Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Has Sparta more?"

View of the precipice at Ball's Bluff, Va.

Friday last was the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Ball's Bluff, fought near Leesburg, Va., on Oct. 21, 1861. A Federal force of about 1,700 men, commanded by President Lincoln's long-time friend (and U.S. senator from Oregon) Col. Edward D. Baker, crossed the Potomac above Leesburg as part of a three-pronged demonstration against the town. Confederate Col. Nathan G. "Shanks" Evans, defending Leesburg, concentrated a force of 1,700 men against the Federals and decisively defeated them in a sharp action. Baker was killed, and Union losses were over 50 percent, including 161 missing and presumed drowned in a panic at the river's edge. In sum, a Union disaster of the first order.

The small battlefield park at Ball's Bluff is always a pleasant place to visit, and generally few people go there. Leesburg itself is close by and has several excellent restaurants. In the photo above, the Potomac River and Harrison's Island may be glimpsed through the trees at the bluff.

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