get people’s attention. Here is Caruthers’ statement to Clark:
“Thank you for the concern about some my friends and good neighbors’ attention to our sanctuary street sign. It was never intended to be offensive in any way, but rather to point out to citizens and visitors the sad history of our area during the Civil War. The plaque and statues on the school playground provide so little attention to this sad era of our community’s history. I’m very sorry if this has ever offended anyone.”
Starting at 10:00 a.m., members of the Arlington County Board and the Old Glebe Civic Association will be on hand to unveil a replica cannon, three new viewing areas and nine new interpretive signs, all built as part of the Fort Ethan Allen Interpretive Project. In addition, a built-to-scale bronze replica of the original Fort Ethan Allen — which was built by the Union as part of the defense of Washington, D.C. — will be unveiled for the public.
The project was funded after Old Glebe requested it as part of the Neighborhood Conservation Program and the Board approved it in 2010. Construction began last fall.
The event will include speeches from county officials and community members, refreshments, a tour of the fort, and it will conclude with a hike from Fort Ethan Allen Park to one of the two other remaining Civil War forts in Arlington, Fort Marcy.
Photo courtesy Arlington County
The railroad line, which ran through Arlington, was later renamed the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad and is now the popular W&OD trail. The western portion of the line was attacked by Confederate forces during the war but the eastern portion, through Arlington and Alexandria, fared better and helped to provide logistical support to the Union war effort.
The talk will be held tonight (Thursday) from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at the Arlington Central Library auditorium (1015 N. Quincy Street). From the library website:
Historian Ron Beavers will discuss the little used Alexandria, Loudoun and Hampshire Railroad, which once ran through Arlington County but is today one of the Washington area’s most popular bike trails. Learn what caused this transformation – from an underachieving rail line to a major contributor to the Union war effort – and what became of this railroad after the Civil War.
Though now a beloved path for both commuters and recreationalists from Arlington to Loudoun County, the original plan for the AL&H was impressive. Entrepreneurial Virginians hopes to compete with the B&O Railroad for the rich coal fields of what is now West Virginia. But engineering difficulties and financial struggles impeded these plans, reducing the rail line to a local carrier for freight, mail and people just before the Civil War. When the war came, the western portion of this railroad suffered complete destruction. The eastern facilities (Alexandria and Arlington) fared much better. Their contribution to the Union war effort was crucial to success in the Eastern Theater of Military operations. Ownership returned to AL&H directors after the war, but their original plan to reach West Virginia never came to fruition. The rail line went through many reorganizations and mergers, yet continued to serve Arlington and Northern Virginia until the 1960s. Last known as the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad, it ultimately became a 44 mile-long park that we now call the W&OD hiker/biker trail.
Beavers last spoke before the Arlington Historical Society in March about Arlington County’s retrocession to Virginia in 1847. He is a seventh generation Virginian and retired federal employee with a life-long interest in history and railroads.
Flickr pool photo by ddimick
Exhibit Looks at Civil War Soldier — The Arlington Historical Society has a new exhibit highlighting the life of “everyman” soldier that was stationed in Arlington during the Civil War. About 10,000 soldiers were stationed in Arlington at any one time, compared to the population of Arlington at the time: 1,400. [Sun Gazette]
Streetcar Supporters Throw Party — About 100 people turned out at the Party for the Pike, an inaugural event organized by the pro-streetcar group Arlington Streetcar Now. The chairman of the group says he’s seeing growing support for the streetcar, especially among younger residents. [Patch]
Arlington Capital Bikeshare Video — Arlington County has produced a video highlighting the expansion of the Capital Bikeshare system in the county and encouraging more residents to use it. Arlington even offers classes for residents who need to learn how to ride a bike. [YouTube]
Civic Federation Endorses All Bonds — The Arlington County Civic Federation has voted to endorse all four bonds on the Nov. 6 ballot. The Civic Federation voted by a narrow 26-22 margin to support the $50.5 million parks and recreation bond, which includes more than $40 million for a new aquatics center at Long Brige Park. [Sun Gazette]
Boxing Match Coming to Ft. Myer — A boxing match will be held at the Smith Gymnasium on Joint Base Myer/Henderson Hall on Saturday. The match will feature a number of local boxers, including heavyweight Duane Mobley and lightweight Terron “The Kid” Grant. Tickets are $30 and doors open at 6:00 p.m. [Boxing Along the Beltway, JBMHH]
Library Sets New Summer Reading Record — Arlington Public Library’s summer reading program set another participation record this year. According to the library, 7,415 kids registered for the program and some 30,000 books throughout the course of the summer.
