Monthly Archives: June 2009

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of 29 June

Well only nineteen new Civil War related markers this week.  These represent Civil War related sites in Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.  Not bad for a summer week’s batch of entries.  Here’s the rundown:

– Three markers in Polk County, Georgia relate the passage of the Federals during the Atlanta Campaign, May 23-25, 1863.   This was Sherman’s move to the right past Cassville toward the Dallas Line  – Davis & Dodge at Peek’s CreekLogan at Swaintown, and McPherson’s March to Dallas.  Another marker, further south near Dallas in Paulding County discusses the 20th Corps Detour to New Hope Church on May 25, 1863.

– On the other side of the 1864 campaigning season in the Peach state is discussed on a marker in Social Circle, Walton County, Georgia. The 14th and 20th Corps passed through in the middle of November during the March to the Sea.

– A couple of entries this week highlight the history of Fort Scott, Kansas.  Once used as a frontier post, it was abandoned in the decade before the war.  However during the war, the U.S. Army reoccupied the fort for use as a headquarters and supply depot.

– Another marker of note from the great cavalry battle of Mine Creek, Kansas this week.

– Continuing with what must be “border war” week at HMDB, a marker in Harrisonville, Missouri discusses the “Burnt District” and actions around General Order No. 11.  Notice the monument in place at the site, an entry in the queue for next week.  Cass County, like many counties in Missouri, witnessed some of the most bitter partisan fighting of the war.

– Two entries this week indicate the route of Stoneman’s raiders in March-April 1865 through North Carolina.  One is in Morganton.  The other stands in Boone.

– A War Department tablet on Lookout Mountain discussing the activities of Garrity’s Alabama Battery in the battle of Chattanooga, features a view of the city and the Tennessee River.

– A wayside marker at Amelia County Courthouse, Virginia offers the story of Mrs. Samatha Jane Neil.   She came south in 1865 searching for the remains of her husband.  Instead of finding him, she found a life-long calling to educate the former slaves in the county.

– Three “Southside” Virginia Confederate soldiers memorials this week – Brunswick County, Lunenburg County, and Nottoway County.

– Great photos of the fortification, bridge, and old railroad bed supporting a marker stone for the Battle of Staunton River Bridge, near Randolph, Virginia.

– In Northern Virginia, the Hunter Mill Defense League sponsored a new Civil War Trails marker near Vienna, Virginia.  The marker, along the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Trail, and near the banks of Difficult Run, mentions the March 1862 campsite of the Pennsylvania Reserves.  Great effort by the preservationists to interpret the surroundings.

Just a reminder that this week is “Gettysburg Week” over at The Order of the Civil War Obsessively Compulsed.   If you look at the list of those offering their favorites, you’ll see an impressive list of bloggers.  Somehow, Brett allowed me to slip in amongst them and offer my favorites, scheduled for the afternoon of July 2.   There is certainly a wide range of interests represented on the list of authoring bloggers.  I’d expect to see very little overlap between the book lists.  So stay tuned, and follow them as they publish!

In line with “Gettysburg Week,” my closing photos today include the Wisler House on the Cashtown Pike:

First Shot of Gettysburg

First Shot of Gettysburg

One hundred and forty-six years ago tomorrow, Captain Marcellus Jones fired his carbine into the early morning, which commenced the Battle of Gettysburg.

A short time later, this 3-inch Ordnance Rifle was the first Federal cannon to fire in the battle.

No. 233 of Calef's Battery

No. 233 of Calef's Battery

Just a few “Parthian shots” in this post looking at the first shots of Gettysburg.

Civil War Preservation Trust Marker Links

Over the last few weeks I’ve been working a side project to support the Civil War Preservation Trust’s new Battlefield pages.  The Trust has been referring links over to the Historical Marker Database since last fall, but this arrangement is a bit more direct in some ways.  Our goal was to present a listing of what markers, monuments, and memorials stand at the battlefields – just a small supporting bit of information for readers in addition to the wealth of materials and maps already offered on the pages.   So with some crafting of links to HMDB, and help from friends Bernie Fisher and Robert Moore to get the right arrangements, we submitted the list of links to the Trust earlier today.

