“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Winchester in Frederick County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Civil War Earthworks

"Where they are compelled by nature ... to resort to it"

Civil War Earthworks Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Pete Skillman, January 21, 2017
1. Civil War Earthworks Marker
Inscription.  During the Civil War, armies of both sides built earthwork fortifications of varying sizes and shapes. The star fort was one of the most difficult types to construct. Although the design afforded the defenders the potential to fire into an attacking enemy's flanks, Dennis Hart Mahan, Professor of Military and Civil Engineering at West Point and the author of A Treatise on Field Fortification first published in 1836, deemed it to be generally not a viable option. Mahan believed that in addition to "dead spaces"—areas below the parapet that could not be covered by the fort's artillery—the amount of "time and labor required to throw up such a work" made the design impractical. He thought that the design should be used only "in cases where they are compelled by the nature of the site to resort to it."

Union Gen. Robert H. Milroy, who graduated first in his class at Norwich University in 1843 and received three degrees including master of military science, believed that the nature of the terrain at this site was suitable for a star fort. The soldiers who constructed it used the excavated soil from the ditch at the
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base of the fort and rifle pits that encircled it to build the parapet. Additionally, other materials, including trees and stones, were brought to the site to help build up the fort's outer wall. Although Milroy might have believed this type of construction to be "the most useful and safest kind," it did not save his army from defeat at the Second Battle of Winchester.

(left illustration) Earthwork fortification under construction - Courtesy Library of Congress

(middle illustration) Dennis H. Mahan - Courtesy U.S. Military Academy Museum

(right illustration) Both Union and Confederate commanders, many of whom had been Dennis Hart Mahan's students at West Point, used his Treatise on Field Fortifications as a guide for constructing works such as these star forts.
Erected by Virginia Civil War Trails.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Forts and CastlesWar, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails series list.
Location. 39° 12.374′ N, 78° 9.807′ W. Marker is near Winchester, Virginia, in Frederick County. Marker can be reached from Fortress Drive, 0.1 miles north of North Frederick
Civil War Earthworks Marker image. Click for full size.
May 17, 2014
2. Civil War Earthworks Marker
Pike (U.S. 522), on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 204 Sentinel Drive, Winchester VA 22603, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Second Battle of Winchester (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Second Battle of Winchester (within shouting distance of this marker); Third Battle of Winchester (within shouting distance of this marker); Constructing Star Fort (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Lord Fairfax (approx. 0.3 miles away); Fort Collier (approx. half a mile away); George Washington in Winchester (approx. half a mile away); 2nd Battle of Winchester / 3rd Battle of Winchester (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Winchester.
Credits. This page was last revised on February 26, 2020. It was originally submitted on January 21, 2017, by Pete Skillman of Townsend, Delaware. This page has been viewed 719 times since then and 98 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on January 21, 2017, by Pete Skillman of Townsend, Delaware.   2. submitted on January 23, 2017. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.

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Jul. 22, 2024