Guarding the Fords
On July 18, 1861, Gen. Irvin McDowell, the Union army commander, learned that the Confederate army had withdrawn from its Centreville earthworks to a strong defensive position behind Bull Run. McDowell ordered Gen. Daniel Tyler to reconnoiter the stream but not bring on an engagement. Tyler accompanied Col. Israel Richardson's brigade to Blackburn's Ford. Arriving about noon, Tyler and Richardson found a cleared field sloping down from woods to the creek's banks, which were thick with underbrush and trees. Tyler decided to test the Confederate position after seeing enemy artillery in the distance.
Two Federal cannon opened fire, and a brief artillery duel was followed by a Union infantry attack as the novice soldiers of the 1st Massachusetts Infantry swept down the hillside toward the ford. Suddenly a volley of Confederate musketry erupted from the woods across the creek. Repeated attempts to take the ford failed when volley after volley of bullets "humming like a bee-hive" forced the New Englanders back. The context ended about 4:00 when the Federals withdrew. Each side had engaged about 3,000 men; the thick vegetation helped reduce
The clash at Blackburn's Ford proved a moral victory for the Southerners, who celebrated the Union repulse as a major battle. It demoralized the Federals, who experienced their first combat and learned that the Bull Run fords would be fiercely contested. Two Union soldiers received the Medal of Honor for their bravery.
Three days later, on July 21, there again was action at Blackburn's Ford when Confederates approached it to flank the Federals. The 5th South Carolina and the 17th and 18th Mississippi under command of Gen. D.R. Jones attacked Col. Thomas Davies' New York regiments at Grisby's Hill and there were repulsed. During the Federal retreat, Confederate forces under the command of Gen. Milledge Bonham and Col. James Longstreet moved across the fords to break the Union line of retreat, but Federal forces had established a new line of defense on the outskirts of Centreville.
Erected by Virginia Civil War Trails.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: War, US Civil • Waterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails series list. A significant historical date for this entry is July 18, 1861.
Location. 38° 48.203′ N, 77° 26.974′
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. A different marker also named Blackburn’s Ford (here, next to this marker); The Centreville Confederate Military Railroad (approx. 0.6 miles away); McLean Farm (approx. 0.7 miles away); Wilmer McLean’s Yorkshire (approx. 0.7 miles away); Wilmer McLean after the Civil War (approx. ¾ mile away); Mitchell's Ford (approx. one mile away); Union Mills Historic Site (approx. 1.3 miles away); Veterans Memorial (approx. 1½ miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Centreville.
Credits. This page was last revised on July 7, 2021. It was originally submitted on May 15, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 325 times since then and 90 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on May 15, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.