Lincoln’s Forgotten Fort

Fort Stevens in Washington is an endangered battlefield. Coming to a historical site near you: Wal-Marts and Gen. Robert E. Lee slot machines.

Comments: 125

  1. More likely to be served U.S. Grant rotgut whiskey than play Robert E. Lee slot machines. Exaggeration works to make a point. Bad examples of exaggeration do not work.

  2. The sad fact is that most Americans don't know much about history, so they don't care. A recent survey of 17-year-olds by Common Core, an education research group, revealed that fewer than half could even place the Civil War in the correct half century, let alone describe what it was all about.

    And if you're from the South, it isn't even called the Civil War - it was the "War of Northern Aggression", and to some die-hards, it's still going on just beneath the surface. Look at the Confederate flags still flying way down south in Dixie. WalMart HQ is in non-Yankee Arkansas territory as well, so I doubt its trustees care much if they erase what little memories remain of the damned Yankees and the southern humiliation.

    Your fort is pretty close to the old Mason-Dixon Line, too. I have to say the pastor you interviewed seemed a little too concerned with the prostitutes and the drug dealers and the like who "practice their difficulty" on that prime chunk of historic real estate. I can just imagine Abe rolling his eyes at this sad and strange turn of events. He wasn't a particularly religious man, so he'd probably side with the cannon-desecrating hookers and druggies over the Methodists and the WalMarts.

  3. Wal-Mart is here and dear so get used to it Mo! Wal-Mart has won the Global Corporate War and it is only fitting that worn out relics like Civil War Forts be replaced by the New American Icon.

    Wal-Mart performs a great and necessary function of distributing China's goods in America. Wal-Mart is the key distributor of "All Things Chinese" and it is not fair to bash on poor old Wal-Mart or China.

    We have lots of old worn out Civil War Forts--but We can all feel proud of a New Shiny Bright Huge Box Super Wal-Mart.

  4. The problem with preserving battlefields properly is the amount of land it takes to do so is positively massive. To recreate the feeling of standing where the soldiers stood, you have to protect not only the land itself but also all of the land within sight of the battlefield. Nothing ruins a mental sojourn into the past like a Starbucks on the horizon. When I visited Gettysburg a few years back I was disappointed to discovered a smattering of modern development scattered within the hollowed ground. One of the best is the Bennington Battlefield just across the border into upstate New York. The high trees hide the rest of the world away.

  5. May I suggest we put in an abortion clinic; that will surely bring a lot of Christians each and every day; bring more business to the good minister and probably end the drugs, prostitution and other undesirable activities. Probably be a lot more cops coming by to keep and eye on the anti-abortion militias; and who knows maybe an aspiring beauty pageant queen will accidentally learn where Gettysburg and the Nation's capital really are!

  6. As the Shadow Turns.

    Is sanctifying yet another memorial to the Civil War really more important than helping the needy people of today? Since the church's planned building only casts a shadow on Fort Stevens & does not actually encroach upon the land, how terrible is that? Lord knows Mr. Lincoln's war cast a dark shadow on the nation. Which is worse -- for a church to cast a shadow on a war memorial or a war to cast a shadow on a nation?

    If Civil War monuments were established to remind people of how terrible a war among brothers is, they might be of value. Unfortunately, they are more about glorifying war. They have inspired men with too much time on their hands to get into costumes, arm themselves with paint guns & re-enact the glory days of war.

    I've been to Washington, D.C. many times & have never stood at Fort Stevens to wonder at the spot where a tall, distracted President made a target of himself while checking on the progress of his disastrous war. Now that I know about Fort Stevens, I might enjoy a brief visit, another chance to shake my head at man's inability to settle disputes in rational ways. I hope when I get there the Emory Methodist Church center is up & running. I'll drop in & make a small donation in tribute to people who are doing something positive for the country.

    Perhaps some of those Civil War buffs will do the same. It's time for folks to put away their uniforms & cast their lot with progress. The Civil War has been over for 145 years. Its shadow is far too long.

    The Constant Weader at

  7. A church that draws its members from the Old Confederacy along with a Walmart near the sacred ground of historic battlefields?


    We should respect the families of the fallen. Oh my, perhaps we should protest in front of that church and boycott Walmart (a Southern-owned organization) while were at it.

  8. Maureen goes to war. Well done, soldier.

  9. A religious-based community center near an historic site where the US was attacked? Hmm. I don't like that either Ms. Dowd.

  10. Lincoln cooly stood.
    Something about this phrase offends.
    Why not Lincoln resolutely stood?
    Defiantly stood?
    Trustingly stood?
    Fatalistically stood?
    Obliviously stood?
    Foolishly stood?
    Stupidly stood?
    Why cooly with all its modern connotations?
    Does the use of cooly say more about our dear Miss Dowd than the Sainted 16th?

  11. Lived in Silver Spring for a time. Walking down Georgia Ave. to the battle field, past the Union Cemetary and onto the park was a good way to connect with the historic ground I lived on at the time. It would be a shame if the view from the fort to Silver Spring, where the Confederates mustered for the skirmish, were to be violated any more.

  12. Oh the relentless turn of time and change. While those who do not remember the past may be condemned to repeat it, how many battlefields, how much blood do we walk over each day from centuries past? Not that such is without significance to those who fought or died on those spots, but the relentless turning of the wheel of time has faded their memory to being forgotten. Go to more long-settled places upon the planet and the archeologists will dig stories of life after life, generation upon generation, today's city built from the ruins of yesterday's memory, layer after layer.

    So if a church wants to build a community center to deal with the needs of the living, how much value does holding this one detail from the 19th century still have? At least the church has offered to have some commemoration to the site. One could only imagine the howls if the proposed mosque and community center near Ground Zero in New York similarly offered a 9/11 gift shop and museum.

