Fort Lyon (3)

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Fort Lyon (3) (1861-1865) - A Union U.S. Civil War Fort first established in 1861 near Alexandria in present day Fairfax County, Virginia. Named Fort Lyon after General Nathaniel Lyon who was killed at the Battle of Wilson's Creek, Missouri on 10 Aug 1861. Abandoned in 1865 at the end of the war.

General Samuel P. Heintzelman's Headquarters at Fort Lyon
Fort Lyon Plan Showing the Fort and General Samuel P. Heintzelman's Headquarters
26th New York Infantry at Fort Lyon

History of Fort Lyon

One of the ring of Union fortifications surrounding Washington DC during the U.S. Civil War, see Washington DC Fort Ring.

Civil War Map of Alexandria Showing Fort Ellsworth and Fort Lyon

Fort Lyon was also one of 33 forts on the Virginia side of the Potomac River that made up an outer defense line for Washington DC known as the Arlington Line.

Established in 1861 as a large earthworks on Eagle Hill about a mile from Alexandria, Virginia. Union forces built the fort as a part of a ring of forts surrounding Washington, DC after the Union defeat at Bull Run. The fort mounted some 31 guns and had a perimeter of 937 yards. Maps of the day show a triangular outline with four bastions, two internal magazines and a central bombproof all surrounded by a ditch 20' deep and 35' wide. Armament in 1862 included four 200 pounders and sixteen mortars. The outer defenses included rifle pits and several abatis.

The far outer defenses of Fort Lyon consisted of four redoubts connected by rifle pits. These four redoubts later became named forts themselves on 4 Sep 1863, all named after fallen heroes at Gettysburg in July 1863. Two of the redoubts can be seen on the area map.

Redoubt Fort Named For
A Fort Weed Brigadier General Stephen H. Weed
B Fort Farnsworth Brigadier General Elon J. Farnsworth
C Fort O'Rourke Colonel Patrick H. O'Rourke
D Fort Willard Colonel George L. Willard

Construction began in September 1861 under the supervision of General John Newton (Cullum 1112). The nearby Ballenger house was used as the headquarters for General Samuel P. Heintzelman (Cullum 445) who was in charge of the defense of Washington from 27 Oct 1862 to 13 Oct 1863.

On 9 Jun 1863 one of the powder magazines exploded killing 21 soldiers, injuring 5 more and destroying eight tons of powder and thousands of rounds of ammunition. President Lincoln himself came to inspect the damage.

A 17 May 1864 report from the Union Inspector of Artillery noted the following: "Fort Lyon, Major Campbell Commanding.–Garrison, five companies Tenth New York Heavy Artillery–1 major, 18 commissioned officers. 1 ordnance-sergeant, 627 men. Armament, seven 6-pounder field guns (smooth), ten 32-pounder sea-coast (smooth). ten 24pounder siege guns (smooth), five 30-pounder Parrotts (rifled), four 24-pounder Coehorn mortars, and two 10-inch siege mortars. Magazines, one; dry in and good order. Ammunition, full supply and serviceable. Implements, complete and serviceable. Drill in artillery, ordinary; needs improving. Drill in infantry, very indifferent; requires more energy and attention from the officer in command to make them efficient. Discipline, indifferent. Garrison is of sufficient strength."

The fort was abandoned in 1865 at the end of the war.


Current Status

Marker only located at the north end of the Huntington Metro station in Alexandria, Fairfax County, Virginia.


USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry:

  • Name: Fort Lyon Type: Historical Class: Military ID: 1492968
  • Location: Fairfax County, Virginia, US, FIPS Code: 51059
  • Latitude: 38.7938889, Longitude: -77.0777778, Elevation: 144 Map: Alexandria
  • As Of: 13 Sep 1996
Source: U.S. Board on Geographic Names

Location: Huntington Metro station in Alexandria, Fairfax County, Virginia.

Maps & Images

Lat: 38.79389 Long: -77.07778

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