On July 11–12, 1864, Confederate general Jubal Early led his troops in an attempt to take Washington DC. The beleaguered Robert E. Lee had sent Early north to create havoc that would draw Federal soldiers away from Petersburg and Richmond, thus relieving some of the pressure on those cities.
Early and his men traveled to the US capital, leaving mid-June and arriving July 11. They were delayed along the way by an engagement (the Battle of Monocacy) with Lew Wallace‘s troops. Though that battle was a Union loss, the delay it created proved critical, as it allowed extra time for Federal soldiers to arrive in DC to shore up the depleted ranks defending the city.
The Battle of Fort Stevens consisted mainly of skirmishes, with no major clashes, though casualties amounted to 874. The battle is most notable, however, for President Abraham Lincoln‘s attendance as he stood atop Fort Stevens to watch the action. He was advised to leave, however, when a sharpshooter‘s bullet hit a man standing nearby. The battle ended when Early decided an attempt on the capital would fail and so withdrew his men during the night of the 12th.