The Battle of Ball's Bluff
22 October 2011
We enjoyed a beautiful fall day in Leesburg, VA (the next town over from us) watching a reenactment of the Civil War Battle of Ball's Bluff. This is the only Civil War battlefield site where the reenactment can take place on the actual site of the battle.
The Battle of Ball's Bluff, also known as the Battle of Harrison’s Island or the Battle of Leesburg, was fought on October 21, 1861, in Loudoun County, Virginia, as part of (Union) Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's operations in Northern Virginia.
While a minor engagement in comparison with the battles that would take place in years to follow, it was the second largest battle of the Eastern Theater in 1861, and in its aftermath had repercussions in the Union Army's chain of command structure and raised separation of powers issues under the United States Constitution during the war.
This was the only Civil War battle in which a sitting U.S. Senator was killed. Senator Edward Baker, a close friend of Abraham Lincoln, was a lawyer, a politician and a military leader who, like Lincoln, had served as a U.S. Representative from the state of Illinois. Baker was also a colonel in the U.S. Army and had served as such in the Mexican-American War. In 1851, Baker moved from Illinois to California to seek his fortune, and, later, landed in Oregon. In 1860, he returned to Washington D.C. as a U.S. Senator from Oregon. At the time of his death he had been in the process of resigning his position in the Senate so that he could serve full time in the Army. And, though Baker didn't live to know of it, Lincoln had already signed orders for him to be commissioned as a U.S. Army general. His death shocked official Washington and led to the formation of the Congressional Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War.
Among other notables who fought in this battle were: two grandsons of Paul Revere, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. who later (in 1902) became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.