Just as with the “virtual tours by markers” or related sets mentioned here on the blog, these are lists of marker entries, usually arranged in some logical sequence.  The reader might browse through these, and if we marker hunters have done our jobs properly, see the item in question, a view of the ground around it, photos of the events related to the marker or monument, and lastly links to additional resources.   Some of the Trust’s links point directly to HMDB, particularly where the number of markers are small.  Others point to the battlefield pages on this blog.

Of the 94 battles currently listed by the Trust, sixty are paired to related sets.  Many of these are already listed on my “Battlefields by Markers” page (in need of some update now!).    We’re working on some additional groupings of markers already in the database.  But at the same time looking for more input, particularly from the Western Theater!

Feel free, if you run across a correction or update that should be made to the listings, to contact me here about those lists.  In many cases, the maintenance will fall on me anyway, feel free to go directly to the chef.  I’ll be working through the entries over time to ensure there’s plenty of links back to CWPT’s battlefield pages also.  Feels good to help out with the preservation efforts, if even in such a small way.

Preserve the battlefields for future generations, yes!  And also interpret them so future generations understand why we preserved it!

Edwards Ferry – Wartime Photographs

I was asked via email last week about photos of Edwards Ferry and the pontoon bridges.  As best I can tell, no photos of the Edwards Ferry pontoon bridges exist.  The closest fit I’ve found are several photos of the crossing at Berlin (modern Brunswick), Maryland in the fall of 1862, after Antietam. (I would add that some sources state these photos show the bridges at the same site during the pursuit from Gettysburg, but I’ll go with the Library of Congress description until further information comes to light.)   Two of those photos offer useful visualizations for comparison.

Pontoon Bridge at Berlin, MD

The photo, likely looking across the Potomac from the high ground above the old section of Berlin (on the left).  Also just left of center are the remains of the pre-war bridge that crossed here.  The two pontoon bridges were placed close together, close enough to cause traffic issues similar to those at Edwards Ferry.  Note also the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and also a mill race running just this side of the Potomac.  I don’t see any bridges traversing the canal or mill race.  From walking that section of the canal, I would speculate the Federals used one of several existing canal crossing points over the C & O.  Furthermore, there is an “island” between the river and the mill race which could have provided ample space for the wagons moving to the bridges.

There does not appear to be much confusion or chaos at this 1862 crossing.  But then again, the photo was likely taken late in the crossing cycle during the slow motion advance of the Army of the Potomac in October 1862.  There are two sets of wagons, approaching each other, separated by a trio of unhitched wagons.  Perhaps that’s a scene which aptly summarizes the Federal pursuit after Antietam.

Another photo provides a closer view of the bridge abutments:

Abutments at Virginia End of Bridge

Abutments at Virginia End of Bridge

In this view, the old bridge piers are on the right and the town at the far side.  But not seen is the second pontoon bridge.  Was this photo taken before or after the one from the Maryland shore?  Regardless, three points to make about the abutment.

First note the gradual slope down of the last bay of the bridge to the shore.  I really wish the photographer had captured a wagon crossing, or at least some led horses, over that last pontoon.  Such would capture the increased displacement on the bridge due to traffic, and illustrate the flexibility required for the decking.

Second, three “guards” are posted to the right of the bridge.  Odds are if you arrived there with your troop, they would say something like, “dismount and lead those horses, sir!”  Or, to marching infantry, “route step!”  A small post next to those “guards” appears to have a sign.  I wonder if that sign carried a written version of that verbal warning.

The last item I’d call attention to is the road grade leading up to the bridge abutment.  The ground on the lower left of the photo appears freshly disturbed.  Perhaps that is due to the heavy traffic rutting the path.   But perhaps disturbed as the engineers built up a path up the bluffs on the Virginia side.  In fact, the entire left side looks like a “spit” of land artificially extended to support the bridge crossing.

Now I would be remiss by failing to mention a scene that did not make it into the movie Gettysburg which shows the coordination between the Army Staff and General Henry Benham.  In this clip, General Daniel Butterfield, played by Donald Sutherland (Jack Bauer’s dad to you and I) converses with General Henry Benham, portrayed by Seinfield’s Uncle Leo (Len Lesser) :

Kind of hard to follow as they are talking in code – “bank heist”, “crap game”, “big Joe”, and “little Joe.”

OK, you caught me pulling your leg again!

Actually I should pause and point out that Kelly’s Heroes, one of the most popular war movies of all time, was first released in the U.S. on June 23, 1970.  So it’s a good 39 years old, as of last Tuesday.  The movie has aged well.

