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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Leesburg in Loudoun County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

The Battle at Ballís Bluff

 
 
The Battle at Ball's Bluff Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 1, 2007
1. The Battle at Ball's Bluff Marker
Inscription. On the night of October 20, 1861, a small Federal scouting party crossed the Potomac River from Maryland to determine whether recent troop movements indicated a Confederate withdrawal from Leesburg. Advancing inland from Ballís Bluff, the Federals moved past this point, crested a low ridge near the Jackson house, and saw in the dim moonlight what appeared to be a Confederate Camp. Upon learning of this, the Federal commander, Brig. Gen. Charles P. Stone, saw a target of opportunity and quickly organized a raiding party.

Five companies of the 15th Massachusetts led by Col. Charles Devens spent several hours quietly crossing the river from Harrisonís Island. At dawn they marched up the path on their way to destroy the supposed enemy camp and return to Maryland. The “camp,” however, did not exist. In the dark, the scouts had mistaken a row of trees for tents. By the time the error was reported to General Stone, an unintended battle had begun.

At 7:30 a.m. on October 21, Company K of the 17th Mississippi clashed with the Massachusetts men near the Jackson house.

General Stone remained in Maryland at Edwardís Ferry. On hearing of the patrolís mistake, but not yet knowing that fighting had occurred, he ordered Col. Edward D. Baker to evaluate the situation. On his way upriver to do this, Baker learned of
The Old Battle at Ball's Bluff Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 30, 2007
2. The Old Battle at Ball's Bluff Marker
This marker, replaced in August 2007 had the text: On the night of October 20, 1861, a small Federal scouting party crossed the Potomac River from Maryland and made its way to the crest of a sheer cliff known as Ball's Bluff. The scouts found the bluffs undefended and continued up this path toward Leesburg. From a nearby hilltop, the scouts saw in the dim light what they took to be an unguarded Confederate camp. Report was sent back to the Federal commander, General Charles P. Stone, who quickly ordered the camp be destroyed.

The following morning, five companies of the 15th Massachusetts Infantry led by Colonel Charles Devens marched up this path on a mission to destroy the rebel camp and return to Maryland. The "camp" however, did not exist. In the dark, the scouts had mistaken a line of haystacks for rows of enemy tents. By the time the scouting party's error had been realized, the Union men had been observed by real Confederates.

At about seven in the morning of October 21, the battle of Ball's Bluff began when a company of the 17th Mississippi clashed with the 15th Massachusetts just east of the present day bypass Route 15.

General Stone remained in Maryland at Edward's Ferry and put Colonel Edward D. Baker, senator from Oregon and friend of President Lincoln, in command at Ball's Bluff. Confederate forces were led by Colonel Nathan G. Evans who directed his command from a fort named for him on nearby Edward's Ferry Road.

By midmorning, Evans had committed four more companies of Mississippi infantry and three troops of Virginia cavalry to the Ball's Bluff fight. Devens' men were forced back to a woodline just west of the present parking lot. A little before noon, the 8th Virginia Infantry joined the battle. At about one p.m., the Confederate line, now 700 strong attacked and drove Devens' 15th Massachusetts east toward the Federal reserve position located along the bluff.

To follow the interpretive loop trail and to view more exhibits, continue on the gravel path and turn left at the sign. Other exhibits can be found by continuing straight on the gravel path to the cemetery.The length of the loop trail is 3/4 mile.

the fighting from a messenger who then proceeded downriver to alert General Stone. Col. Nathan G. “Shanks” Evans directed his Confederate forces from an earthen fort named for him on nearby Edwards Ferry Road. By midmorning, Evans had committed four more companies of Mississippi infantry and three companies of Virginia cavalry to the Ballís Bluff fight. Devensí men withdrew to a wood line near the Jackson house. About 13:30, the 8th Virginia Infantry arrived. Shortly thereafter, the Confederate line, now nearly 700 strong, attacked Devensí roughly 650 Federal troops. The skirmish lasted perhaps an hour. Afterwards, Devens withdrew to the bluff. The most serious fighting was about to begin.
 
Erected by Ball's Bluff Regional Park/Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Battlefield Trails - Civil War marker series.
 
Location. 39° 7.842′ N, 77° 31.844′ W. Marker is in Leesburg, Virginia, in Loudoun County. Marker can be reached from Ballís Bluff Road, on the left when traveling east. Click for map. Located on a gravel footpath extension of Ballís Bluff Road, inside Ballís Bluff Regional Park. Marker is in this post office area: Leesburg VA 20176, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers
Close Up View of the Map from the Old Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 30, 2007
3. Close Up View of the Map from the Old Marker
Details some of the trail stops. However at least three of these have moved since the marker was replaced.
are within walking distance of this marker. A Divided America, A Divided Loudoun County (within shouting distance of this marker); Battle of Balls Bluff (within shouting distance of this marker); Additional Area Civil War Sites (within shouting distance of this marker); Aftermath of Ballís Bluff (within shouting distance of this marker); 8th Virginia Infantry (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); 8th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment (about 400 feet away); 17th Mississippi Infantry (about 600 feet away); Battlefield Historic Restoration Project (about 700 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Leesburg.
 
More about this marker. The marker displays a drawing depicting, “15th Massachusetts Scouts,” courtesy Kim Bernard Holien.
 
Regarding The Battle at Ballís Bluff. This marker is the "Trail Head" for the Balls Bluff walking trail through the park. The related markers list (below) offers a virtual tour of the battlefield and related sites, by way of historical markers.
 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. This marker is trail head for a set of markers along the Balls Bluff Battlefield walking trail. Please use the related markers list here to see a "virtual tour" of the battlefield by markers.
The Start of the Ball's Bluff Walking Trail. image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 30, 2007
4. The Start of the Ball's Bluff Walking Trail.

 
Also see . . .
1. With Leesburg in Their Sights, Union Troops Caught by Surprise at Ball's Bluff. (Submitted on August 30, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.)
2. Original Newspaper Account of the Battle. (Submitted on August 30, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.)
 
Categories. War, US Civil
 
Commemorative Stone near the Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 1, 2007
5. Commemorative Stone near the Marker
Lists persons involved with the establishment of the Balls Bluff Regional Park.
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,674 times since then and 29 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   2, 3, 4. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   5. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. • J. J. Prats was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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