Battleground to Community
— Brightwood Heritage Trail —
Hearing those words, President Abraham Lincoln ducked down from the Fort Stevens parapet during the Civil War battle that stopped the Confederates from taking Washington.
On July 9, 1864, some 15,000 Rebels led by General Jubal A. Early defeated Union forces at the Battle of Monocacy near Frederick, Maryland. Early's troops, suffering from the battle and the summer heat, then turned south to march on the lightly defended capital city. But the Monocacy encounter and skirmishes along the Rockville Turnpike gave the Union time to regroup. On the 12th, the Union's fresh troops challenged the Rebels in a fierce but brief fight. Early's forces retreated to Virginia. The only Civil War battle fought in the District of Columbia was over.
President and Mrs. Lincoln both witnessed the afternoon battle. Eyewitness Captain Elijah Hunt Rhodes of Rhode Island recorded the scene: "....[O]n the parapet I saw President Lincoln standing looking at the troops. Mrs. Lincoln and other ladies were sitting in a carriage behind the earthworks. We marched...into a peach orchard in front of Fort Stevens and here the fight began. For a short time it was a warm work, but as the President and many ladies were looking at us, every man tried to do his best....the rebels broke and fled....A surgeon standing on the fort beside President Lincoln was wounded."
"Early should have attacked early in the morning."
Abraham Lincoln is the only serving U.S. president to have come under enemy fire.
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Welcome to Brightwood, one of Washington, DC's early communities and the site of the only Civil War battle to take place within the District of Columbia. Along with nearby Battleground National Cemetery, Fort Stevens is a daily reminder that the Civil War greatly affected the citizens of Washington. This crossroads community developed from the Seventh Street Turnpike, today's Georgia Avenue, and Military Road. Its earliest days included a pre-Civil War settlement of free African Americans (one of whom, Elizabeth Proctor Thomas, appears on each Heritage Trail sign). Eventually Brightwood boasted a popular race track, country estates, and sturdy suburban housing. In 1861 the area was known as Brighton, but once it was large enough to merit a U.S. Post Office, the name was changed to Brightwood to distinguish it from Brighton, Maryland. With a stock of solid, attractive houses and apartments, the recreational attractions of nearby Rock Creek Park, and longstanding houses of worship, Brightwood has welcomed generations of families whose aspirations have shaped its life and character.
Follow the 18 signs of Battleground to Community: Brightwood Heritage Trail
to discover the personalities and forces that created this remarkable community.
Battleground to Community: Brightwood Heritage Trail, a free booklet capturing the trail's highlights, is available in both English and Spanish language editions at local businesses along the way. To learn about other DC neighborhoods, please visit www.CulturalTourismDC.org.