Fort Ethan Allen's star-shaped design enabled soldiers to defend all sides of the fort.Walk up Old Glebe Road to view additional remaining earthworks and a model of Fort Ethan Allen
Constructed primarily from earth and wood, Fort Ethan Allen was a bastion-style fort. Bastions are angular structures that jut out from the enclosing walls. The eliminate blind spots, giving defending soldiers a full-range view of oncoming troops. Bastions also allowed crossfire from multiple angles, making it nearly impossible for an attacker to approach the fort or scale its walls without being exposed to the line of gunfire.
Fort Ethan Allen is the best-preserved example of a bastion-style fort in Arlington County.
Clearing the Way
To build Fort Ethan Allen, trees were cleared to open lines of sight and to provide building materials. Timers hewn from the trunks of large oaks, hickories, and chestnuts supported the fort's thick earthen walls. Sharpened tree branches became an abatis, a defensive obstacle around the fort's parimeter.
Soldier's Sketch of Fort Marcy
The stumps of trees felled to build nearby Fort Marcy are visible in this soldier's sketch. The land cleared to create the Defenses of Washington eroded quickly, sending tons of sediment into the Potomac River.
Military Road a Priority Task
1861, Union troops quickly cut a road through dense forest to connect the fort with the Virginia end of Chain Bridge. Extended several times during the war, "Military Road" eventually ended near present-day Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.