Fort Ward doesn’t do as good a job holding out Southerners as it used to. While today the battlements are little more than a few mounts and a wooden gate, in 1861 the fort was part of the defenses of Washington D.C. Kevin Moriarty is typically one of the historians at Fort Ward that helps run the local museum. But on Saturday, Nov 8, Moriarty helped bring this history alive by assuming the fictional identity of an ancestor present at the fort during the Civil War.
“I haven’t been back here since the war,” said Moriarty with a smile to the audience, letting them know he was going into character, “so my memory’s a little hazy.”
Moriarty committed to the role with woolen trousers and a heavy union coat, complete with a medal from the Army of the Potomac. Moriarty “recalled” his time at the fort, saying he and many other soldiers would often go on leave into Washington D.C. to get away from the war for a weekend. It wasn’t combat, but Moriarty said being at Fort Ward did have its downsides to units stationed there.
“All the generals would come out and expected a parade,” said Moriarty. “There was a lot of marching and drilling along these very roads.”
While Fort Ward was never under attack, Moriarty answered audience questions about the war by drawing from his experiences at the Battle of Malvern Hill in Henrico, Va.
At the end of his presentation, Moriarty drifted back into his normal role as a fort historian. In honor of Veteran’s Day, the discussion closed with remembering the experience of the Civil War veterans after the war. At the 50th anniversary of Gettysburg, Confederate veterans took the field and marched up the hill in an impromptu recreation of Pickett’s Charge. On seeing this, the Union veterans crossed to their old positions at the top of the hill. However, when the Confederate veteran’s reached the top of the hill, the Union veterans helped pull their old enemies over.
“Many of these veterans had more in common with the enemy soldiers than they did with the people back home,” said Moriarty.
“The tour was very good, it got me personally invested,” said Ken Roddenberry, one of the visitors to the site who followed Moriarty on his tour. “I’m happy I was able to learn more about what it was like to survive here.”
The non-fictional Kevin Moriarty was a Civil War history buff who grew up in Nebraska. When he moved out to Virginia, he got a part time job at Fort Ward and became fascinated with how it tied into the history of Alexandria and D.C. Moriarty.