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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
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.
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 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.
Civil War Earthworks Marker image. Click for full size.
May 17, 2014
2. Civil War Earthworks Marker
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.

(captions)
(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.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails marker series.
 
Location. 39° 12.374′ N, 78° 9.807′ W. Marker is in Winchester, Virginia, in Frederick County. Marker can be reached from Fortress Drive 0.1 miles north of North Frederick Pike (U.S. 522), on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Winchester VA 22603, United States of America.
 
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); Star Fort (was about 400 feet away but has been reported missing. ); Lord Fairfax (approx. 0.3 miles away); Fort Collier (approx. half a mile away); George Washington in Winchester (was approx. half a mile away but has been reported missing. ). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Winchester.
 
Categories. Forts, CastlesWar, US Civil
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on September 21, 2017. This page originally submitted on January 21, 2017, by Pete Skillman of Port Deposit, Maryland. This page has been viewed 241 times since then. Photos:   1. submitted on January 21, 2017, by Pete Skillman of Port Deposit, Maryland.   2. submitted on January 23, 2017. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.
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