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Commander James S. Ward, well known as a scholar and an authority on tactics and gunnery, was the first Union naval officer mortally wounded after the outbreak of the Civil War. Ward was well known because, among other accomplishments, he was instrumental in establishing the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.

Fort Ward Park
Fort Ward is in the West End of Alexandria

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Union commanders understood that a Confederate blockade of the Potomac was a serious threat to the main supply line for Washington, D.C. As a result, a flotilla of seven Navy vessels under the command of James Ward were dispatched to protect the waterway for shipping. In the earliest days of the war, that flotilla was involved in an action to support the strategic redeployment of a small Federal force at Mathias Point. During this action a Confederate sniper shot Ward, and he died shortly thereafter.

One of these forts was named after Commander Ward, and today Fort Ward is the best preserved of this fort system. During the war, Fort Ward was the fifth largest fort defending the Capitol and thus deterred Confederate forces who never attacked its earthen walls. The Union Army abandoned the Fort in December 1865, and shortly thereafter any salvageable materials were sold at auction.

The land is now owned by the City of Alexandria. During the time of the war, the fort was a dusty (at times muddy) place, stripped of vegetation and armed with cannons. Today, it is a manicured oasis of greenery in the city of Alexandria.

On the grounds of old Fort Ward, Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site serves as a park, educational center and cultural remembrance for those who served here. The museum has exhibits on general Civil War topics as well as interpretive programs specific to Fort Ward and Alexandria during the Union occupation. Fort Ward can be entered at 4301 West Braddock in Alexandria, Virginia.

The Fort is located relatively close to Inova Alexandria Hospital and Episcopal High School. The surrounding area is a mixture of very high end housing, middle class housing and is located not far from Skyline and the condos near I-395. To search the surrounding area check out West End Alexandria.

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For more information or to set up an appointment call Stuart at (703)765-0300.