Behind the Lines: Life in Wartime Washington

Page updated on Feb 21, 2020 at 1:40 PM

Behind the Lines: Life in Wartime Washington

On view through Spring 2021

Abrotypes from the Fort Ward Museum CollectionPresident Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers in April 1861 was the beginning of what would become a tidal wave of blue uniforms crashing into the National Capital Region. Drawn to this influx of soldiers were civilians who wished to make a living supporting the army.

Because the secession of Virginia in May 1861 put Washington in immediate peril, fortifications were erected around the city extending from the top of the District diamond to the docks of Alexandria, and from Arlington to just over the Anacostia River. Those living and working inside the Union line of forts placed their safety in the hands of a few defenders who manned walls of earth and wood.

This exhibit explores how soldiers and civilians in Civil War Washington lived and worked. View the desk and personal effects of an officer stationed in a camp outside Washington, see objects and eyewitness accounts of the only battle to take place in the Defenses of Washington, and learn how traces of the lives of soldiers and civilians are revealed in documents and photographs of the period.