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Ball's Bluff

Harrison's Island

Loudoun County, VA  |  Oct 21, 1861

On the evening of October 20, 1861, Union army commander George B. McClellan ordered Gen. Charles Stone to send a scouting party across the Potomac River to identify the positions of Confederate Col. Nathan Evans’s troops near Leesburg.  In the darkness the party’s inexperienced leader, Capt. Chase Philbrick, mistook a line of trees for a line of tents, and reported that he had stumbled across an unguarded Confederate camp.  Early the next day, Col. Charles Devens was sent across the river to attack the camp, and after realizing that the supposed “camp” was nothing but a line of trees, his men encountered a company of Mississippi infantry and a skirmish began. Col. Edward Baker, a U.S. Senator, decided to reinforce Devens, but with only four small boats available to transport men, Union reinforcements arrived slowly. Evans used the Federal delay to organize his men, and when Col. Baker was killed in the afternoon, Union resistance crumbled. The victorious Confederates drove the Yankees over the bluff and into the Potomac, where many drowned and hundreds surrendered rather than risk escape into the river. The battle, while small in scale, had major political implications that would haunt the Union army for the rest of the war.

All battles of the McClellan's Operations in Northern Virginia - October-December 1861 Campaign

Civil War  |  Battle
Ball's Bluff
Loudoun County, VA  |  Oct 21, 1861
Result: Confederate Victory
Est. Casualties: 1,157
Union: 1,002
Confederate: 155
Civil War  |  Battle
Dranesville
Fairfax County, VA  |  Dec 20, 1861
Result: Union Victory
Est. Casualties: 301
Union: 71
Confederate: 230

Related Battles

Leesburg, VA | October 21, 1861
Result: Confederate Victory
Commanders
Forces Engaged
3,429
Union
1,720
Confed.
1,709
Estimated Casualties
1,157
Union
1,002
Confed.
155