The American people temporarily forgot about the field fortifications and earthworks outside cities such as Petersburg, Richmond, and Washington, as they healed their wounds during the several decades following the Civil War. Farmers dismantled earthworks, plowed and planted the battlefields, and rebuilt their farmhouses and barns on numerous sites of intense combat and human loss. However, the National Park Service was established, if in name only, in 1872, and by 1890 the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park was established as the first Federal area of its type under the administration of the War Department. Congress passed an "Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities" in April 1906 that provided for "the examination of ruins, the excavation of archaeological sites, and the gathering of objects of antiquity." On August 25, 1916 President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill creating the National Park Service as a separate bureau of the Department of the Interior, and the Service came into its own in 1917. A number of national military parks and sites in the east, including Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC, were transferred from various Federal agencies to the National Park Service via the New Deal in 1933. Established in 1935 as a result of the Historic Sites Act, the Branch of Historic Sites became responsible for the preservation of the various Civil War locations that remained. The Civilian Conservation Corps, established as one of the "Alphabet" agencies by Roosevelt in April 1933, provided the work force to clean up and landscape a number of these military sites, including the remains of fortifications. A further "Act to Provide for the Preservation of Historic Sites, Buildings, Objects, and Antiquities of National Significance" passed in 1955 consolidated much of the preservation work in progress.
Regarding the forts defending the Federal capital, most were slowly dismantled following the end of hostilities, and the land on which they had
been built was returned to its original owners. In 1890, after much campaigning and lobbying by military engineer Nathaniel Michler and prominent Washington banker Charles Carroll Glover, Rock Creek Park was established. Under the supervision of the National Park Service from 1933, the Civil War fortifications within its boundaries were restored. As a result, the site of Fort Whipple survives today, having become a permanent post in 1872, and being renamed Fort Myer in 1881. The first military test flight of an aircraft by Orville Wright was made from the Fort Myer parade ground on September 9, 1908. This fort has been the home of Army chiefs of staff, such as Generals George C. Marshall, Omar N. Bradley, Douglas MacArthur, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, for a century, and today is home for service members working throughout the Military District of Washington and the National Capital Region. To commemorate the Civil War Centennial in 1961, the City of Alexandria, Virginia, undertook the partial restoration and preservation of Fort Ward.
Meanwhile, the work of privately funded organizations was also underway. In 1925, the Battlefield Markers Association, a group of historians committed
Federal Fort Stedman today, part of the extensive earthwork remains at the Petersburg National Battlefield. (Courtesy of Petersburg National Battlefield)
Marker 49 on the Richmond National Battlefield Park indicates the location of Fort Gilmer, on the exterior line of defenses.This and 58 others like it are known as "Freeman" markers, named for Dr. Douglas Southall Freeman, who helped establish the Park in 1936. (Courtesy of Bernard Fisher, Richmond Civil War Round Table)
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