“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

December 20, 1861

Battle of Dranesville Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), September 19, 2021
1. Battle of Dranesville Marker
On December 20, 1861, a large Union brigade under the command of Brigadier General Edward O.C. Ord collided with a smaller Confederate force led by Brigadier General J.E.B. Stuart that was foraging for provisions near the small town of Dranesville, VA. A heated firefight ensued, lasting close to two hours. This battle would be the baptism of fire in the war for most units involved. As a result, mistakes were made with tragic consequences. For example, in the dense woods the 1st Kentucky Infantry regiment confused the 6th South Carolina Infantry for Union troops, firing a deadly volley into their ranks that killed and wounded a number of soldiers in the regiment's Company F. South Carolinians returned fire, killing a soldier from Kentucky as well.

General Ord seized the advantage over Stuart when he strategically positioned three guns of Captain Hezekiah Easton's 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery Battery A on top of Drane Hill (now occupied by the Church of the Brethren where you are currently standing). Meanwhile he established a line of battle facing due south with the 10th Pennsylvania Reserves positioned to the east
Battle of Dranesville Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), September 19, 2021
2. Battle of Dranesville Marker
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of Ridge Road (modern day Reston Avenue directly in front of you) on the left flank, the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves (the "Bucktail" regiment) and 6th Pennsylvania Reserves entering the dense woods on the far right flank. Importantly, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas L. Kane ordered one company of his Bucktail sharpshooters to occupy the two-story, brick Thornton House at the very center of the Union line, turning the home into an armed stockade.

The battle began as Stuart's Confederate units advancing northward on Ridge Road encountered Union skirmishers in the fields and forests located to the south of Leesburg Pike. Stuart deployed Colonel Samuel Garland's 11th Virginia Infantry regiment just east of Ridge Road and Lieutenant Colonel Andrew J. Secrest's 6th South Carolina Infantry regiment just to the west of the road. He ordered Captain Allen S. Cutts, commander of the 11th Battalion, Georgia Light Artillery (Sumter Flying Artillery), to position his guns directly on Ridge Road in a narrow opening in the tree line about 500 yards distant from the Union line.

As the Confederate units advanced through the thick pine forests, Easton's guns on Drane Hill took aim at the lead regiments and Cutts' battery on Ride Road. In a short time, the Union artillery knocked the Confederate battery out of action, causing considerable loss of life to both men and horses. The 11th
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Virginia suffered significant casualties as well, forcing it to the ground and stalling its advance.

Realizing that the Union artillery had to be silenced, General Stuart pushed forward Colonel John H. Forney's 10th Alabama Infantry regiment into the center of the Confederate line, replaced the 11th Virginia, which moved by the flank to the right. The 10th Alabama and the 6th South Carolina then left the cover of the woods and pressed into the open fields towards the Coleman and Thornton Houses. As the Alabamians charged into the open ground they were met by a withering fire from the Union artillery and Kane's Bucktails, and they were simultaneously struck in the flank by a company of the 10th Pennsylvania Reserves concealed in a deep gulley in the field near the Coleman House. Some of the 10th Alabama were able to cross the road and take position behind a fence. However, Colonel Forney fell wounded shortly thereafter, and the regiment was forced to pull back into the woods.

The 6th South Carolina advanced steadily towards the Thornton House coming to within pistol range of the Bucktails and 6th Pennsylvania Reserves. After a heavy firefight the South Carolinians were also forced to withdraw into the safety of the tree line. The 10th Alabama and 6th South Carolina Infantry regiments suffered horrible during the battle, each losing 23 men killed or mortally
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wounded, the greatest number of casualties incurred by any of the units engaged at Dranesville. In confused fighting in the dense woods just to the west of these units, Colonel Conrad F. Jackson's 9th Pennsylvania Reserves fought Colonel Thomas Taylor's 1st Kentucky Infantry to a stalemate. When General Stuart saw that his advance had been stemmed, he withdrew his forces from the field and retreated back to the Confederate camp in Centreville, Virginia, comforted that his forage wagons had safely escaped capture.