  13. I am also an ardent fan of Civil War history, and I find it disturbing that in this day and age of rampant, bloated "patriotism," truly historic places such as these are under threat. Many (most?) Americans don't even know when the Civil War took place, and yet that period of history continues to have a profound effect on our country. America is truly a fortunate to have not suffered prolongued warfare on its soil since 1865; few countries in the world have been so lucky. That much of this hallowed ground is under threat is a disgrace to the hundreds of thousands of people who died in that conflict, and shows that we still have not learned many of the lessons from that turbulent time. I can only hope that some of the fervor being leveled at issues such as the "community center with a mosque two blocks away from the World Trade Center" can be directed toward these places as well. They are no less important than Ground Zero, and are remnants of a time when Americans faced a far, far greater threat to our country than anything we face today.

  14. Good article Maureen. It's sad that so many Americans today are perfectly willing (see Marie Burns above) to forget about our history and let more construction take place on and near hallowed ground. Let's not forget men died at these battlefields and forts. Many of them, boys who had never been away from home. Some were buried where they fell. Their blood is in that soil. Someone's son could be buried where that church wants to build it's community center. People don't think of that. I'm always very frustrated by those who dismiss history. America has a lot in it's past that people would rather forget but it's part of who we are - like it or not - and should always, always be preserved.

  15. In a country where government is considered as a problem than a solution, when money gets siphoned to unnecessary wars, it is sad that heritage sites get ignored. It is quite contrary to a German government putting billions of euros to make Berlin a world class cultural center after the German unification. President Obama could keep this site as a priority in the recent nation building venture with infrastructure. Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican but his government did take care of the great national parks.

  16. An ancestor of mine was killed blocking Early's advance which gave the Union time to reinforce DC. I'm proud.

    I've been a student of history most of my 64 years. I wanted to know the WHY of humanity and I learned it. We're a narcissist species. The lesson I've learned from our family fight is that it was not worth it, could have been settled without the eternal anger that it left behind if not for the self righteous indignation on both sides. We fought because we wanted to, not because it was the only way to solve the slavery issue.

    We're gearing up to repeat the process with the same god on both sides. There will soon be families with collections of liberal's ears on display as trophies. We fight because we want to.

  17. Not every battlefield in every war deserves preserving. Even parts of the major battlefields do not matter. Still, some have tremendous importance for our decedents to understand the great conflicts of the war. This is one of those sites. At this point Confederate General Early ceased being the second coming of Stonewall Jackson as he had appeared in his reenactment of the Valley Campaign. At this point Commander in Chief, President Abraham Lincoln was personally involved in a Civil War battle. This battle ended an attempt by General Early and Morgan's Raiders to cut off the supply lines to the Union Army of the Potomac in 1864 enabling the army to continue the fight against Lee.

  18. As a lover of history (and ex-history teacher) I feel saddened by this and other stories of historical sites closing due to lack of funds. But economic reality is economic reality, and if no one is visiting the site it makes fiscal sense to bulldoze it and replace it with a plaque. I would rather see whatever funds are earmarked for the maintenance of these sites to be re-allocated to preserving the jobs of history teachers. It is they that make history a living thing to so many, who will never be able to visit the places where the events took place.

  19. At times bravery seems it is part courage, part curiosity, part obliviousness and part stupidity. When informed by the right cause in the right person, what greatness there can be in such bravery! Wonderful to be reminded of the battle and locations involved, and good ole Honest Abe, who survived much campaign maligning, only to be felled by an assassin's bullet. We always compare our current president to our great ones, I hope that our current one compares better than the last.

  20. Preservation is a hard thing to push in a recession. The prospect of jobs and economic growth can make people forget how important it is to preserve the few historic places that exist that chronicle the short history of our country. Perhaps schools, universities, and libraries can become more active in pushing the site towards tourism. If people are allowed to forget these places exist, then they won't put up much of a fight to preserve them from encroaching developers.

  21. Get used to it, Maureen. With half of the country's electorate suffering from a form of battered-spouse syndrome and/or clueless of how it's being exploited by corporate interests and the 1 percent at the top of the income pile, the amusement-parking of America and its sobering historic sites will continue in the name of capitalism (translation - greed) and continuing consolidation of the nation's wealth among the mega rich, such as the Koch bros. We, The People, is becoming as quaint as today's faux colonial Williamsburg.

  22. There's a whole ring of such forts around Washington. I grew up near Ft. Foote, which is south of DC on the maryland side of the Potomac. It is hardly visited at all, though partly restored and has a huge park along with it. There are stories attached to it, too, though not involving shots fired at Lincoln. Early's raid was too little, too late, as the North rushed troops there in time to deflect him from his goal. I'm a civil war nut too, but I hate that the NPS cut 200 acres of oak forest to "preserve the view" at Bull Run/Manassas!
    Suggest the NPS be given this land and told to cut down any buildings, walmarts, church extensions, etc, just like they cut down trees, to preserve the view.

  23. Anytime a Civil War spot is threatened by development, I cringe. Almost everyday I hear of some new development that wants to overtake some of our national treasures. I'm a retired history teacher and places like Fort Stevens are living, if dilapidated history. I have never personally had the opportunity to visit Civil War sites, but they are all hallowed ground to me.

  24. Right, what America needs is yet another Wal-Mart ....

    What is the nation coming to ... Land of the Lotus-eaters?

    The Odyssey: "I was driven thence by foul winds for a space of 9 days upon the sea, but on the tenth day we reached the land of the Lotus-eaters, who live on a food that comes from a kind of flower. Here we landed to take in fresh water, and our crews got their mid-day meal on the shore near the ships. When they had eaten and drunk I sent two of my company to see what manner of men the people of the place might be, and they had a third man under them. They started at once, and went about among the Lotus-Eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the Lotus-eaters without thinking further of their return; nevertheless, though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made them fast under the benches. Then I told the rest to go on board at once, lest any of them should taste of the lotus and leave off wanting to get home, so they took their places and smote the grey sea with their oars."

  25. Always a tough one. I am a Texan, and each time I see the Alamo I am saddened by the fact that it is in downtown San Antonio surrounded by tall buildings. You can't really experience the scope and the "lines of fire". But developement marches on.