Confederate ‘Gray Ghost’ Lived in Arlington — In a bit of local Civil War lore, columnist Charlie Clark and Arlington historian Kathryn Holt Springston recount how the legendary Confederate raider John S. Mosby lived in Arlington later in life. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Author Event to Discuss Soldiers –Arlington Public Library is holding an author event next week with George Mason University Professor Christopher Hamner. Hamner, author of “Enduring Battle,” will discuss the evolution of the American soldier from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War to World War II. The talk is scheduled on Aug. 30 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street). [Arlington Public Library]
Street Sweeping Underway — Arlington County has begun its annual street sweeping program. The sweeping is being grouped into 11 different “street sweeping zones.” Parked cars must be moved from the streets in each zone on the days designated for street sweeping. About 814 “lane miles” will be swept by the time the program ends on Oct. 29. [Arlington County]
O’Connell to Open New Field — Work on Bishop O’Connell High School’s new stadium and synthetic athletic field is complete. The first major event at the stadium will be a varsity football game at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 31. [Sun Gazette]
Resident’s Fact-Checking Org Profiled — PolitiFact, a journalistic organization dedicated to fact checking politicians and political ads, is turning five years old. The organization, which is currently busy assigning “Truth-O-Meter” rankings to statements from the U.S. presidential race, is headed by Bill Adair, an Arlington resident. [Nieman Journalism Lab]
Photo courtesy Captain Pup McPuppo
On Sunday a group of Civil War reenactors set up camp outside the Mount Olivet United Methodist Church at 1500 N. Glebe Road, part of a “living history” event intended to draw attention to the church’s role as a field hospital during the war.
The event included a display of medical tools and practices from the Civil War era, talks by actor portraying historic figures, and the opportunity to mix and mingle with the reenactors, who discussed the ins and outs and camp life.
Among the reenactors was Seth Black, a Thomas Jefferson Middle School student and avid Civil War buff who portrayed a wounded Union drummer boy, according to the Sun Gazette.
Photos courtesy Fred Dunn
This Sunday (July 15) the Mount Olivet United Methodist Church at 1500 N. Glebe Road will be transformed into a Civil War encampment, in honor of the church’s role as a field hospital during the war.
Reenactors from 49th Virginia Infantry Regiment organization will be on hand for a Civil War living history event that will feature displays of medical tools and practices from the Civil War era, along with a wreath-laying, talks by actor portraying notable historic figures and opportunities to discuss “the boredom, hardship and daily activities of camp life” with the reenactors.
The event, sponsored by the Arlington Historical Society and the Arlington Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, is free and open to the public. It will run from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
In an email, organizers described some of the history behind the event:
On July 15th, 2012, Mount Olivet UMC along with the Arlington Sesquicentennial Committee and Arlington Historical Society will host a Civil War Living History and medical display to honor the church’s use as a field hospital following the First Battle of Bull Run, or First Manassas. As Union troops fled back to Washington, DC in disarray after their rout on the battlefield, Mount Olivet was commandeered to treat the wounded.
Re-enactors from the 49th Virginia Regiment will set up an encampment on the Mount Olivet Green at the corner of Glebe Road and 16th Street. Visitors will meet and converse with soldiers about life in the camp, hardships they face, burdens, daily activities, drills, combat and boredom. Guitar and banjo music will help to carry the visitor back to an earlier day.
Inside the church, visitors can explore the state of Civil War medicine at a detailed display of medical tools and practices assembled from a member of the 49th Virginia’s extensive collection. Guests will gain an understanding of the primitive treatments and appalling conditions the sick and wounded experienced at the time.
The theme of the event is Mount Olivet: A Place of Comfort at a Time of Suffering. “The First Battle of Bull Run was a significant early battle in a conflict that would usher in the horrors and suffering of modern warfare,” says Dr. Bill Carpenter, Archivist and Chair of the Mount Olivet History Team. “The vast numbers of battlefield dead and wounded were unprecedented; the war would transform how Americans thought about death and suffering.”
In July of 1861, pews were broken apart and used as operating tables. Ultimately during the fall, the church was consumed by the surrounding Union encampments’ need for firewood and flooring in tents.
“Although Mount Olivet could no longer serve as a church for a time,” says Dr. Carpenter, “it is important for our community to remember its use to bring comfort and healing to wounded soldiers.”
Other special events during the morning will include:
- Commemorative Sermon. “A Christian Response to Suffering” by Rev. Tim Craig. 8:30 AM and 11:00 AM
- Living History Program. Wounded soldiers carried across 16th St. on stretchers into the church for treatment. 10:30 – 11:00 AM
- Remembrance of Civil War Dead. Laying of wreath on new monument honoring Civil War dead buried in our cemetery.
- “Sleeping Sentinel of Chain Bridge.” Living history presentation, George Dodge. On the stage throughout the day.
- “Lydia Bixby.” Anne Sedula portrays the grieving mother who lost 5 sons during the Civil War. Throughout the day.
- Georgia Meadows in authentic Civil War era widow’s mourning garb available through out the day to discuss 19th century mourning traditions.
Hynes will be the featured speaker when the monument is dedicated at the historic Mount Olivet United Methodist Church cemetery (1500 N. Glebe Road) at noon on Sunday, May 27.
The dedication is taking place as the state and the county continue to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The 150+ year old church, it turns out, played an important role in the aftermath of the war’s first major land battle.
