Exploring a Secret Fort

Washington, District of Columbia, United States

Experience hosted by David

  1. 60 mins
  2. Hosted in English
A local favorite
Often booked by people who live nearby.
Availability for this experience is rare.

What you'll do

We're going to explore one of the true hidden wonders of Washington, D.C., a Civil War fort nestled deep in Rock Creek Park.

In July, 1864, a Confederate Army attempted a surprise invasion of Washington, D.C., hoping to sow panic and drive Congress and President Lincoln from the Capitol. Confederate forces swept into the city, and fought a desperate battle among the northern defenses of Washington. President Lincoln rode over to the see the fighting, the only time in American history a president has been under enemy fire. Eventually Union forces repelled the attack, and Washington was saved. It’s considered one of the greatest what-ifs in American history: Had the Union lost the battle, most historians believe there would have been a negotiated settlement to the war, and a durable Confederate nation.

We’re going to visit Fort DeRussy, one of the forts that drove back the Confederate attack, and learn the full story of how the Civil War came to Washington. Abandoned after the war and overgrown, Fort DeRussy was practically lost to history. Today, it’s virtually unknown: I grew up blocks away and didn't even know it was there. It's an astonishing, beautiful ruin in a peaceful forest grove.
Other things to note
Please check the weather in advance and dress accordingly. Wear clothing that you don't mind getting a bit dirty and be sure to wear comfy shoes.
We're going to explore one of the true hidden wonders of Washington, D.C., a Civil War fort nestled deep in Rock Creek Park.

In July, 1864, a Confederate Army attempted a surprise invasion of Washington, D.C., hoping to sow panic and drive Congress and President Lincoln from the Capitol. Confederate forces swept into the city, and fought a desperate battle among the northern defenses of Washington. President Lincoln rode over to the s…

Meet your Host, David

Host on Airbnb since 2019
  • 51 Reviews
  • Identity verified
Hi, I'm David.

A native Washingtonian and the former CEO of Atlas Obscura, I've been leading tours of Fort DeRussy for the past six years. I've also given a sold-out presentation about D.C.’s Civil War history at Nerd Nite. I host the Slate Political Gabfest (Stephen Colbert's favorite podcast), and I'm the CEO of City Cast (citycast.fm). I'm the former editor-in-chief of Slate and the author of two books, one a best-seller about the Bible, the other the true history of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank.
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In partnership with Atlas Obscura

Selected by Atlas Obscura
This experience is offered directly by a member of the Atlas Obscura community and has been selected by Atlas Obscura.


Founded in 2009, Atlas Obscura is a global community of explorers, who have together created a comprehensive database of the world’s most wondrous places and foods. Community members also host their own experiences, providing special access to the world’s hidden wonders, local marvels, and gastronomical wonders.

Where you'll be

Where we'll meet
Washington
We'll walk down a forest trail in Rock Creek Park to Ft. DeRussy, an abandoned and overgrown Civil War fort.

Rated 5.0 out of 5 from 51 reviews.

  • Lily
    January 2022
    Our tour was in the cold and wind but David’s tour was so interesting with engaging storytelling that I hardly noticed. A great way to spend an hour on the weekend and learn something new about DC!
  • Caroline
    January 2022
    David is a great storyteller who brought to life the Fort. I appreciate his attention to a landmark I’ve lived near, but didn’t know anything about. Several people in the group I organized to go on this later asked me if David gives other tours - a great sign! Thank you!
  • Louise
    January 2022
    David brings the place to life with his storytelling, ability to bring the historical characters to life, and awe at the role this small place played over the course of a couple of days in our nation's history.
  • Dan
    January 2022
    David is a great raconteur who clearly loves to tell the story of this fascinating, hidden DC treasure. Not just a history lesson but also a narrative and reflective experience. The whole family, including the kids, had a great time. Even though the weather was miserable we barely noticed.
  • Jerome
    December 2021
    Great site visit by a knowledgeable guide. David provided a well-informed presentation with many interesting nuggets of information. He did a great job of describing what life was like in the area in 1864, and how crucial this small battle was for the Civil War effort.
  • Katherine
    December 2021
    We had a great tour with David. He is a skillful and passionate storyteller. His personal connection to the area and excitement for this history made the tour really special. I highly recommend joining him if you’re able!

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