    Of course your unspoken analogy to the propriety of the church being built in proximity to hallowed ground is a good one. However, it wasn't radicalized Mothodists who attacked the World Trade Center only 9 years ago.

  26. Solution - let the Civil War Preservation Trust buy the fort and surrounding areas. Oh, wait - they have no money, and want the government to do it. Sorry, we'll have to let the church build. My great great grandchildren are already overtaxed.

  27. This story has a weird synergy in it for me. As a kid growing up in Silver Spring with a Civil War buff for a father, I became familiar with Fort Stevens and Fredricksburg early on. My great-grandfather was wounded at both places. He was a German immigrant and sharpshooter in the 155th Pennyslvania regiment. After being wounded at Fredricksburg, he was still recuperating in DC. When Early's troops attacked the city, they called out anyone who could carry a weapon. While exchanging fire in what is now Rock Creek Park, he was wounded again. He survived and carried the bullet in his head for the rest of his life.

    For many Americans, these places in the mid-Atlantic, coastal south, southern Missouri are filled with the twists and turns of memory and historical imagination. When I first saw the photograph of Lincoln standing on the Ft. Stevens parapet, I wondered where exactly he was looking. One day, my father drove us downtown and showed us and then explained how the battle unfolded.

    Preserving historical sites is increasingly a balancing act, especially in urban settings and in open expanses of land 'ripe for development.' What happened to the Gettysburg battlefield was an unmitigated mess. The Park Service learned a lesson there and managed to do better at Antietem. Bull Run/Manassas continues to be contested as is Petersburg.

    The problem with the Ft. Stevens site is that in the general population's minds it was an insignificant battle. Historically, however, the battle engaged at Ft. Stevens was important because it showed just how fragile the Union army's control of the field was and how divided were the loyalties of Marylanders. Understanding that sort of historical situation is also to begin to understand something of the US racial, regional, and social psyche 145 years on. I don't doubt that the Methodist Church and other churches and community organizations in the area see the present conditions and people's needs as more paramount that preserving a battlefield site intact. Fair enough. So why not link the historical significance of the area to community loyalty and renewal? Why does it have to be either/or?

    The center of contemporary Washington, D.C. was created after WW2 by moving a good portion of the then African-American middle class out, tearing down neighborhoods, and building a government center. Today, after the fact, we know there were enormous costs in doing that, but that story should be better known and better told. (The washington Historical Society ran an interesting photographic comparison of before and after some years ago which showed the scope and cost of the 'urban renewal.'.) That transformation of postWW2 Washington has something to do with the contemporary history of the Ft. Stevens area.

    Maureen Dowd's memories and mine are quite different for the area, as are no doubt others' memories and present experiences. Those connections and experiences are also part of the history of the site. People lived and died there in the neighborhood. People continue to live and die there. The 'history' is not a completed past but a continuous field of experiences and connections. Maybe the Ft. Stevens area around Solders Home can reclaim a more inclusive historical identity and overcome some of the devastation caused by the desire of some to transform postWW2 Washington into a government center at the cost of longstanding local neighborhoods.

    Mark Amsler
    Auckland, New Zealand

  28. I live within comfortable driving distance to Jefferson's getaway Poplar Forest. Have to say it is disconcerting to seek this out and find it tucked away among very modest houses and trailer parks. But do I wish that the Historic Preservation people would buy up land to restore its original rural atmosphere? NO. Life goes on, and there is a lesson to be learned regarding the social history of our area. Still and thankfully there are no WalMarts or Starbucks at the entrance.

  29. I fail to see what Fort Steven has to do with what's going on in the world today. It's nice to have and save historical sites if endangered, but what good is it if we fail to heed the lessons of history. All conflicts start with greed and hate. Replace that with charity and love and you've solved most of the problems in the world.

  30. There is another American fort of great historical significance threatened by development: Fort Monroe on Old Point Comfort, Virginia. Old Point is the place where the first African captives in the English coastal colonies stopped on their journey to Jamestown in 1619. The fortress itself, built in the early 19th century with the help of slave labor and the largest of its kind, is where thousands of slaves sought sanctuary during the Civil War, precipitating the Confiscation act, the first legal step on the path to the 13th Amendment. Lincoln visited there too during the war, personally ordering an attack on Norfolk, VA (and Jefferson Davis, Confederate president, was incarcerated there after the war). The Army will vacate the post in September 2011, and the state of Virginia will manage it as a single entity. There are good things about the state's plan, one of which is the goal of establishing a national park unit on the property. But the state is investing almost nothing in the transition to civilian control of the 500 or so historic buildings, including the moated fortress, and it is still working closely with the city of Hampton, which initially had control of planning for Fort Monroe's future and planned to turn the post into a Hampton neighborhood with 2000 new residences. Both of these conditions create the danger of overdevelopment to the diminishment of Fort Monroe's astonishing history and beautiful, and equally historic, natural landscape with a shoreline overlooking Hampton Roads and the Chesapeake Bay. For more on Fort Monroe, see the website of Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park,

  31. "puncturing the attempt of Fort Stevens defenders to argue that the fort is a tourist attraction". A CEO in private business would be fired for such fraud, but non-profit defenders keep to continue their work. Explains the state of the park..

  32. Is anyone surprised that Wal-Mart will erect a monstrosity on a historic monument? As the CEO of Coca-Cola once said: "Value is only valuable if the value is valued."

    Since we are living in a completely relativistic era where there is no one moral code, but many; since we live in a time where television is children's greatest and most revered educator, not teachers and parents or, dare I say, the Bible, Torah, or Koran; since we live in a time where the Internet acts as an outlet for and a vehicle of unparalleled creative expression while simultaneously playing the role of our digital overlord by tracking our every move and storing it in some anonymous database, does it really, truly come as a shock to any sane person reading this article that a mega-corporation erects a store in the vicinity of a historic monument?

    As the CEO of Coca-Cola says: "Value is only valuable if the value is valued."

    Read: "History is only valuable if History is valued."

    And History clearly is not valued or reverenced by Northerners and Southerners alike.