“The church was used as a field hospital during the summer by Federal troops retreating from the First Battle of Bull Run, July 21-24, 1861,” church officials noted in an email. “Several who gave their lives in the Civil War found their final resting places in unmarked graves in the cemetery. The new monument now marks their presence and honors their service.”
“Mount Olivet United Methodist Church is proud of its Civil War heritage,” said Hank Hulme, church historian emeritus. “This dedication will be one more important event in the Sesquicentennial celebrations honoring Arlington’s place in Civil War history.”
In addition to the Civil War graves, Mount Olivet also has a connection to the Memorial Day holiday itself. The church contains the grave of Sue Landon Vaughan, one of the early founders of Memorial Day.
Photo courtesy Mount Olivet United Methodist Church
Local Deer Population Growing — The local population of white-tailed deer is on the rise and having an impact on plant life in Arlington County, according to a county naturalist. “Shrubs like spicebush and pawpaw are becoming much more abundant at the expense of things like wild azaleas, oaks, cedars and American euonymus,” said naturalist Alonso Abugattas. [Sun Gazette]
New Trail Signs Installed — New “wayfinding” signs were recently installed along bike and pedestrian routes throughout the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. The signs are intended to make it easier to navigate to one’s destination, but sometimes can be unintentionally confusing. [Greater Greater Washington]
Arlington Civil War Shirts Available — The Arlington Plaza Library at 2100 Clarendon Boulevard in Courthouse is selling a t-shirt commemorating the Civil War sesquicentennial in Arlington. The Arlington Civil War 150 t-shirts are offered in three different colors for $10 apiece. [Arlington Public Library]
Flickr pool photo by Damiec
The Arlington Historical Society will attempt to dispel some of the myths behind modern depictions of Civil War uniforms and gear in a program called “Uniforms not Costumes – A ‘Real’ History of Civil War Uniforms.” The program is being held tomorrow (Jan. 12) from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Arlington Central Library auditorium (1015 N. Quincy Street).
“The program will be given by Chris Clarke, a twenty year student, re-enactor, and maker of historically accurate Civil War military equipment,” the Historical Society said in a press release. “The speaker will show clips from films and give examples of how 150 years sometimes distorts historical accuracy. Other topics covered are a history of the textiles, styles, and supply of uniforms and equipment for Confederate and Union soldiers.”
Attendees are asked to RSVP on the Arlington Historical Society website.
The Arlington County Board’s recent vote to change the name of Old Jefferson Davis Highway to “Long Bridge Park” was preceded by a thorough dissing of the former namesake by Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman, the Sun Gazette reports this morning.
“I have a problem with ‘Jefferson Davis,'” Zimmerman said of the former Confederate president. “I don’t believe Jefferson Davis has a historic connection to anything in Arlington… He wasn’t from Virginia. I don’t really see why we need to honor him.”
Though last week’s vote may be a victory for the anti-Jefferson Davis crowd, it only renames a narrow, pothole-ridden backroad that connects Crystal City with a future county park. The much larger and more heavily-traveled State Route 1 will continue to be known as Jefferson Davis Highway.
Meanwhile, another state route — Route 29 — is named after an even more prominent, but slightly less controversial Confederate leader: Robert E. Lee. While Jefferson Davis Highway runs north-south through south Arlington, Lee Highway runs east-west across north Arlington. Both serve tens of thousands of commuters each day.
Though the Civil War figures prominently in the history of Arlington, should these roads be renamed for something or someone not associated with slavery and the losing side of a horribly costly war? Or should we preserve our history, warts and all?
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.
Civil War ‘History Mobile’ Coming to Arlington — A tractor trailer turned mobile history museum will be visiting Arlington several times this summer, as part of commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The History Mobile’s exhibits “look at the war through the eyes of civilians, slaves and soldiers.” [Sun Gazette]
ART Contractor Wins Safety Award — The contractor that operates Arlington Transit (ART) buses won a top safety award on Sunday. The company, Forsythe Transportation, helped reduce safety complaints on ART by 58 percent in one year, according to a county press release. [Arlington County]
Pentagon City Casting Call for Kid Singers — Organizers of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic — held later this summer in D.C. — are looking for kids between the ages of 6 and 12 to sing the National Anthem prior to featured tennis matches. A casting call will be held at the Pentagon City mall from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 4. Multiple winners will be selected. [Legg Mason Tennis Classic]
Flickr pool photo by Mark C. White
With the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War upon us, events are planned in Arlington to mark that dark time in our nation’s history.
On Thursday, Warren Nelson, chair of the of the Arlington County Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Committee, will speak at the Arlington Career Center on what the county is doing to preserve the history of the civil war.
The lecture will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m., and will also feature Ron Cogswell, Chief Operating Officer of the Civil War Trust.
Caught in the middle, Arlington was considered the northernmost point in the Confederacy and seen as the southernmost point in the Union territory.
A website depicting Arlington’s role in the Civil War has been created so residents can keep in the know about events during the 150th Celebration.