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The Civil War’s Fort Buffalo

By Mark Doehnert, Anneliese Drive
Following are excerpts from Mark's full article, download full article

You might have noticed an historical marker for “Fort Buffalo” near the fire station on Sleepy Hollow Road. This intrigued me because I am from the Buffalo, New York area and also because of Ravenwood Park’s nearness to this historical marker. Fort Buffalo has been reported as being located in three different locations in various records: (a) Upton Hills (where the regional park is located); (b) Taylor’s Hill (off Roosevelt Street, north of Koons Dodge); and (c) near the Sleepy Hollow Fire Station where the historic marker is located. Here are some of the things I discovered researching Fort Buffalo.

Fort Buffalo, built and named after the 1st Buffalo regiment’s hometown, was reportedly an earthwork fortification, which means embankments were built with dirt for protection. The 1st Buffalo regiment of the 21st New York Infantry of the Union army was briefly quartered at Kalorama Heights, Washington, D.C., moved to Fort Runyon (Arlington, VA by the Potomac River near present I-395), then to Fort Cass (near present Ft. Myer), and hence to Upton's hill (the regional park located off Wilson Boulevard). At Upton Hill, the regiment completed the fortification in October 1861and christened it "Fort Buffalo." There were 818 enlisted men in the regiment on December 31, 1861. As with other regiments which initially signed up to serve for three months, when the order came for the soldiers to serve the remainder of their two years' term, there was much ill feeling and 41 members were placed under arrest and sentenced to prison until they agreed to finish their term of service. It was reported the Union Generals McClellan and McDowell and Brigadier General Wadsworth visited the Fort.

The regiment engaged in action involving Confederate John Singleton Mosby and other Confederate activity at Annandale, second battle of Bull Run Chantilly, South Mountain, and Antietam, losing 71 members in the latter. At the end of their twoyear term of enlistment, the regiment had lost 75 by death from wounds and 42 by death from other causes.

Other sources including Benjamin Franklin Cooling’s, Mr. Lincoln’s Forts: A Guide to the Civil War Defenses of Washington, historic maps, and the Official Atlas of the Civil War, show Fort Buffalo’s location in the area that is West of Seven Corners, bounded by Sleepy Hollow Road and Arlington Boulevard (US Route 50) and Seven Corners Center, right across from the Fire Station. So it appears that that historical marker is also correct for at least one of Fort Buffalo’s locations.

5 comments:

  1. I was born in 1951 and lived in Sleepy Hollow. As a child I remember playing on the earth works known at that time as Fort Buffalo. It was a large treeless site with large earthen mounds. It was indeed located across the street from where the fire station is now. There is an office building on the site now.

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  2. I was born in 1951 and lived in Sleepy Hollow. As a child I remember playing on the earth works known at that time as Fort Buffalo. It was a large treeless site with large earthen mounds. It was indeed located across the street from where the fire station is now. There is an office building on the site now.

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  3. I lived in that area 1982-92. You'll find there is also a Buffalo Ridge Road near there. As I recall, union trenches on the ridge just below Rt. 7. During the Civil War, this would all have been farm land, very few trees, so forts and trench lines along that ridge would have given a clear view, and clear field of fire, for miles.

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  4. Thanks for the great information. Living close to this area, I have learned something new.

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  5. Thanks for the great information. Living close to this area, I have learned something new.

    ReplyDelete