During the Civil War Upton's Hill was a strategic site contested by both Union and Confederate forces. Following the defeat of the Union Army at Manassas in July of 1861, Confederate General James Longstreet moved his brigade close to Arlington to threaten Washington D.C. For the next several months Upton's Hill was witness to daily skirmishes and small military engagements.
These engagements attracted the attention of northern newspapers. Since photography was still in its infancy, they depended upon sketch artists to capture the life of the soldiers in their camps and on the battlefield. In addition, many of the soldiers themselves were talented artists and were able to draw and preserve their wartime experiences.
"Upton's Hill Captured in Art" is a unique snapshot of the early part of the Civil War. As the number of Union regiments increased the Confederates withdrew to Fairfax Courthouse in late September 1861. To strengthen the Capital's defenses Union General George McClellan built additional defenses on or near the hill, including Fort Ramsay, Fort Buffalo, and Fort Taylor.
Surrounding the forts were several camps and Upton's Hill became a major hub for troop movements and logistics. It became a small town on to itself, with medical facilities, sutlers, and even a photographic studio, where soldiers could purchase photos to send home to their families.