“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Near Herndon in Fairfax County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Battle of Dranesville

“First Federal Victory South of the Potomac”

Battle of Dranesville Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, February 9, 2007
1. Battle of Dranesville Marker
Inscription.  In the fall of 1861, Fairfax County found itself between two large armies. Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and his army occupied the Centreville area. The Federal army, still regrouping after the devastating defeat at the First Battle of Manassas, manned the growing line of fortifications protecting Washington, D.C. Union morale was low, and a battlefield victory was desperately needed.

Learning that Confederates were harassing Unionists near Dranesville, Gen. George McCall ordered Gen. Edward O. C. Ord with his Pennsylvania infantry and artillery forward to that place on December 19. Simultaneously, Confederate Gen J.E.B. Stuart received orders to protect Confederate foraging parties gathering supplies for the winter, and marched toward Dranesville on Centreville Road (now Reston Avenue). On December 20, Ord’s troops arrived at the intersection of the Georgetown and Leesburg Turnpikes, a mile in front of you, where they took up defensive positions on a ridge facing south with the intersection at the center. When Stuart’s infantry and cavalry arrived, he quickly discovered the strength of the Federal position.

North side of Dranesville Tavern (facing VA 7) image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, February 9, 2007
2. North side of Dranesville Tavern (facing VA 7)
repeated attacks and significant losses from artillery fire, Stuart ordered a retreat southward. Casualties totaled 68 Federals and 194 Confederates. Ord returned to the Union lines, and Stuart came back to the battlefield the next day to recover his dead and wounded.

Although each side claimed victory at Dranesville, the Federals achieved their first tactical success against the Confederates in Virginia. The engagement was small compared to future battles but boosted Union morale. U.S. Secretary of War Simon Cameron wrote afterward, “It is one of the bright spots that give assurance of the success of coming events.”

(sidebar below map) Dranesville Tavern, built about 1820 was a popular stopping place for weary travelers and drovers taking livestock and farm produce to the Alexandria, Georgetown, and Washington, D.C. markets via the Leesburg Turnpike. It was described in 1865 as “one of the best roadside inns in the State of Virginia.” The tavern was moved about 125 feet southwest to its current location in 1968 because of the widening of the Leesburg Turnpike. It is restored to its 1850 appearance.
Erected by Virginia Civil War Trails.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. In
Entrance to the Dranesville Tavern Historic Site on VA 7 image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 7, 2007
3. Entrance to the Dranesville Tavern Historic Site on VA 7
addition, it is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails series list.
Location. 39° 0.498′ N, 77° 21.634′ W. Marker is near Herndon, Virginia, in Fairfax County. Marker can be reached from Leesburg Pike (Virginia Route 7). The marker is in the parking lot for the Dranesville Tavern Historic Site, run by the Fairfax County Park Authority. To reach the park turn right off VA 7 East onto Dranesville Manor Drive. Make an immediate right onto the park driveway and continue around the tavern to the parking lot. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Herndon VA 20170, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Loudoun County / Fairfax County (approx. 0.8 miles away); Action At Dranesville (approx. 1.1 miles away); Sharpsburg (Antietam) Campaign (approx. 1˝ miles away); Gettysburg Campaign (approx. 2.1 miles away); "The Ankerage" (approx. 2.2 miles away); Ambush at Ankers's Shop (approx. 2.2 miles away); Payne House (approx. 2.2 miles away); Vestal's Gap Road in the 1800s (approx. 2.4 miles away).
More about this marker. The marker displays pictures of Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and Gen. Edward O.C. Ord (and family), along with a reprint of a depiction of the Battle of Dranesville from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. A small map also details the action.
Also see . . .  The Battle Of Dranesville, Va. Essay by By William S. Hammond on the Civil War Home website. (Submitted on June 8, 2007.) 
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Credits. This page was last revised on April 4, 2018. It was originally submitted on June 6, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 4,625 times since then and 97 times this year. Last updated on April 2, 2018, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on June 6, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.
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Aug. 10, 2020