Off topic a bit, still the conversation between “Oddball” and SGT Bellamy mentions a few things that are timeless with regard to bridging operations.  Bellamy is concerned about the security of his team if he accepts the chore of building the bridge.  He also indicates the need for manpower to build the bridge.  If we go back and look at the dispatches between the engineers and staff officers in June 1863, those two issues stand out in the conversation.  Also, of course, there is the friction between the “warfighter” who sees the river as an impediment to his operation which must  be crossed without delay, and the engineer who sees the bridging as an operation unto itself.

River crossings are inherintly an action where man wishes to move contrary to the wishes of nature.  Bridging operations supporting those crossings must therefore involve an abundance of resources.  Those realities have not changed in spite of technology.

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of June 22

Another Tuesday and it’s time to break away from Edwards Ferry to report the week’s activity on HMDB’s Civil War category.  Thirty-five entries this week.  Coverage this week from Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.  Here’s some highlights:

– Close to a monument for the Revolutionary War battlefield of Groton, Connecticut stands a handsome Civil War Veterans Memorial.

– A small park in Tampa Florida contains two replica naval guns, representing the armament of Fort Brooke which defended the city during the war.

– Some of the first entries we’ve had from the Chickamauga Battlefield itself – the monument to the 21st Ohio on Snodgrass Hill and its advance position marker.   The regiment’s activities in the battle of Chattanooga are discussed on the 21st’s tablet in the Ohio reservation on Missionary Ridge.

– Two entries this week reference the Great Locomotive Chase.  A stone monument, simply titled “General”, stands near Ringgold, Georgia and lists participants of the raid.  William Bensinger and John R. Porter, members of the raid, are also recalled on a marker from McComb, Ohio.

– A state marker in Wyoming, Ohio recalls Robert Reily, founder of the town and Colonel of the 75th Ohio.  Reily was killed in the Battle of Chancellorsville.

– A War Department tablet on Lookout Mountain details the occupation of the summit and posting of the colors during the battle of Chattanooga.

– Several interesting entries from Kansas this week.  A marker in Baldwin discusses a community of “Free-state” settlers who founded the village along the old Santa Fe trail.

Three entries discuss the Battle of Black Jack, fought between “Free State” and “Slave State” forces in June 1856.  Some have called this the “first” battle of the Civil War.

– A memorial in Trading Post, Kansas commemorates the victims of the Marais Du Cygne massacre in May 1858.

– Of course the activities of ruffians and raiders did not end in Kansas when the war started in earnest.  A memorial in Lawrence, Kansas reminds passers of the civilians killed in the August 1863 raid on the town by William Quantrell.

– One of the largest cavalry actions of the war was fought at Mine Creek, near Pleasanton, Kansas,  on October 25, 1864.  The battle was fought as General Alfred Pleasonton pursued Confederate General Sterling Price’s forces after the Battle of Westport.

– Near Sunset, in Saint Landry Parish, Louisiana a marker indicates the site of a mass Confederate grave for those killed in the nearby Battle of Bayou Borbeux in 1863.

– A marker at Trophy Point, in the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York references the institutions fine collection of artillery pieces.  Many of these were Civil War weapons, some with quite interesting stories to tell.

– Another Stoneman’s Raid marker this week. This one in Polk County, North Carolina.

– New Hope, Pennsylvania boasts a IX-inch Dahlgren gun which served on board the USS Minnesota during the war.

– From the Virginia Southside this week, we have a collection of markers, entered by our correspondent from Richmond, related to the Wilson-Kautz Raid.   These generally follow the return route of the raiders as they fought a series of actions in their attempt to return to the Federal lines in Petersburg.

– A marker on the Brambleton Golf Course, just south of Leesburg, Virginia, indicates the final resting place of Private Richard Moran, one of Mosby’s Rangers.

Several markers of note outside the Civil War category this week.  Let me feature an entry related to the Seminole Wars.  A plaque simply titled “On this Spot December 28, 1835” indicates the location of the Dade Massacre.  The action triggered a seven year war between the U.S. and the Seminoles, in which many future Civil War leaders were involved.

