Published: September 24, 2002
ALEXANDRIA, VA. – Fort Ward Museum recently acquired a pencil sketch of Fort Lyon near Alexandria, Va., drawn by Civil War soldier John Avery, who was stationed at the fort in 1862 and 1863.
Like Fort Ward, Fort Lyon was one of the largest of the Union forts that comprised the defenses of Washington, an extensive defense system that guarded the Federal capital during the Civil War. Although there are no remains of Fort Lyon today, the stronghold was located near the present-day site of the Huntington Metro Station in Alexandria. It was situated there to secure the broad valley between Hunting Creek and Telegraph Road.
In the summer of 1862, the 34th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was stationed in Alexandria, assigned to guard the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and camped near Fort Lyon. From the high point of ground held by the fort, the commander of the 34th Massachusetts called the site “a camp of magnificent distances.”
Private John Avery, a 21-year-old recruit from Worcester, Mass., joined Company D of the 34th Massachusetts in July 1862. His signed sketch, drawn just a few months after he enlisted, shows the camp of his regiment in the foreground, with the earthwork fort and headquarters building in the distance. Avery was wounded in the foot at the Battle of Piedmont, Va., in 1864, but survived the war, returning to Massachusetts after being mustered out of service in June 1865.
Avery’s drawing of Fort Lyon will be temporarily on exhibit at Fort Ward Museum October 1-31, before being removed for professional conservation treatment, which is being funded by the Friends of Fort Ward, the museum’s support organization. The drawing was purchased by the Friends of Fort Ward in honor of former Fort Ward director Wanda S. Dowell, who retired in June after 37 years of service to Fort Ward and the City of Alexandria.
Fort Ward is the best preserved of the 68 Union forts. Visitors can tour the historic fort, which features the fully restored Northwest Bastion. The museum presents a variety of exhibits and programs on Civil War topics, including the current special exhibition “Civil War Alexandria Through the Camera’s Eye.” Fort Ward is at 4301 West Braddock Road.
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