Check out our collection of photos from the resounding Union defeat at Ball's Bluff.
(10 photos in gallery)
The Potomac River from Ball's Bluff
The Battle of Ball's Bluff began with an ill-fated reconnaissance across the Potomac River. Led by Capt. Chase Philbrick, Union soldiers crossed the river to identify the positions of Col. Nathan "Shanks" Evans's Confederate troops.
Ball's Bluff Battlefield
On the morning of October 21, 1861, the skirmish that became the Battle of Ball's Bluff began here when Col. Charles Devens's raiding party encountered a company of the 17th Mississippi Infantry.
The Battle of Ball's Bluff took place on these steep and rocky bluffs, making fighting difficult and causing Union reinforcements to arrive slowly.
The battle consisted of a series of attacks and counter-attacks that left the Union disadvantaged. Lacking reinforcements, organization, and decent ground, they lost all hope for victory when Confederate Col. Nathan Evans launched a fierce attack in the afternoon, shown here at the battle's 150th anniversary reenactment.
The Death of Col. Baker
Library of Congress
After arriving at Ball's Bluff to reinforce Devens, Col. Baker was shot at 4:30 in the afternoon. Bullets simultaneously struck his heart and brain, killing him instantly. What little resistance the Federals had left crumbled.
Retreat into the Potomac
The retreating Federals had no choice but to swim across the Potomac to safety. Many drowned in the attempt, and hundreds surrendered rather than risk escape into the river.
Discovering Bodies in the Potomac River
Library of Congress
The Union casualties after the Battle of Ball's Bluff were staggering, and for days after the battle the bodies of the drowned had to be recovered from the Potomac River.
Preservation at Ball's Bluff
Today, Ball's Bluff Battlefield Regional Park has been remarkably well preserved by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, who have commemorated the site with monuments, signs, and interpretive trails.
Ball's Bluff National Cemetery
The Ball's Bluff National Cemetery houses the bodies of 54 soldiers who died during the Battle of Ball's Bluff, and contains a memorial to Col. Baker.
Ball's Bluff 150th Anniversary
In 2011, the Battle of Ball's Bluff experienced its sesquicentennial. Reenactments commemorated this small battle with big consequences.