Officers of Companies A and B, 3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, and crew of 100-pdr. Parrott gun on iron barbette carriage at Fort Totten, District of Columbia
William Morris Smith, reproduced from 1865 image
The perceived threat of Confederate incursions upon Washington was evident in the sixty-eight earthen forts that surrounded the city, providing a shield of defense throughout the war. Although attacking Washington was never a serious objective, southern leaders had no qualms about rattling sabers within earshot of the capital, causing military authorities and civilians alike to cast nervous glances at the horizon. The greatest scare occurred July 11-12, 1864, when General Jubal Early's rebel army advanced and fired upon Fort Steves, north of the city. President Lincoln made a conspicuous visit to the fort during the attack and was told by a young officer -- allegedly future Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. -- "Get down, you fool."