The Federal Army of the Potomac had secured its first victory of the war at Dranesville bringing both jubilation and optimism to the home front. However, no one could foresee that this was just the beginning. Three and a half more years of brutal fighting lay ahead…

Brig. Gen. Edward O.C. Ord, Commander, Union forces at Dranesville

Brig. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, Commander, Confederate forces at Dranesville

Capt. Hezekiah Easton, Commander, Battery A, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery Regiment

Col. Hon H. Forney, Commander, 10th Alabama Infantry. Wounded, shot in arm

Lt. Col. Thomas L. Kane, Commander, 13th Pennsylvania Reserves ("Bucktails"). Wounded, shot in jaw

Capt. Obediah Harden, 6th South Carolina Infantry. Mortally Wounded. Died, January 1, 1863.

Capt. Alamoss E. Niles, 13th Pennsylvania Reserves. Wounded, shot through lungs.

Lt. Co. James B. Martin, 10th Alabama Infantry. Killed in Action.

Killed and Mortally Wounded at the Battle of Dranesville
6th Pennsylvania Reserves Infantry
Pvt. Samuel C. Walter, Co. A • Pvt. Daniel Darling, Co. C • Pvt. William R. Vandyke, Co. D

9th Pennsylvania Reserves Infantry
Pvt. Alexander B. Smith, Co. A • Pvt. John Sexton, Co. E • Pvt. Joseph H. Stockdale, Co. F • Pvt. Silas B. Newell, Co. H

13th Pennsylvania Reserves Infantry
(1st Pennsylvania Rifles - "Bucktails")
Cpl. Samuel Galbraith, Co. B • Pvt. George Raup, Co. B • Pvt. George Cook, Co. E

11th Battalion, Georgia Light Artillery
(Sumter Flying Artillery)

Pvt. John A. Capps, Battery A • Pvt. William P. Long, Battery A • Cpl. John L. McGarrah, Battery A • Pvt. Tomas Mills, Battery A • Pvt. James L. Proctor, Battery A • Pvt. Washington F. Williams, Battery A

1st Kentucky Infantry
Pvt. Frederick G. Alexander, Co. C • Pvt. John L. Barbee, Co. C • Pvt. William B. Phelps, Co. C • Cpl. John M. Johnson, Co. E • Pvt. Noah J. Parsons, Co. E

11th Virginia Infantry
Pvt. John L. Henry, Co. a • Pvt. William H. Hobson, Co. C • Pvt. Melvin T. Gibbs, Co. D • Pvt. Henry L. Goulden, Co. H • Pvt. William H. Campbell, Co. K • Pvt. James N. Painter, Co. K

10th Alabama Infantry
Lt. Col. James B. Martin • Pvt. George S. Dannelly, Co. A • Pvt. Allious T. McAdory, Co. C • Pvt. Henry H. Alexander, Co. C • Pvt. Sanford M. Fulton, Co. C • Pvt. George S. Lytton, Co. C • Pvt. James O. Bloxton, Co. E • Sgt. Sidney L. Coleman, Co. F • Pvt. Berryman H. Corley, Co. F • Pvt. Robert G. Dunlap, Co. F • Pvt. John F. Martin, Co. F • Pvt. Thornwell Brownlee, Co. H • Pvt. Stephen J. Bryant, Co. H • Pvt. Alexander H. Hanna, Co. H • Cpl. Napoleon B. Lyon, Co. H • Pvt. John P. Manning, Co. H • Pvt. William H. Sprinkles, Co. H • Pvt. James S. Walden, Co. H • Pvt. Thomas R. Ferguson, Co. I • Cpl. Charles A. Webb, Co. I • Pvt. John A Calahan, Co. K • Pvt. Bushrod Moss, Co. K