    Enjoy those roll-back prices. I know China does.

  33. I am not sure what Maureen is talking about when she says that Fredricksburg was the site of the first battle between Grant and Lee.

    I always thought that Lee faced off with Ambrose E. Burnside in that one, fought in 1962, long before Grant took up a role in that area.

  34. We try to preserve our past, our heritage, and it slips through our fingers like water.

    It would be fine to preserve the spot where, for the last time, a U.S. president literally displayed courage under fire.

    But it would be even better to preserve the spirit of 'with malice toward none, with charity for all.'

  35. The zoning around DC is so lax I'm surprised there are any historical sites left. Everywhere you drive (because walking is not possible) it is endless strip malls with Dress Barns and fast food. There was some beautiful land in Maryland and Virginia way back when, but development has been allowed to run rampant. There is apparently no planning. Just parking lots and chain stores. The public transportation system is a joke and about as segregated as the Old South. It's sad.

  36. I tried to find a few pictures of Fort Stevens on Google; pitifully few and none in any a way comprehensive. At the least we need to use our best media technologies to capture what little is left. No one will ever stand on a rise and survey the scene Lincoln saw, but maybe historical films can have a chance to recreate an image of it.

  37. This is a tough call. Yes, history is important, but so are the lives of people currently living in a neighborhood. I applaud the church that is trying to help people with affordable housing and alternatives to self-destruction. And I understand the need to preserve our history. Would that we didn't have to choose one over the other.

  38. Frankly the idea of pouring money into a ruined old fort no one cares about makes little sense. I suggest the history buffs gather historic and current pictures of the site and put together a little memorial area to hang near the entrance to the new Walmarts where crowds of people pass by daily. The curious will stop and look; most will pass by, oblivious. What more should a culture expect as time relentlessly marches on carrying us with it?

  39. While I'm a big admirer of Abraham Lincoln, his character, his principles and his leadership I believe that the Civil War was a huge mistake that most of the Yankee states have been paying, are paying and will continue to pay for. What man has never realized is that it is unwise to rule people against their will and amount of power and authority will defeat man's will, take Prohibition, Soviet Union, Mao Tzetong ..etc.
    What surprises me was Lincoln's, a man of contemplation and thought, unawareness of that simple fact.
    No amount of hog wash, reminiscence, and nostalgia will ever bury that mistake.

  40. Remembering the Civil War is right in line with the purposes of this church. SInce it is a black church, it should recall the reasons the war was fought. How are the blacks today in this neighborhood? It seems to me that the neighborhood has forgotten why this battleground is hallowed. But it is easy to understand why, as their situation is somewhat better than the time of the civil war, but the struggle for their quality of life is plainly seen in the activities of the park. With the activities of the Republican Party these days, it seems to me we are still fighting this war. We still have controversy over state's rights and civil rights. Even if the battlefield is closed on Georgia avenue, the war goes on.

  41. It's hard to believe that most of us are descended from Europeans. Europeans understand the importance of preserving history! But I have an idea. Propose building mosques near the forts and the battlefields. That will stop the development! Humans at work; Beware of Ignorance.

  42. The proliferation of casinos and big box stores is a problem separate and distinct from the neglect and repurposing of historic landmarks, although both trends reflect tellingly and sadly on the current state of our priorities. And as our standards continue to slide, we can expect initiatives someday to preserve the site of the first Walmart, the birthplace of Donald Trump, etc.

  43. The significance of war memorial may be diminished by the construction of a center to help the poor, who have been neglected by the government partially because it is spending too much money to fight wars for which, no doubt, future memorials will be constructed.

  44. My great Grandfather was stationed at Fort Stevens during that summer, and when my family moved to the DC area in the late 1960's, my Dad and I took the old hand written diary where the Ohio Volunteer Regiment had been stationed, and sought out the place to see what we could see and find.

    The Ohio Volunteers (mostly from around Lima)lived at the fort, but during the day were responsible for protective pickets around the White House, and on a few occassions, around the Capitol. They apparently traveled to picket duty by a combination of wagon and train. They had considerable time free to explore the Federal Buildings, which were fairly impressive to a kid from western Ohio farms, that just 20 years earlier had been drained from bogs, cut over, and turned into farm fields.

    The Ohio Volunteers however had a rough time, they were laid low by an epidemic of measles. The unit records indicate several deaths from the epidemic, and a number who were mustered out and sent home. My great-Grandfather also contracted measles, he reports, but medicated himself with some blackberry wine which he bought from a local farmer living near the fort, yet he felt quite guilty about that, apparently. I suspect it had to do with family influence and culture as his wife and daughter (my grandmother) were NW Ohio Leaders of the WCTU (Womens Christian Temperence Union) for several decades in the late 19th and early 20th Century.

    He was present for the Confederate Attack, which lasted but a few hours, after which he went searching for both Confederate and Union shell caseings, a box of which were on my Grandmother's end table for years. He witnessed Lincoln's visit and the efforts made to convince the President to duck below the sightlines of the Confederate observers. Thought the President a very brave man, but wished he had stayed in the White House as the pickets provided better protection.

    This regiment of Ohio Volunteers were short term, so in September they were shipped back to Columbus, where they were mustered out of service. He reports that in November (since he was now over 21) he cast his first ballot for President Lincoln. He had to ride a horse about fifteen miles in a rainstorm to get to the polls, but he was glad to vote for that brave Mr. Lincoln.

    My Dad, whose idea it was that we take the diary to the Fort, and read the relevant parts commented afterwards -- "I wonder what he would think of our bringing this diary over here and reading it?" And I added, "I wonder what he would think of our red chevy horse with windshield wipers?"

    I hope they use the Stim money well, clean up the Fort, mark it properly, and above all let the states which contributed those short term drafted regiments know that they are doing so. In this case -- notice should be given to NW Ohio. And if there are Ohio boys buried in that Union Cemetary, I bet most of them died of measles.

