The Bulletin of the Loudoun County Historical Society, Volume IV, 1965
Loudoun County Historical Society
Volume IV 1965
Officers of the
Loudoun County Historical Society
|President Emeritus||Mr. Joseph V. Nichols|
|President||Mr. Lawson Allen|
|First Vice-President||Mr. Henry Crabites|
|Second Vice-President||Col. A. B. Johnson|
|Executive Vice-President||Mrs. Thomas N. DeLashmutt|
|Treasurer||Mr. Emory Plaster|
|Recording Secretary||Mr. John Divine|
|Corresponding Secretaries||Mrs. Contee Adams|
|Mrs. Fairfield Whitley|
|Miss Maria Copeland (Emeritus)||Maj. Gen. Leo. L. Eberle|
|Allen S. Clarke||Huntington Harris|
|John Dillon||Miss Freida Johnson|
|George J. Durfey||Mrs. T. Frank Osburn|
The Loudoun County Historical Society supplies The Bulletin to its LifeMembers, and it is available to all other members and to the public at twodollars per copy. Checks should be made payable to The Loudoun CountyHistorical Society and should be mailed to the Society at Leesburg, Virginia.
Upon payment of twenty-five dollars any person may become a Life Member.The annual dues for individuals are one dollar per annum. Sustaining membershipsare five dollars per annum.
Correspondence (other than orders for The Bulletin) should be addressedto the Secretary, Mrs. Contee Adams, Hamilton. Virginia.
Loudoun County Historical Society
THE LOUDOUN COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
- History of The Battle of Ball’s Bluff 7
- The Comanches 21
- By John Divine
- Confederate Monument in Leesburg 25
- Short History of The Society of Friends in Loudoun County 29
- By Asa Moore Janney
- The Uses of History 43
- By Col. Trevor N. Dupuy
- The Skirmish at Mile Hill 53
- By Col. A. B. Johnson, U.S. Army (Ret.)
- Members of The Loudoun County Historical Society 57
By The Loudoun County Historical Society
Printed in Leesburg, Loudoun
County, Commonwealth of Virginia
Of The Battle Of
Fought on the 21st of October, 1861
Personal Memories of
Col. E. V. White
Dedicated By Him
To the Loudoun Chapter of U. D. C., Leesburg, Va.
For Benefit of
Monument to be erected in Leesburg to the
Confederate Soldiers of
“THE WASHINGTONIAN” PRINT
History of The Battle of Ball’s Bluff
The popular idea at the time, and which has continued until now,is that the battle of Ball’s Bluff was a blunder, brought about by theFederal commander without proper (although easily to be obtained) informationas to the force and position of the Confederates in the vicinityof Leesburg, and almost without purpose, or prospect of advantage,worth the venture, resulting from success should he win, and that theConfederate commander permitted his troops to engage, in a rather haphazardway, by companies and regiments, pretty much as they pleased.
But in the light of subsequent events, and by aid of the OfficialRecords of the so-called “War of the Rebellion,” we learn that bothcommanders, Gen. Charles P. Stone, of the Federals and Gen. N. G.Evans, of the Confederates, had really well-defined purposes and plans,and played the game with skill and intelligence on both sides.
It was General Stone’s purpose to cross the Potomac at two points,making a heavy display of force at Edwards’ Ferry, holding GeneralEvans’ attention at that point in his front while making his real attackon the extreme left of the Confederate position, rolling back the smallcontingent of scouts and pickets about Smart’s Mill and turning theflank of Evans, which would compel a retreat, with Gorman’s brigadeto cut him off, and at the same time General McCall’s force aboutDranesville, on the Alexandria pike, only a short march away, making apossible combination of at least eighteen thousand men against Evans’two thousand, with no support nearer than Manassas and Centreville;and moreover, General Stone had further aid in close call on the Marylandside of the river, under Generals Banks and Hamilton, so that whenhis main attack at the Bluff, with a force more than equal to Evans’whole command, was made as a surprise, the game was his own, by allthe rules of tactics and strategy.
General Evans had the evident advantage of his adversary in generalship,8and had proven his claim to the pastmaster’s degree in thesame situation at the first Manassas, just three months before, where heheld the extreme left of Beauregard’s line at the Stone Bridge, and whereMcDowell applied the same tactics as did Stone on the Potomac.
There, as here, the Federals in heavy force demonstrated on Evans’front at the bridge while moving for the main attack by way of Sudley,far beyond his left, and there their busy delay at the bridge, as here atEdward’s Ferry, caused him to look elsewhere for work, which he soonfound to the left.
So, leaving a few companies to amuse General Tyler on the turnpike,just as he held the artillery and nine companies of the ThirteenthMississippi in front of Fort Evans, he hurried his main force to meetthe attack on his left.
We learned later that our general knew his business, and why hemade his battle by detail, as it seemed to us then, and General Beauregard’sinstructions give us the reason why he fought here at all.
General Evans’ judgement was against giving battle at Leesburg,where all the chances seemed against him, and a few days before he hadwithdrawn his troops to a strong position at Carter’s Mills, seven milesoff on the road towards his only support at Manassas.
Upon reporting his movement to Beauregard, that officer gave himfurther light on the situation, in the following interesting document:
“HD. QRS. FIRST CORPS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
NEAR CENTREVILLE, October 17, 1861”
“COLONEL: Your note of this date has been laid before the General,who wishes to be informed of the reason that influenced you totake up your present position, as you omit to inform him. The point youoccupy is understood to be very strong, and the General hopes you maybe able to maintain it against odds should the enemy press across theriver and move in this direction.