6th South Carolina Infantry
Pvt. John G. Barber, Co. B • Cpl. William C. Byers, Co. C • Pvt. Frank English, Co. C • Sgt. Robert H. Morris, Co. C • Pvt. John M. Elliott, Co. D • Pvt. George W. Brakefield, Co. E • Capt. Obadiah Harden, Co. E • Cpl. Thomas C. Harden, Co. E • Sgt. John N. Carothers, Co. F • Pvt. R.T. Johnston, Co. F • Pvt. James McKeown, Co. F • Pvt. J. Walker T. Smith, Co. F • Pvt. Joseph T. Caldwell, Co. G • Pvt. William S. McDill, Co. G • Pvt. John N. Faires, Co. H • Pvt. William N. Hamilton, Co. H • Pvt. Samuel W. Hoffman, Co. H • 1st Lt. Frederick E. Moore, Co. H • Cpl. W.T. Robinson, Co. H • Pvt. Henry P. Price, Co. H • Pvt. Reese B. Latham, Co. K • Pvt. Lawrence Lenhardt, Co. K • Pvt. James W. Rowan, Co. K

It must have been an awful sight though no worse than any other battlefield. There were headless trunks and mangled features scattered over the ground in every direction and deep groans of the wounded and dying could be hard all through the wood.

Pvt. James D. Chadwich
Company F
10th Pennsylvania Reserves

"Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:

'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
Matthew 22:37-39 NIV

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven."
Matthew 5:43-45 NIV
December 25, 1862
Fredericksburg, VA

But what a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world."

General Robert E. Lee
in a letter to his wife

"Through Scripture, Jesus calls us to live as courageous disciples by word and action:
To surrender ourselves to God
To embrace one another,
To express God's love
Church of the Brethren, Vision Statement (2012)

A Brief Timeline of the Civil War

April 12-13 — Firing on Fort Sumter, SC / Start of Civil War
July 21 — Battle of First Bull Run (Manassas), VA
August 10 — Battle of Wilson's Creek, MO
October 21 — Battle of Ball's Bluff, VA
December 20 — Battle of Dranesville, VA

March-July — McClellan's Peninsula Campaign, VA
April 6-7 — Battle of Shiloh, TN
April 25 - May 1 — Union capture of New Orleans, LA
August 28-30 — Battle of Second Bull Run (Manassas), VA
September 17 — Battle of Antietam, MD
September 22 — President Lincoln signs Emancipation Proclamation
December 11-15 — Battle of Fredericksburg, VA
Dec. 31 - Jan. 2, 1863 — Battle of Stone's River (Murfreesboro), TN

April 30 - May 6 — Battle of Chancellorsville, VA
May 18 - July 4 — Siege and Fall of Vicksburg, MS
July 1-3 — Battle of Gettysburg, PA
September 18-20 — Battle of Chickamauga, GA
November 23-25 — Battle of Chattanooga, TN

May 5-7 — Battle of the Wilderness, VA
May 8-21 — Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, VA
May 31 - June 12 — Battle of Cold Harbor, VA
June 15 — Siege of Petersburg, VA begins
July 21 — Battle of Atlanta, GA
November 30 — Battle of Franklin, TN
December 15-16 — Battle of Nashville, TN

April 9, 1865 — General Lee's Surrender at Appomattox Court House, VA

Total Number of Fatalities — 620,000 - 750,000
Erected by Dranesville Church of the Brethren.
Topics. This memorial is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. A significant historical date for this entry is December 20, 1861.
Location. 38° 59.966′ N, 77° 20.552′ W. Marker is near Herndon, Virginia, in Fairfax County. Memorial is at the intersection of Leesburg Pike (Virginia Route 7) and Reston Avenue, on the right when traveling west on Leesburg Pike. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 11500 VA-7, Herndon VA 20170, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Sharpsburg / Antietam Campaign (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Action At Dranesville (about 600 feet away); Gettysburg Campaign (approx. 0.2 miles away); a different marker also named Battle of Dranesville (approx. 1.1 miles away); U.S. Army Map Service (approx. 1½ miles away); Great Falls Nike Missile Site (approx. 1½ miles away); Loudoun County / Fairfax County (approx. 2 miles away); Reston (approx. 2.1 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Herndon.
Credits. This page was last revised on September 20, 2021. It was originally submitted on September 20, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 406 times since then and 92 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on September 20, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.

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Apr. 1, 2023