  45. This conservative has a new found respect for Ms. Dowd. She is correct in stating that many of our Civil War battlefields and historical sites are under siege from developers and urban blight. I wish all Washington residents would take the half day trip to Antietam (Sharpsburg) in western Maryland. There you will see the battlefield which claimed more casualties in one day than any other engagement during the Civil War, or during any other war before or since. Antietam is kept in the almost exactly the same state it was on September 17th, 1862, thanks to the National Park Service and various private organizations who treasure our national heritage. Visit Antietam, and experience what these soldiers on both sides sacrificed for their country and states.

  46. If we want to remember our past correctly then:

    Let us remember that most soldiers died from their own bacteria during the Civil War, not from an opponent's bullet.

    School children in New York City travel to Gettysburg on field trips which is a value-able lesson but are not told of the thousands of Civil War graves right in their own city ( Cypress Hills, Greenwood, etc),

    When you are driving over the Verrazano Bridge remember that its Brooklyn-side supports rest on top of Fort Lafayette, a Civil War Prison Camp, the Confederates who tried to burn-down Manhattan were hung there,

    Southerners may be aware of the mass grave called the Confederate Mound, a grave-site of over 5,000 Confederate POWs in Chicago, but that item doesn't show up in most history texts,

    but it has been my experience that neither my Southern nor Northern educated friends ever heard of the Vatican's support of the Confederacy and Pope Pius IX's correspondence with Jeff Davis.

    So if the Methodist Civl War gift shop could have a facts only section that would be " cool".

  47. So there's nothing out of line about building a mosque near Ground Zero, but when a church expands near Fort Stevens it's an affront to our national heritage? And there's no need to get excited when an obscure municipal board in New York gives the Ground Zero mosque the thumbs up, but any perceived slight to the symbolism of Fort Stevens is thrust into the limelight? Hey, I'm not happy about Civil War battlefields being neglected, either. I'm just expanding my file on double standards.

  48. Good story, Ms. Dowd, even though a bit off your usual turf. Indeed, it's outrageous how the US treat their monuments! A site of such historic importance should have a military presence as a guard honoring those who fought there for the nation. Why not place one of those companies on leave from Afghanistan or Iraq there? Or a unit of the National Guard? That would stop the misuse of the site and cost next to nothing.
    Really, where are all the patriots, so concerned about "restoring the honor" of the US, when it comes to calling for preservation of the monuments that are part of the history of that nation? Looks like all the brouhaha is only lipservices, and when it comes to really honoring those who gave their lifes for the US at places like Fort Stevens, all those loudmouth patriots aren't willing to lift a finger. It's a shame.

  49. Thank you for a reminder of our common culture and history that is far too often forgotten over the bickering of 24/7 news talking heads and the incredible need for the next dollar of the corporate heads. What we need right now is a common sense of humanity if we're going to make it out of this alive.

  50. Timely

  51. A Methodist Church/cultural center is okay, so is a casino and by all means we can always use another Walmart...just as long as no one is planning to build a muslim cultural center there.

  52. Wow, I can't believe it. An Maureen Dowd editorial that I actually agreed with. Oh. It wasn't about politics. It was about our history. Maybe common ground we can start with Maureen? Refreshing to hear you talk about something other then your political bend. Please do more like this. It is something we can actually agree on.

  53. Just beautiful. That's all I have to say.

  54. A Wal-mart at the Wilderness, a casino at Gettysburg, a racetrack on the Brandy Station battlefield, not to mention the attempted Disneyfication of Bull Run. For a generation of Americans who supposedly reveres our Sacred Past, we seem to be doing our damndest to erase it.

  55. America is in great decline, and the lessons of history fall on dear ears. Replace the fort with a Ken Burn video kiosk, and charge folk $8 to see it. Maybe General Motors will pay for the video-rather that spend money fixing their cars. But that's another decline, for another editorial.

  56. There are parallells in all of history, this is a great one (and I wish the Tourist Center luck!) I think that's what's gone awry now is people who aren't reading history, or facts, for that matter, are being bankrolled to protest by folks who have a ton o' money and a major interest in a completely libertarian society. While reading this, I was struck by how little I see anyone telling stories, factual historical stories, anymore. Made me sad and frustrated! Thank you, Maureen!

  57. The Mayor “stood, apparently unconscious of danger, watching, with that grave and passive countenance, the progress of the right amid the bronx cheers of the nay-sayers, until an officer was struck in the face by an apple pie within three feet of him.” They Knew Nothing, but they were sure they'd scared hell out of those community center builders.

  58. There is a story, probably apocryphal, that it was a young captain named Oliver Wendell Holmes who cried to Lincoln, "Get down, you damn fool." A fine story, whether or not true.

    (signed) a guy raised in Silver Spring

  59. Ms. Dowd's article was both delightful and interesting. This appraisal comes from someone who has been a harsh critic of Maureen in the past.

  60. Intersting. And you're just the kind of person who thought an Islamic center two blocks from Ground Zero would be just fine.

  61. These days we hear grumbling of secessionists from Alaska to Atlanta. How soon they forget the lessons of General Sherman.

  62. Imagine it were a Muslim community center rather than a Methodist one … discuss.

  63. We must stop the Methodist Community Center from being built on Sacred Ground...

  64. Sometimes it seems the late summer produces columns that are written with no specific point. I was chagrined at my inability to grasp Ms Dowd’s point. Is this an ode to the bravery of Abe Lincoln or to his foolishness? Is it a lament that historic battlefields are being encroached upon or recognition that past historic sites give way to present day changes? Are we supposed to lament Pastor Daniel's decision to build his church and low income housing or be pleased that he is investing in a down trodden area?

    What are we to make of the Civil War Preservation Trusts fear that the church "will block the line of sight from the fort and make it harder for visitors to visualize history?." We hear from a police officer that "it’s the first time” he came there “and saw people during the day," (which indicates there are few if any visitors) and the other statement by Pastor Daniel's "that the glimpse . . . wasn’t very good anyhow," and Ms Dowd agreeing, it "is true” (which indicates the Trust’s line of sight fear is not justified.)

