Fort Ward Museum & Historic Site

Fort Ward is the best preserved of the system of Union forts and batteries built to protect Washington, DC during the American Civil War (1861-1865).

Page updated on Feb 11, 2018 at 6:26 PM

Firing Drill, Civil War Camp DayFort Ward Museum interprets the site's history and offers exhibits on Civil War topics, education and interpretive programs, tours, lecture and video series, bus tours, and living history activities throughout the year. The Museum and Historic Site also interpret Alexandria, Virginia as an occupied city, the city's role as a vital Union Army crossroads, life within the Defenses of Washington, and the everyday life of Civil War soldiers and civilians.

The historic fort provides visitors with an excellent understanding of Civil War-era military engineering. About 90% of the fort's earthwork walls are preserved and the Northwest Bastion has been restored and reconstructed to its original condition.  

Virtual Tour

Visit the Fort Ward Museum, Ceremonial Gate and Northwest Bastion on Google 360 virtual tours.

Civil War Kid's Camp

Civil War Kid's Camp is back by popular demand! This week of fun and learning is designed for boys and girls ages 8-12. Campers will be immersed in the lives of soldiers and civilians of the period. June 25-29, 2018, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily, rain or shine.

Now on View at Fort Ward Museum: "Shield of the Earth: Defending the Heart of the Union"

Fort Ward-Pierce“Shield of the Earth:  Defending the Heart of the Union,” is a new exhibition that features objects, photographs and documents from the Fort Ward Museum collection related to the Defenses of Washington.  The exhibition covers both the formidable task of building the defense system, which made the Federal capital one of the most protected cities in the world, and some of the men who were assigned to duty in the Washington area.   Highlights of the exhibition include military passes issued by Provost Marshal’s Office, construction tools, and original photographs of some of Washington’s defenders, including a profile of Francis E. Brainerd, a soldier in the 1st Wisconsin Heavy Artillery who was stationed at Fort O’Rourke, not far from the present-day site of the Huntington Metro Station.  Items related to how the forts protected Washington’s vital transportation resources are also featured, such as a ship’s lantern, rail section from the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and colored lithograph of Soldier’s Rest in Alexandria.  Several original drawings of forts by soldiers stationed at those sites are on view, and a construction report dated February 1865 details work projects such as completion of new officers’ quarters at Fort Ward.  Other unique items featured are a sketch showing where President Lincoln came under fire during the Battle of Fort Stevens, a field desk belonging to an officer in the 107th New York Infantry, and an 1862 map of the Defenses of Washington published by the engineer E.G. Arnold.   The exhibition will continue through 2017.

Exhibit: Medical Care for the Civil War Soldier 

Civil War Medical KitTo learn more about the surgical procedures and medical equipment used in the series Mercy Street, come to Fort Ward and see a variety of medical tools, instruments, equipment and images from the Museum’s Civil War collection. A number of surgical instruments are displayed that relate to some of the procedures already depicted in Mercy Street, such as: a trephine used to drill into the skull, a surgeon’s amputation kit, a tourniquet, a tenaculum used to tie off arteries, suture needles, a forceps and scalpels. Several examples of medicine tins are included which held contents like chloroform for anesthesia, cholera mix for digestive illnesses, and quinine to relieve fevers and other ailments. Examples of small pocket surgical kits and a surgeon’s field case are included, as well as arm and leg splints and a crutch.

Images and information related to some of Alexandria’s Union Army hospitals are also on view, such as an original albumen photograph by Andrew J. Russell of the Mansion House Hospital, where the story Mercy Street is set, a period envelope with an engraving of the Lyceum Hospital on the cover, and photographs of other hospital facilities like the Fairfax Seminary and Wolfe Street Hospitals.  The exhibit continues through 2017, and is accompanied by a brochure on medical care for the Civil War soldier. 

Learn more about these other exhibitions at Fort Ward Museum::

  • The Common Soldier
  • The Art of the Artilleryman
  • Medical Care for the Civil War Soldier
  • Tools of the Soldiers' Trade.

For Civil War Reenactors

Information for Civil War Reenactors: The Fort Ward Museum enlists the talents and knowledge of reenactors to offer numerous living history programs interpreting Civil War soldier and civilian life. Programs contribute to the public’s understanding of the period and enhance the Museum’s educational mission.  

Alexandria in the Civil War 

The occupation of Alexandria by Union troops forever changed the social, cultural and economic fabric of the old seaport town. For four years (1861-1865) Alexandria was an occupied city; enduring the longest military occupation by Union troops of any town during the conflict.

Witness to war and reunion, Alexandria's place in Civil War history is truly unique. Learn more about Alexandria during the war with a wide range of historic resources. The Alexandria Civil War Defenses of Washington Bike Trail was created by Alexandria, surrounding jurisdictions and the National Park Service have created the as part of the Civil War Sesquicentennial commemorations.

The Fort: A Post-Civil War African American Community

Visit Fort Ward Park to see new historic signage highlighting the post-Civil War African American community known as The Fort. A copy of The Fort Heritage Trail Brochure is available online.

This community is the focus of an effort by the Office of Historic Alexandria to study and preserve the post-Civil War historic resources of Fort Ward Park. Archaeological excavations in the park, historical research, and oral histories highlight our growing knowledge of this community. Learn about the  Stakeholder Advisory Group, and about archaeological and historical research, including reports on excavations and transcriptions of oral history interviews with former residents. 

Accessible Walkway 

A public walkway, which meets the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, begins at the fort’s reconstructed entrance gate and leads visitors to the restored Northwest Bastion. Construction was supported by a Save America’s Treasures grant administered by the National Park Service, Department of Interior, matched by City of Alexandria funding. Construction of the walkway yielded an important discovery – the site of the fort’s well, which City archaeologists partially investigated and documented. The well site corresponds with the location designated by military engineers on an 1864 plan of Fort Ward. 

Museum, Park and Office Hours

Museum Hours 
Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
Sunday: Noon to 5 p.m. 
Monday: Closed  

Closed: New Year's Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas. Please call for other holiday closings.

Please call for changes regarding weather related conditions. 

Park Hours 
Daily: 9 a.m. to sunset.

Office Hours 
Tuesday to Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Email Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site  

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