Our Mission, Vision and History
The Alliance will begin conducting a strategic planning exercise in the Fall of 2019 and will review all aspects of our programs and activities. We welcome suggestions/new ideas from our friends and partners. Below is from our original planning when the Alliance was formed in 2008. - Loretta Neumann, President.
The Alliance works with the federal and DC governments to preserve, protect, improve, interpret, promote, and connect the Civil War Defenses of Washington for all visitors to enjoy. Through its advocacy and community outreach efforts, the Alliance encourages conservation and interpretation efforts, youth education and engagement, and preservation of the Defenses’ place in our nation’s story for future generations.
We worked with the National Park Service to create the hiking and biking trail that makes use of the significant outdoor recreational opportunities provided by the Civil War Defenses of Washington. The trail provides people in a major urban area an opportunity to enjoy green space and natural beauty while exploring history, and all in their own backyard. The recreational benefits also improve health and energy while helping to ease the stress of daily living.
The Alliance encourages the efforts of the National Park Service to connect all Americans to the considerable contributions of African Americans to our nation's history and particularly to its national capital. Through educational and community outreach programs at the various sites, the Civil War Defenses of Washington help to honor and tell the story of the African American experience.
The Alliance also supports the National Park Service’s Civil War Defenses of Washington in the Classroom program. The program provides the Civil War Defenses of Washington Curriculum Package for 8th grade students that is designed to meet DCPS standards and includes six themed lessons based on primary sources. The Defenses also provide educators teaching Civil War and/or Washington, DC history a framework for making connections between local resources and history and the broader contexts of the Civil War and our nation's social history by using the Historical Context for Fort Circle Parks document. Site visits and Ranger programs for the classroom can also be arranged.
To create an alliance of individuals and groups to work with the federal and DC governments to preserve, protect, improve, interpret, and connect the Civil War Defenses of Washington, DC.
To stabilize, maintain, preserve, and interpret the Civil War Defenses of Washington for the benefit of Washingtonians and visitors to the District of Columbia -– present and future.
In 2007, a meeting hosted by the National Park Service (NPS) in Rock Creek Park, attended by interested Civil War buffs, environmentalists, community groups, and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners suggested forming an "alliance" to preserve the Civil War Defenses of Washington.
The 2007 NPS meeting identified three major goals for the forts:
Improve the physical preservation and maintenance. Stabilize selected earthworks, clear or manage invasive vegetation without causing erosion, remove trash and animal debris, mark off boundaries of site, and perform regular maintenance. As the key point of defense in the Battle for Washington, work at Ft. Stevens must be given immediate priority.
Improve Visitor Experience. Add signs, interpretive markers, and other means to enhance the visitor experience. At Ft. Stevens, this could include constructing a new visitor center/ranger station on site. A clear walking tour is needed from Battleground National Cemetery on Georgia Ave. to Ft. DeRussy in Rock Creek Park.
Improve Connections. Connect the Forts by an improved walking trail and, where possible, by a bike-way. Improve or add visible signs for a driving tour of the Forts.
The Alliance is supported in part by the Civil War Dance Foundation, Humanities DC, the Walmart Foundation, and many individuals. We do not have a paid membership but maintain a large and growing list of "friends" who make voluntary donations.
Our Action Plan
Our primary focus is to support the National Park Service's and District of Columbia's stewardship of the remaining Civil War fortifications within the boundaries of the District of Columbia and advocate for their preservation, interpretation, and increase the public's awareness and appreciation of them.
We also support efforts to preserve, interpret, and raise the public's awareness of the remaining Civil War Defenses of Washington located in Virginia and Maryland. To accomplish this, the Alliance has or plans to establish partnerships with Civil War preservation groups in the Washington area, such as The Friends of Ft. Ward in Alexandria, Ft. Ethan Allen in Arlington, and Battery Bailey in Montgomery County.
The Alliance seeks working relationships with affected District Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANC) and neighborhood historical and civic groups in DC, as well as with local preservation organizations such as the The Committee of 100 on the Federal City, DC Preservation League, Association of Oldest Inhabitants of DC, Civil War Round Tables, etc. The Alliance also works with neighborhood non-profits or "friends" groups focused on individual Forts (e.g., Stevens, Bayard, DeRussy, Totten) to deal more specifically with their own preferred educational, environmental, and recreational programs.
The Alliance advocates increased attention to the Forts from the federal and District governments with dedicated funding for them. The amount of money needed depends on the level of repair and stabilization of each fort, the amount of upgrading necessary for the connecting pedestrian pathway (and possible bike-way), and the quality and extent of interpretive signage and educational materials.
In 2004, the NPS estimated a minimum of $3 million. Other estimates range as high as $10 million or more. The bulk of the necessary funds must come from a Congressional appropriation to NPS with the rest from DC agencies, private foundations, or other private sources.
The Alliance also hopes to spark renewed interest from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Civil War Trust in securing increased funding for the defenses. The Alliance concentrates on securing funding for the system as a whole and for individual Forts where appropriate. A greater effort is needed to integrate the forts into their surrounding neighborhoods and schools through educational, historical, environmental, and recreational experiences that create neighborhood pride and a sense of ownership. As suggested by the NPS, an enhanced activity center at Ft. Dupont would be a good start. In addition, Congress should consider establishing a separate unit of the National Park System dedicated solely to the Civil War Defenses of Washington.