    I eventually figured out its purpose. With the passing of summer Ms Dowd merely wanted to reminisce about her Mom’s stories of Fort Stevens where Ms Dowd stole her first kiss and his brother smoked his first cigarette. Can’t blame her for that, the end of summer always is a time for reflection as we move into the foothills of winter.

  65. Maureen, I like your opinion column today even though I'm not quite sure what your point is you are trying to make.

    Despite my confusion, the reason I like it is that here we have opposition to the building of a church near a Civil War historic fort, yet no one is shouting that such opposition is anti-Christian!

    And we have the similar opposition to the construction of yet another WalMart and another casino near Gettysburg and Fredericksburg yet no one is shouting that such opposition is anti-buiness!

    So why, when sane people oppose the construction of an Islamic mosque near the site of New York City's former Twin Towers, which were destroyed in the attack on our nation by Islamic terrorists on September 11th, do so many of the press and editors call us anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic?

    I, like most people who oppose the building of an Islamic mosque near the September 11th site, oppose such construction simply because it is inappropriate and insensitive and just plain wrong! I am not being anti-anything, I am being an American who is expressing my Constitutionaly guaranteed free speech!

  66. Allegory 101. Thanks, Mo.

  67. The person in post #10 who objected to Maureen Dowd using the phrase "coolly stood" ought to Google the phrase. It's been used for a long, long time, even back in the Civil War era, long before "cool" was cool.

  68. I'm sure we have hundreds of war memorials in this country, but have we really learned anything from the wars that created them?

  69. A national monument well-worth protecting, even though, like a palimpsest, one wonders whether it is not about time that the dour pulse of our time got recorded thereon for posterity.

  70. I think 10 takes "cooly" in a sense MD never intended. In the context (standing up to danger) the modern connotations he adduces are irrelevant. "Cool courage" has nothing to do with being hip to the latest jazz. It's as if MD had said Lincoln showed a courageous attitude and 10 objected to the image of the Sainted 16th showing "attitude".

  71. Time marches on...with greater effect than General Early's raid. It is time to make the fort greater and more active, or to let it pass into the shadows. I fear we cannot keep it going forever.

  72. Oliver Wendell Holmes was an officer on Wright's staff when Wright's division was hurried north by steamboat from the Virginia battlefields, arriving just in time to march into the fort's earthworks and confront Early's rebels.
    When a sharpshooter's bullet killed an officer standing next to Lincoln, Holmes shouted "Get down, you damn fool."
    To which Lincoln is said to have responded, "Captain, I'm glad that someone knows how to speak to civilians."

  73. A country of narcissists has no need for history...

  74. So refreshing to hear an appeal to history in a plastic nation which pretends it has no past, only an infinite polyvinylacetate expansion zone called the future...even though I still zoom at 90mph past Springfield IL on I-55 and never visit the Lincolns' tomb.

  75. I believe in Lincoln by David Donald it is Oliver Wendell Holmes himself who tells Lincoln "Get down you fool" and not the general, and that Lincoln said he appreciated being put in his place by one of his soldiers. I'd say these anti civil war and anti Lincoln comments are just written by crackers. And Walmart has been a scourge to this country. By forcing thousands of their suppliers to outsource their manufacturing to China they have cost America hundreds of thousands if not millions of jobs, not to mention driving their competitors out of business everwhere they go. And for what? $300 of savings per year for their customers? Are we really so cheap that we wouldn't pay that to keep jobs here in America? It's capitalism run amok, along with Republican tax breaks for outsourcing. I suppose people who buy property here are entitled to develop it as they see fit, so some large and tall buildings surrounding this battlefield are inevitable. Civil war sites all over are being gradually surrounded by development, especially in the south. At least the property itself is not at risk of development. It sounds like some plaques explaining the history of the site would help visitors know more about it. Maybe the money for them will be donated by civil war buffs in response to this article or the federal parks department will invest something in the place. Low lifes will always abuse decrepit public parks as long as there are not police regularly monitoring them and more decent people stay away from them. I suppose it's like Guiliani's abandoned car theory. Anyway building more popular knowledge of history is only being done by PBS these days, which has such a limited viewership. Can you imagine history documentaries in prime time on the big network stations? Never. So thanks for writing the article Maureen but I think what's happening is inevitable and we're fortunate just to have what we do now for the very few who are connected to history to appreciate.

  76. Oh no not another touchy feely parable about the Washington DC Family Dowd!!! THe only thing that's missing is a chorus of Battle Hymn the Republic. Where's Ken Burns when you need him?

    I just got my cable TV and laptop service back after a week's hiatus and this is the first thing I'm posting on?

    Oh Happy 5771 folks!!!!

  77. What is omitted from the story is that Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. ("Captain my Captain") was the man at the fort who yelled at Lincoln, "Get down you damned fool" when the shooting started and Lincoln stood up with his stove pipe hat. Holmes of course, became a long serving justice on the US Supreme Court after serving MA.

  78. Maureen Dear: History sparks in the dark shadow of ignorance. Good Job!! I am a Marylander a Civil War Buff!!

  79. If the private sector is so perfect why doesn't it take over the preservation of our battlefields? Isn't it time the private sector put its vast sums of money where its mouth is? Just look at all the money the Federal government would save!!!!!!

    You see the Civil War was also a war about States Rights vs the power of the Federal Government. Who did those Yankees in Washington think they were telling States that they couldn't own human beings dagnabit!!!! That's downright UnAmerican dagnabit!!!! Why don't those pencil pushers in Washington DC take a hike dagnabit!!!! Smaller government is the answer dagnabit!!!! The Government is trying to take over our lives dagnabit!!!!

    Does all of this sound vaguely familiar dagnabit!!!!

  80. Yawn

  81. How about building a mosque and a synagogue next to the church? Build, and they will come to visit the past and present!Hello?

  82. A strange likeness to what is happening in lower Manhattan?

    The only difference is the amount of time lapsed.

    As pointed out in many ways recently, we are trying to forget the Civil War. A war fought on our soil.

