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Battle of Ball's Bluff


In October, 1861, General McClellan, commander of the army around Washington, was interested in trying to take Leesburg, on the southern side of the Potomac and so he ordered General George P. Stone to "keep a good lookout upon Leesburg" and to "make a slight demonstration" there to perhaps move the Confederates out. On October 21, Union forces crossed the Potomac by Ball's Bluff, where they were set upon by Confederate troops. Thus began the Battle of Ball's Bluff, also called the Battle of Harrison's Island, or by the Confederates, the Battle of Leesburg.

The Union forces eventually took a defensive position on a hill just above the Potomac. Called Ball's Bluff, this hill ran down to the river over a high bank to a narrow beach across from Harrison's Island. The Union troops were pressed hard and soon were forced to retreat down the steep bank. Not enough craft were available to ferry the wounded and soldiers across the Potomac, and as their position was continually under fire, the frightened men soon panicked, many trying to swim across the river. The swift current took many away, and more were drowned than shot. Out of a force of about 1,780, more than 300 died and 800 were wounded, captured or missing. Among those killed was Colonel Edward Baker, a sitting Senator from Oregon and a good friend and former law partner to Abraham Lincoln.

Death of Colonel Baker
F.O.C. Darley. "Death of Col. Baker." From The Great Rebellion. Connecticut: Hurlburt, Williams, & Co., 1862. 4 1/2 x 7. Engraving. Very good condition. $75

F.O.C Darley. "Battle of Ball's Bluff, VA." From The Great Civil War. New York: Virtue & Yorston, ca. 1865. Ca. 5 x 7 1/2. Engraving. $75

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