Goose Creek Battery – Defenses of Leesburg, Part 6

As mentioned before, the purpose of Fort Evans was to cover approaches to Leesburg from the east, specifically the two most likely avenues of advance – Edwards Ferry Road and the Alexandria-Leesburg Pike.  Just as the defenders posted outer works to strengthen the defense of the former, the later received attention also.  About a mile and a half  southeast from Fort Evans, the Alexandria-Leesburg Pike (modern Virginia 7) crosses Goose Creek at a fairly tight bend.  High ground dominates the crossing from the west bank.  This was a natural choke point that any defender was apt to take advantage of.

Goose Creek on a Cold Day
Goose Creek on a Cold Day  (Looking Downstream, north, from the modern bridge)

Goose Creek can be favorably compared to Bull Run in regard to topography, except that it runs north instead of south.  (The Goose drains a much larger area however, and originates west of the Bull Run Mountains in Loudoun Valley.)  The creek was not terribly difficult to cross, with several ford and ferry points along its course.  At the outbreak of the war, a wooden bridge spanned Goose Creek at the Alexandria-Leesburg Pike.  However by late summer the bridge was destroyed.  Both sides referred to the site as “Burnt Bridge” in correspondence around the time of the Battle of Balls Bluff.

Old Truss Bridge at the Original Pike Crossing
Old Truss Bridge at the Original Pike Crossing

In the late summer or early fall, the Confederates constructed a set of gun pits on the high ground overlooking the creek at this point.  The Documentation of Eight Civil War Forts and Earthworks indicated two gun pits on top of the bluffs in the survey.  These pits were constructed about 60 to 70 feet from the creek’s west bank.   As with the other sites, I offer this diagram, based in part on the Milner Associates survey and my site notes, busy though it is:

Goose Creek Battery (Not to Scale)
Goose Creek Battery (Not to Scale)

The southern-most of these gun pits is only a few feet from the trail.  Again note the three “humps” forming embrasures for the cannon.

First Gun Pit
First Gun Pit

Here’s a closer view of the works:

The Gun Embrasures
The Gun Embrasures

The second gun pit is a bit harder to make out, due to some tree fall.

Second Gun Pit
Second Gun Pit

Not mentioned in the survey, but something I would include just for sake of discussion, is a soil disturbance to the north of the position.  The rise of ground has the same look as the other two pits, with raised earth on the creek facing side.  In this view, looking down the slope to the creek, the profile of this mound is clear.  Just beyond the mound to the left is the trail stairway.

Third Gun Pit?
Third Gun Pit?

The survey mentioned infantry entrenchments or at least rifle pits supporting the artillery positions.   On site I did notice several areas that might pass as such.  However none were “photogenic” enough to post here without a caption “picture of some woods and leaves outside Leesburg….”  However, the mound mentioned by the survey, which stands in front of the first gun position, seems more a natural feature than anything man made.  Today the mound is covered with briers.  It is seen here behind the picnic table along the trail.

The Mound
The Mound

Likely defenders would have incorporated this in their line, if for nothing else to cover the front slope in front of the gun positions.  The view to the east from this point is a bit obstructed by tree growth, but at least in the winter time one can appreciate the line of site given to the defenders.

Looking Over the Creek
Looking Over the Creek

During the 19th Century, a tavern stood on the far side.  For some reason the tavern picked up the name “Fiddler’s Green.”

Several guidebooks recommend taking the trail from the “Keep Loudoun Beautiful” Park on the south side of the highway.  Personally I found the passage from the park under the highway bridges difficult if not outright dangerous.  A better way to access the site is through the sub-division on the north side of the highway.  If one parks discreetly along Battery Point Place, an easy grade paved walking trail passes through the battery.  The works are decently well preserved.  Although the housing development is very close, the ground is set aside for within a local preserve (I cannot confirm but I believe it maintained by the home owner’s association).

The battery might be another site associated with the Battle of Balls Bluff.  But there is no documentation to tie in the works with Confederate activity around that time.  The works were never directly tested, and certainly not during the battle.  Instead the fortification was manned to block a suspected advance down the pike from Dranesville, which never developed.

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