Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Expanded to 3,300 Acres
– By Andrea Gaines
On October 21, 1861, approximately 3,400 Civil War soldiers faced off on the Potomac River shoreline known as Ball’s Bluff, just north of Leesburg.
In a decisive Confederate victory, nearly 50 percent of Union soldiers were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.
The battle cost the life of a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln, Edward Dickinson Baker, the only sitting United States Senator ever killed in battle … but, spared the life of a young man named Holmes, Oliver Wendell Holmes. Holmes was wounded at Ball’s Bluff, again at Antietam, and a third time at Chancellorsville, surviving it all to continue his service to his country as one of the most influential Supreme Court Justices of all time.
These stories are known backwards and forwards by the relatively small number of Civil War historians who labor tirelessly to preserve history in all its forms for future generations. And, on January 11, 2017 – over 150 years since the Battle of Ball’s Bluff – these historians saw a very special dream come true when the United States Department of the Interior approved Loudoun County’s nomination to recognize thousands of additional acres at Ball’s Bluff Battlefield as worthy of National Historic Landmark status.
The action expands the 76-acre nationally recognized site to include 3,300 acres of riverfront land on both the Virginia and Maryland sides of the Potomac River, including Harrison Island, Maryland.
The expansion was lobbied for vigorously by the Loudoun County Heritage Commission under the direction of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, and received indispensable support from Friends of Ball’s Bluff Battlefield. Friends of Ball’s Bluff has worked with the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority to educate the public about the site, and to provide ongoing interpretations and publications that describe in detail how what happened there influenced trends and outcomes in the Civil War.
As a result of the Department of the Interior’s actions, the land and earth formations on both sides of Edwards Ferry Road, Federal positions above the Maryland shoreline, Harrison Island, and other areas now carry the formal historic designation shared by 2,500 sites in the United States. Other local National Historic Landmarks include Oak Hill (President Monroe’s home on Rt. 15), Oatlands, the George Marshall House in Leesburg, and the Village of Waterford.