No enemy could have gotten as close to Fort Ethan Allen as you are now.Help us preserve this piece of Civil War history. Please do not climb on the earthworks. Thank you.
A half-mile perimeter of earthen walls and deep ditches enclosed the fort. Inside, as many as 1,000 soldiers manned the fort's 36 gun emplacements. Some pieces of artillery had a range of several miles. A rugged, steep ravine between the fort and the Potomac River near Chain Bridge also deterred an attack. The closest fighting to Fort Ethan Allen occurred in July 1864 at Fort Stevens, six miles to the northeast in Washington, D.C.
You are looking at a replica 20-pounder Parrott rile positioned at the reconstructed gun platform #23, behind the surviving rampart.
Loading a Cannon, 1862
When firing artillery soldiers stood on a level earthen platform behind the fort's steep, thick walls.
Defending an Attack
Fort Ethan Allen never came under Confederate attack. If it had, Union riflemen—concealed in deep trenches and firing from higher ground—would have had the advantage over Confederate troops moving across open terrain. Further, the fort's soldiers would have been at the ready, warned of Confederate movements by messages relayed along a series of posts as far west as Vienna, Virginia.
Sections of the Fort Remain
of the south face of the fort are visible. A rampart—the fort's main earthen wall—rose behind a deep ditch that surrounded the fort to impede enemy access. Cannons fired through embrasures (gunports) in the fort's wall.
The Face of the Fort
The red line indicates the locations of the gun ports and the height of the rampart before it eroded. Trees now grow in what was a steeply sloped, 6-foot ditch.
The Fort in Profile
The red line superimposed on an 1871 engineer's drawing shows subsequent changes in the profile of the landscape.