    President Lincoln wanted to "consecrate" the battlefield at Gettysburg. He called it "hallowed ground".

    People want to do that with "ground zero" and protect the area.

    Perhaps a "Wal-Mart Casino" would be allowed there as it would generate tax dollars.

    Those who do not learn from history.........

  83. Marie, did Lincoln fire on Fort Sumpter?

  84. Saving Civil War Battlefields is a struggle that has been on going since the end of the war. One in which reenactors have been at the fore front.

    But more important is getting the entire story of the war out in front of the public. The illegal seizure of Arlington as a hospital. The immoral treatment of Confederate soldiers in Union POW camps. Lincoln's plan to ship all negros back to africa. All true stories and all glossed over by the history books.

    Yes, save the sites but tell the entire truth while your at it.

  85. One of our kids, who has done a great deal of work on many of these archaeological sites, would remind you that the historical and scientific knowledge gained is precious--and so it is equally important for someone at the NYT to expose the tragedy of one of the most important recent discoveries. When the remains of the Kenewick Man were found along the Columbia River, *native* Americans were so furious that their folklore would be exposed as untrue that the Clinton administration had the site totally and permanently destroyed--buried under tons of rock and rubble. Because of the need to appease one ignorant group who revel in being *victims,* our own government deprived us of the means to engage in important and useful historical and scientific research.

  86. Nice glimpse of history. Thank you. And the Emory United Methodist Church may indeed have the right to build/expand there, but is it prudent? In the interests of harmony, should they not move a few blocks north?

  87. "Still, in a day and age when people don’t remember what happened last year, we’ve got to be careful to protect our history."

    Indeed. So may we count you among those who find the Ground Zero mosque offensive?

  88. Finally, a Dowd column that takes something seriously -- just when she had me convinced she could write nothing but snark. This piece may not get the clicks that another shrill, hyper-partisan rant would get, but it at least confirms that Dowd can still write intelligently. All too often her columns turn her into a caricature, an example of all the shallowness and style-over-substance that define the conservative stereotype of a shrill liberal female columnist.

    Of course, it doesn't help that some of her readers feel entitled to call her "Mo." I doubt many people would address a male columnist so familiarly. Unless you're Dowd's best friend or grandmother, perhaps a little more formality is called for.

  89. Comment number 9 is brilliant. Sensitivity to history must continue into 21st century sites as well.

  90. Good column. but I suspect people from the Civil War era would wonder what the fuss was about. They didn't see anything special about Monticello or Mt. Vernon, which were decaying at the time.

    Also, regarding comment #10, describing someone as "coolly" standing in the face of danger was a common expression in Lincoln's time, and is still one of the definitions of the word today. Haven't you heard of someone being "cool under pressure"? It doesn't suggest to me anything of the trivial or adolescent in this context.

  91. And according to legend, it was Holmes who shouted at Lincoln, "Get down, you damn fool!"

  92. Heck, Maureen, a lot of us sledded and stole kisses and played "ringaleevio" in a lot of childhood "fort" places, remnants of the War between the States that ended in 1865. But we don't need to bring those moribund and dilapidated places back into good shape to prove that we care about Civil War sites! We're not talking about the Bastille here. Let Fort Stevens slide into the slough of despond, despite the "coolth" of Lincoln on the parapet. We have so many more worthy causes to spend our precious dollars on these days. As they say in New Jersey, Fuggedaboutit, Maureen!

  93. We have not only forgotten Lincoln's fort, but his compassion and patriotism as well. Republicans have turned their back on the one great leader their party ever produced.

  94. Probably never would have heard a thing about it if they wanted to build a mosque there...

  95. Where are the cries and hysterical protests of the Tea Partiers? How dare they put a religious building on such a sacred piece of land!!! A Wal-mart on one hallowed site and a gambling casino on another but not a peep from the hypocrites. What a shallow, hollow, empty group of people this "grassroots" organization is. But, hey, they're not racists or bigots!!

  96. lincoln was the best president ever. bar none. no one else is close.

  97. One more comment, for Mary Burns, whose scathing prose often graces this site:

    Mary, you are absolutely right. Men are inept, foolish clods of human beings who should be shipped off to another planet and blown to smithereens. We should not even have our own free will. I am one of them. If I am left up to my own devices for too long, usually something awful happens.

    However, Mary Mary Quite Contrary, you miss the bigger picture: until PEACE is made as PROFITABLE as WAR, you will not escape the vicious Orwellian cycle in which humanity now finds itself and your words, as heartfelt and true as they are will be just more noise in the digital echo chamber of the Internet and have no actual affect in reality.

  98. Thank you for the sentence--"Still, in a day and age when people don't remember what happened last year, we've got to be careful to protect our history."

    Case in point--just last weekend I went to visit The Fells in Newbury, NH, the Lake Sunapee summer home of Lincoln's secretary John Hay. Had I not been there, your mention of Hay would have gone right past me. I now have a picture of the volumes of the Lincoln biography on a shelf in one of the rooms, and numerous stories about Hay, who was also Secretary of State under William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, in my memory. Seeing a tree planted by Roosevelt on the property, standing in the dining room where Rudyard Kipling ate made those men more alive to me, and their ideas not just dead words in dusty volumes. I wanted to learn more about all of them.

    If we want people to remember history and to learn from it, protecting places that keep history alive is paramount.

  99. Part of what is great about America is our history.
    Great column.
    Try to visit Custer's Hill one day in Montana!

  100. Where's Glen Beck and all the zealots protesting the Mosque in New York? Doesn't this location merit the same attention or do they have any knowledge of their history?

  101. This column is another example that Ms. Dowd has long since run out of subject matter.

  102. Based upon what I have been reading in the news lately (particularly about the statements of certain GOP politicians), I have been under the impression that the Confederacy *won* the so called Civil War. Given that Lincoln was, as a consequence, the defeated commander, do we really want to memorialize his role? After all, as it is commonly and accurately observed: History is written by the victors not the losers. Or is it?

