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Great Falls in Fairfax County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Crossing the Potomac at Rowser's Ford

J.E.B. Stuart's Most Difficult Achievement

 
 
Crossing the Potomac at Rowser's Ford Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 9, 2012
1. Crossing the Potomac at Rowser's Ford Marker
Inscription. Late afternoon on June 27, 1863, Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart began assembling his cavalry brigades at Dranesville. To avoid the Union Army of the Potomac (90,000-strong) then crossing the Potomac upstream at Edwards Ferry, Stuart ordered Hampton's brigade to Rowser's Ford. Chambliss's brigade remained at Dranesville awaiting "Fitz" Lee.

Approaching Roswer's, a local citizen informed Hampton that the half-mile wide Potomac was two feet higher than normal, but still fordable. Early evening, Hampton's brigade slowly crossed the rock-strewn ford and reported to Stuart that fording artillery and ammunition would be utterly impossible.

About sunset, Fitz Lee's brigade arrived at Dranesvile and followed Chambliss's to Rowser's. Nearing the ford, the column slowed markedly. The ford was so treacherous that Stuart felt compelled to look for another crossing. After a dangerous search in the moonlight, Capt. Richard Kennon found another ford downstream but reported it impracticable from quicksand, rocks, and rugged banks. Thus, Stuart determined that his entire command would cross at Rowser's.

Around midnight, the moon began its descent and the night grew darker. Each cavalryman was given a shell or powder bag to carry as they crossed the swollen river. The wheeled vehicles and cannon were dragged across, often submerged.
Captain Kennon and a Map of the Ford image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 9, 2012
2. Captain Kennon and a Map of the Ford
"You could hardley see your horse's ears," recalled a horse artillerist. Horse followed horse with water rushing over the saddles. When the line would bend down-stream due to strong current, some bold rider would advance from the opposite shore and correct the alignment.

By pure determination, the entire command was safely on Maryland soil around 3 a.m. on the 28th. Miraculously, not a man was lost and the ammunition was dry. Maj. H.B. McClellan, aptly described the crossing, "No more difficult achievement was accomplished by the cavalry during the war."
 
Erected 2012 by Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.
 
Location. 39° 3.1′ N, 77° 20.04′ W. Marker is in Great Falls, Virginia, in Fairfax County. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Great Falls VA 22066, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Rowser's Ford (here, next to this marker); Washington's Canal (approx. half a mile away); Watering the Canal (approx. 1.1 miles away in Maryland); Seneca (approx. 1.2 miles away in Maryland); The Seneca Aqueduct (approx. 1.2 miles away in Maryland); a different
Stuart's Crossing at Rowser's Ford, June 27-28, 1863 image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 9, 2012
3. Stuart's Crossing at Rowser's Ford, June 27-28, 1863
marker also named Rowser’s Ford (approx. 1.2 miles away in Maryland); a different marker also named Rowser’s Ford (approx. 1.7 miles away in Maryland); Life During Encampment in Montgomery County (approx. 1.9 miles away in Maryland). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Great Falls.
 
Categories. War, US Civil
 
Major Henry B. McClellan image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 9, 2012
4. Major Henry B. McClellan
Stuart's assistant Adjutant-General, in a pre-war photo. Courtesy of William College Archives and Special Collections, Williamstown, Mass.
Markers at the Trailhead image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain
5. Markers at the Trailhead
Path to Rowser's Ford image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 9, 2012
6. Path to Rowser's Ford
A portion of the trail down to the Potomac River.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on September 22, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 417 times since then and 61 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on September 22, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.
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