Freedom Hill Fort, Present Day Tysons Corner Area
By Michael Rierson
During the Civil War, an unknown number of small earthen batteries, called redoubts, were constructed around Washington. The interior was lined with timber cut from surrounding woods and drainage ditches ringed the exterior. The occupants were not protected from the weather, nor did the earthworks themselves protect against anything but rifle fire. The redoubt preserved at Freedom Hill Park was one of those. Built near the end of the war in 1864-1865, "redoubt Freedom Hill" is believed to have seen no major action. Its men, soldiers of the Fifth Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery, were part of a larger contingent assigned to protect the nearby Peach Grove Stockade.
Redoubt Freedom Hill overlooked the valley to the south of Peach Grove. The small fort offered protection to couriers and patrols on Chain Bridge Road. While the notorious Mosby's Rangers conducted numerous raids along the road, the men of the "Fifth" did not encounter them.
Washington was protected chiefly by a ring of larger fortifications that included huge fortresses, such as Forts Ward, Stevens, and Washington, located at key points around the city. Smaller fortifications such as Fort Willard in the south part of Fairfax County were situated along major thoroughfares.
Small batteries such as Freedom Hill were outposts of primary fortifications. There were only a few men assigned to them. Eight men, led by a Sergeant from Fifth Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery, were stationed at Freedom Hill. They stayed for one week at a time and rotated with other soldiers from the main unit two miles to the east.
The soldiers lived in "Sibley Tents" which were designed to be portable and comfortable. Soldiers' time was usually divided between patrol duty, construction work, and loafing. Soldiers' diaries tell of looking forward to hard labor in order to get away from the boredom of outpost life.
Military dispatches and other official communications from Freedom Hill reveal that nothing of significance happened during its brief lifetime. Life at Freedom Hill was monotonous but free from danger.
Popular legend has named this area "Freedom Hill" because of the large number of free blacks living in the vicinity in the nineteenth century. Freedom Hill was one of Fairfax County's earliest black communities.
Freedom Hill Fort Park is located 8531 Old Courthouse Road near the intersection of Old Court House Road and Rt. 123 in the Westbriar area of Tysons Corner.