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Leesburg in Loudoun County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

20th Massachusetts Infantry

 
 
20th Massachusetts Infantry Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 1, 2007
1. 20th Massachusetts Infantry Marker
Inscription. Companies D and I of the 20th Massachusetts (the “Harvard Regiment”) followed the 15th Massachusetts across the Potomac with orders to serve as a rear guard and cover the withdrawal of the 15th Massachusetts following what was hoped would be a successful raid. Those two companies, led by regimental commander Colonel William R. Lee, deployed along the bluff here and waited. They spent much of the day in the area immediately beyond this sign.

While waiting, Colonel Lee sent out scouting parties upriver and downriver to secure his flanks. The upriver party stumbled into a small group of pickets from Co. K, 17th Mississippi, and a few shots were exchanged. The Mississippians withdrew and alerted Colonel Evans to the presence of Union troops at Ballís Bluff. Unfortunately for the Federals, no one from the 20th Massachusetts went forward to inform their comrades in the 15th Massachusetts that contact had been made with the enemy.

Around mid-afternoon, the 20th became involved in the main fighting, an action later described by Lieut. Henry L. Abbott as a fight “made up of charges” as individual companies would advance, fire, and fall back. Later, Lieut. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. received the first of his three Civil War wounds here and was evacuated from the field. During the route of the Federal troops,
The Old 20th Massachusetts Infantry Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 30, 2007
2. The Old 20th Massachusetts Infantry Marker
This marker was replaced in August 2007. It read:
The 20th Massachusetts Infantry followed the 15th Massachusetts across the Patomac River. Acting initially as rear guard, the 10th occupied this area throughout the day. Among the ranks of the 20th was Lieutenant Henry L. Abbott who described the battle: "...we kept that field under a heavy fire of rifles and musketry. It seemed as if every square inch of air within six feet of the ground was traversed by bullets as they whistled by us. Though we were lying down, our men were shot on every side of us. The fight was made up of charges. You would see our captains rush out in front and cry 'forward' and their companies would follow...under a tremendous fire till they were obliged to fall back...this was repeated over and over during the four hours fight."
Source: Fallen Leaves: The Civil War Letters of Major Henry Livermore Abbott, edited by Robert Garth Scott, 1991, with permission of the Kent state University Press.
Colonel Lee and Major Paul J. Revere (grandson of the Revolutionary War hero) were captured along with many other soldiers. Capt. William F. Bartlett led a mixed group of some 80 men upriver where they found a small skiff and managed to cross to safety.
 
Erected by Ballís Bluff Regional Park/Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.
 
Location. 39° 7.939′ N, 77° 31.631′ W. Marker is in Leesburg, Virginia, in Loudoun County. Marker can be reached from Ballís Bluff Road, on the left when traveling east. Touch for map. Located at trail stop 6, inside Ballís Bluff Regional Park. Marker is in this post office area: Leesburg VA 20175, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Union Artillery (within shouting distance of this marker); Ballís Bluff National Cemetery (within shouting distance of this marker); Ballís Bluff Battlefield and National Cemetery (within shouting distance of this marker); Edward D. Baker (within shouting distance of this marker); 1st California Regiment (within shouting distance of this marker); The North: Union Leaders at Ball's Bluff (within
Ground Held by the 20th Massachusetts image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 30, 2007
3. Ground Held by the 20th Massachusetts
The unit held ground in the vicinity of what is now the National Cemetery.
shouting distance of this marker); Battle of Ballís Bluff, October 21, 1861 (within shouting distance of this marker); The South: Confederate Leaders at Ballís Bluff (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Leesburg.
 
More about this marker. The marker displays a portrait of Henry Livermore Abbott.
 
Regarding 20th Massachusetts Infantry. This marker is one of a set along the Balls Bluff Battlefield walking trail. See the Balls Bluff Virtual Tour by Markers link below for details on each stop.
 
Also see . . .
1. Brief Summary of the Battle of Ballís Bluff. (Submitted on August 31, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.)
2. Staff Ride Guide. Produced by the Center of Military History for Army Officer Professional Development. (Submitted on August 31, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 

3. The Harvard Regiment. The 20th Massachusetts carried the nickname “Harvard Regiment” mainly due to the large number of Harvard alumni serving in the unit. Famed in poetry and story, the 20th served in many of the wars great battles. (Submitted on August 31, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 

4. Balls Bluff Battlefield Virtual Tour by Marker. Over twenty markers detail the action at Balls Bluff and related sites. Please use the Click to map all markers shown on this page option at the bottom of the page to view a map of the marker locations. The hybrid view offers an excellent overlook of the park. (Submitted on November 11, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 
 
Categories. War, US Civil
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 31, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,415 times since then and 38 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on September 1, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   2, 3. submitted on August 31, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. • J. J. Prats was the editor who published this page.
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