“To prevent such a movement, and junction of Banks’ forces withMcClellan’s, is of the utmost military importance, and you will be expectedto make a desperate stand, falling back only in the face of anoverwhelming enemy.
“In case, unfortunately, you should be obliged to retire, march onthis point and effect a junction with this corps.
“If you still deem it best to remain at Carter’s Mill the Generaldesires you to maintain possession of Leesburg, as an outpost, by a regimentwithout baggage or tents, and to be relieved every three or fourdays. As you may be aware, this army has taken up a line of triangularshape, with Centreville as the salient, one side running to Union Mills,the other to Stone Bridge, with outposts of regiments three or four milesin advance in all directions, and cavalry pickets yet in advance as far asFairfax Court House.
“Respectfully, your obedient servant,
Assistant Adjutant General.
“Col. N. G. Evans,
“Commanding at Leesburg, Va.”
We can now understand something of the importance of GeneralEvans holding on hard at Leesburg, keeping the left flank of the army protectwhile it confronted General McClellan’s people before Washington;and there is nothing which has a more demoralizing military effectthan that one fatal word—“flanked.”
General Evans had now under his command the Eighth VirginiaRegiment under Col. Eppa Hunton, who had occupied Leesburg shortlyafter the battle of July 21st, joined later by three Mississippi regiments,viz., the Thirteenth, Col. Wm. Barksdale; Seventeenth, Col. W. S.Featherstone; Eighteenth, Col. E. R. Burt, which, together with six gunsof the Richmond Howitzer Battalion and four companies of cavalrycommanded by Lieut. Col. W. H. Jenifer, made up the Seventh Brigadeof General Beauregard’s corps.
Immediately on receipt of the above order General Evans preparedto march, and on the night of the 19th moved his brigade to the burntbridge on the Alexandria pike, four miles east of Leesburg, and onlyeight miles from General McCall’s position at Dranesville.
The next morning, Sunday, a courier of McCall’s bearing orders toGeneral Meade to examine the roads leading to Leesburg was captured,and from this prisoner General Evans learned the position and purposeof the enemy at Dranesville. Heavy cannonading had been going onduring the night from batteries on the Maryland hills, which continuedthroughout the day, Sunday, and General Stone developed his purpose tomake the very movement indicated in Beauregard’s dispatch, in doingwhich he sent Gen. W. A. Gorman’s brigade of infantry, having cavalryand artillery in support, over the river at Edward’s Ferry, making reconnaissancetoward Leesburg.
This party did not long delay in Virginia, but returned to Headquartersby 10 o’clock p.m., reporting that they had proceeded unmolestedto within one mile of Leesburg, discovering a camp of aboutthirty tents in the edge of a woods, approaching it within 25 rods unchallenged.
General Stone now had all necessary information on which to basehis brilliant strategy of holding Evans quiet in front of Edward’s Ferrywith Gorman’s threatening force, while Colonel Baker made his brigadecrossing at the island above, turning the Confederate left, forcing Evansto quick retreat to save his communications, while Gorman by a rapidadvance would cut him off. Well planned, certainly, but Evans had beentaking lessons.
Upon receipt of the report of his scouts General Stone orderedColonel Devens, with four companies of his regiment, Fifteenth Massachusetts,to cross at the island and destroy the camp found by CaptainPhiebrick, which order he proceeded to execute, but found the supposedtents an illusion, the scouts having been deceived by a line of trees, theopening through which presenting, in an uncertain light, somewhat theappearance of tents.
At 7 o’clock in the morning—the 21st—these enterprising gentlemen10discovered Capt. W. L. Duff’s company (K, Seventeenth Mississippi) offorty men, who had been picketing the river about Smart’s Mill, andarranged for their capture by putting Captain Phiebrick’s company atthem in front, while two other companies were sent to outflank themand cut them off, but Duff and his men disregarded the “cut off.” Theysimply dropped on one knee, and when the enemy came, near enough(all the time answering Captain Duff’s challenge, “Who are you?” withthe reply, “Friends”), fired a staggering volley into Deven’s three hundred,causing them also to disregard the “cut off” and retire to a betterposition, which they maintained for about twenty minutes, when theyretreated to the thicket of woods on the right of the Jackson house.
Colonel Devens in his report says Captain Duff’s men at his firstadvance retreated to a corn-field and got into a ditch or trench—anotherillusion caused by their kneeling to take aim. Captain Duff reported hisloss as one man seriously and two slightly wounded, capturing threewounded prisoners and fourteen or fifteen stands of arms, while ColonelDevens says he lost one killed, nine wounded, and two missing.
General Evans now sent Lieutenant-Colonel Jenifer with four companiesof infantry, two from the Eighteenth and one each from theSeventeenth and Thirteenth Mississippi Regiments, and three companiesof cavalry, Captain W. B. Ball, W. W. Mead, and Lieutenant Morehead,to support Captain Duff, making in all a force of 320 men on the battleground,while Colonel Devens reports his force strengthened to 753; andabout 11 o’clock he again advanced, but was met in strong contentionby Jenifer’s people for about an hour, when the Federals retired; andnow was their best time to recross the river, for Hunton with his EighthVirginia (except Wampler’s company, left at the burnt bridge to lookout for McCall) was coming at a double-quick with 375 more people inbad temper.
But General Stone had not completed the development of his plan,and he again reinforced to 1,700—by the Twentieth Massachusetts, 340;Forty-second New York (Tammany), 360; First California (Colonel Baker’sown) 600, with two howitzers and one 6-pounder rifle gun. Thislooks by the figures given in official records like