At the highest natural point in the District of Columbia stood a fort that played an integral part in keeping the Confederate Army out of the U.S. capital during the only Civil War battle to take place in Washington D.C.
Fort Reno stood in present-day neighborhood of Tenleytown at 409 feet above sea level. The fort was one of several that ringed the District to guard against Confederate attacks, but these forts went severely undermanned when Union General Ulysses S. Grant moved many of their troops to Petersburg, Virginia to support his Overland Campaign. Hearing about the state of the forts, Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered General Jubal A. Early to attack the capital from the north. From July 10th through the 12th, 1864, troops and artillery from Fort Reno and nearby Fort Stevens engaged the Confederates, until Early finally retreated. He told his officers, “We didn’t take Washington, but we scared Abe Lincoln like Hell.”
The fort was later dismantled and the site was made into a reservoir with an accompanying sandstone castle, all surrounded by Fort Reno Park. The reservoir and castle are fenced and off-limits to the public, however the surviving highest natural point, just off of Nebraska Avenue on top of a small hill, was marked with a plaque in 2007.
During the Cold War, Fort Reno became host to ’Cartwheel,’ one of 7 continuity of government sites to be used in the event of a nuclear attack. These were tall, cylindrical cement structures built to support the continuity of the Federal Government in the event of a nuclear attack. Each of these structures was constructed to have line-of-site to its nearest neighbor for microwave communications.