  103. Mo....Don't you just hate that nickname? Maureen.....tired describes how I feel about WalMart and preserving large fields. I sure want to and I sure detest the corporate arrogance in America. Problem is I'm unemployed and apparently too old for anything other than a "greeter" so I don't want to disparage, ahem, a possible employer. We've changed here in the great US and our past has value to me, you and a couple others. Seems the reality shows, Fox Fantasy Station and the like own the minds/souls of the masses. Tacky stores, malls, casinos, wars are the future and we ain't got nada to say about it. I'm distressed.....

  104. Hmmm. But yet your newspaper supports a mosque 300 feet from the footprint of the first Twin Tower to fall as a Constitutional right. I believe Walmart, et al, also have Constitutional rights to build wherever it likes.

  105. Thank you, Ms.Dowd. So many landmarks are being demolished, let us at least save the Civil War where so many soldiers died. To walk a battlefield is to feel humbled at the sacrifices these soldiers made for a cause they believed in, rightly or wrongly.

  106. You mentioned General Jubal Early as the attacking General. It might be of interest to know that the Union general in charge of Fort Stevens, the one who ordered Lincoln out of the dangerous line of fire, was General Lew Wallace, the author of Ben-Hur.

  107. Wal-Mart will soon say, "It's not a store, it's a community center."

  108. Gee, they have the legal right to be there. They passed all the requirements. We must defend their legal rights. We are American democracy. We should respect and defend their legal rights. But you don't want them there.
    ---It's kind of like the Ground Zero Mosque , isn't it?
    And that Koran burning minister. He. also, has the right of free speech, but you liberals don't want him to.
    Bunch of hypocrites.

  109. Re: Comment #10 pat1234 - I have tried without success to find the offense in Lincoln cooly stood. There must be something among cooly with all its modern connotations that I have yet to encounter.

  110. Do we really need more memorials of war? How about memorials to peace and at places where the end of war occurred?

    Glorification of the military and agression is pretty misplaced attention, many will agree if they just think about it.

  111. Too bad an Islamic center was not put forth as part of the plan -- the hallowed ground of the fort would have been protected by patriotism, emotionalism, and Islamophobia.

  112. It's too bad Maureen Dowd didn't live near the equally threatened Fort Monroe, Virginia, when she was a kid. What she writes about here is important, but it's not important at the level of a potential World Heritage Site -- and Fort Monroe is. Anyone interested in what I'm saying can invest three minutes in the words and film and photos at the YouTube clip "Cherish Fort Monroe," . Thanks.

  113. You briefly commented that Fort Stevens received some stimulusmoney and cleaned up a little. Maybe if the party of no had partiipated a little in trying to resolve our economic distress, or any problems we faced, the Fort could again be an attraction. The first Republican President certainly would not recognize his party today. Interesting in that He did not even appear on the ballot in most of the states that are now the backbone of the Republican party. He certainly would not be proud of the new southern strategy.

  114. I think this is going to be the start of a beautiful friendship...

  115. I know we can't preserve every blade of grass where a notable historic event took place but this one seems like a no brainer.

  116. The actual war may be over, but the undercurrent of hate is still with us.

    I was shocked AND SADDENED to see a confederate flag in front of a run down shack of a house here in northern Michigan. It is so much easier to hate the "other" than to take responsibility for one's own fate.

  117. Nice to hear mention of "Desperate Engagement", but neglected to mention Monacacy Battlefield which is under threat from a proposed incinerator. There was/is an issue with Antietam as well due to a planned cell phone tower. As to poster #6 - what price progress? I am no Civil War buff, do not re-enact. But every time I go to these places (just went to Balls Bluff last week & will be at Monacacy today), it reminds me a different time, place, and the sacrifice people made. It most especially (for me at least) does not glorify war. Without these places, it will become more difficult to remember, to understand, to appreciate. Encroachment can come in many ways, and with time, the context is lost, making it more difficult to fully appreciate. Maybe in the case of the church, some type of change can be made that will in no way be an encumbrance to the church.

  118. Dear Ms Dowd:
    What an interesting typeof life you went through in the early part of
    your existence,. It is almost exactly this happening in MONTERREY MEXICO.
    Back to the last part of 18th., century a similar battle took place in
    one of the history sites comemorating the defense of our city vs. the
    invaders (usa). almost every thing were found here, condomns, bottles,
    siringes,. The story passed away, now there is only cannons and a museum.

  119. Moving a church and community center because it interferes with the view of a historic battlefield is a battlefield and moral million yards away from moving one because it interferes with the bigotry and racism of a lot of ignorant fools.

    At some point, when not on those ramparts, Abe Lincoln said, "You fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." That goes for this column, Maureen. Come down off your high horse and say what you mean.

  120. Northern readers seem to imply that Southerners do not revere the Civil War and the battlefield sites as sacred. The largest Civil War battlefield (Chickamauga) is just a few miles from here and you are not allowed to even fly a kite as this site, except in a designated recreation field. The Battlefield is seen as hallowed ground down here. I'm from upper East Tennessee, and my forefathers fought for the Union. Poor dirt farmers had no use for the few wealthy plantation owners further south.
    While Wal-Mart's HQ is in Arkansas, I'm sure the owners are not disrespectful of the Civil War - they just look for any way to make more money. It is wrong to muck up the countryside with more development of any kind.

  121. Well, Ms. D, America is rent along different lines these days in today's Dis-Civil War.

    No doubt many of the opposing strategists utter the same line as General Early did whenever POTUS perches on his tele-promptered parapet.

    Today the likes of you use words instead of bullets, but the harm to all of us is equally grievous.

  122. Gee, sounds like some people haven't heard that the war is over.
    Maybe we need these memorials to remind them that yes, the Union army won and the negroes are free citizens now.

  123. Civil war is an oxymoron.

  124. With separation of church and State, and the reality of private property, the notion of "preserving a view" really does not cut it. Check out the hemmed in Alamo or the historic Trinity Church Wall Street cemetary. A property line is a property line. As with the mosque controversy here in NYC, "hallowed ground" ends at the property line. So were disagree, Ms. Dowd.