Edwards Ferry – First Corps Crosses

The Federal I Corps, commanded by Major General John F. Reynolds, entered Loudoun County on June 19, 1863, marching from Herndon Station up to Guilford Station on the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad (the rails on that section had been pulled up earlier in the war).  The divisions dispersed around the banks of Broad Run and settled in to bivouac for the next few days.  (Note 1)

Guilford (later Sterling) Station Site Today

Guilford (later Sterling) Station Site Today

The Corps headquarters, for at least part of the stay, was located at Lanesville.  The house had a long history, dating to 1779.  It function as an “ordinary” for many years on  along the ancient Vestal’s Gap Road.  But with the opening of the Leesburg Pike in the 1820s, the Gap Road fell into disuse, and Lanesville remained as a family farm.

Lanesville House

Lanesville House

A Signal Corps detachment accompanied Reynolds and established a signal flag station on the high ground north of the station.  The detachment linked with similar signal detachments with the XI and XII Corps and the station on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland.  The Signal Corps also ran a telegraph loop along the now empty railroad line, connecting Guilford Station to Fairfax.  (Note 2)  The traffic, alerting Army commander Major General Joseph Hooker of Confederate movement into Maryland, passed over this ersatz communications network.  Such would cause issues on June 25 and 26.  (Perhaps, time permitting, I’ll cover the communications aspects in a separate post.)

Overlook in Claude Moore Park

Overlook in Claude Moore Park (approximate site of Signal Station)

Orders also arrived via the telegraph line.  In the early morning of June 25, just as Howard was (for the last time) directed to cross the Potomac, Reynolds was given command of the Right Wing of the Army of the Potomac – I, III, and XI Corps with Stahel’s Cavalry Division.  He was directed to take all three formations across the Potomac at Edwards Ferry and proceed to cover the South Mountain passes in Maryland. (Note 3)

The I Corps moved out of their bivouac area on the morning of the 25th, and proceeded down the Leesburg Pike (modern Virginia Highway 7).  The exact line of march is not specifically noted in the dispatches, but since only the upper bridge was in operation (with the bridge across the mouth of Goose Creek), likely I Corps fell in behind XI Corps‘ on the South bank.

I Corps March to Edwards Ferry

I Corps March to Edwards Ferry

Reynolds reached Edwards Ferry at around 11:30 a.m.  In a report dispatched to Hooker, he summarized the situation, “…Eleventh Corps still crossing the bridge, though the rear of it is now about over.  They have an immense number of led horses and colts… blocking up the roads and bridges…. I think you should be here as early as possible….  My instructions have not overtaken me yet….”  (Note 4)

While many have focused on the first half of this dispatch (about the horses), I’d lay emphasis on the second part, were Reynolds complained about a lack of instructions.  Hooker, responded back, “…Your instructions should have reached you long ago.  Please direct General Howard to have every animal led in his train, excepting officers’ horses, sent to the rear….”  (Note 5)

Reynolds remained at the crossing site at least for a few hours more.  At some point after 2 p.m., he forwarded a status to the Army headquarters (specifically to A.A.G. Brig. Gen. Seth Williams).  Aside from confirming the receipt of orders, Reynolds confirmed his instructions to Stahel and Howard to push out toward Crampton’s Pass.  The I Corps was to follow by way of Barnesvile, Adamstown, and Jefferson.  But the Third Corps would advance to the mouth of the Monocacy then on to Point of Rocks.  Reynolds added to his report, “The Third Corps is crossing the bridge now, though the trains of the First and Third are yet to cross.”  (Note 6)

Later at 6 p.m. Reynolds again reported, this time from Poolesville.  “I am here.  The troops are on the march by the routes I telegraphed you.  The trains are not all across the river yet.  I don’t think the troops can get farther than Barnesville and the mouth of the Monocacy to-night.”  (Note 7)

Thus as evening fell on the 25th, I Corps’ combat formations were across the Potomac, but their trains were still working their way across.   Since Reynolds last dispatch from Edwards Ferry seemed to coincided with the installation of the second pontoon bridge, perhaps that helped aleviate the bottleneck at the crossing point.  The Corps had covered about ten miles from Broad Run to Edwards Ferry; then 5 miles to Poolesville; and another 5 miles to Barnesville.

Not a bad day’s march, considering the Corps conducted a river crossing, in the rain.

The Line of March Today:  The Civil War enthusiast wishing to follow exactly in Reynold’s and the Iron Brigade’s footsteps is warned the road network has changed significantly and to cross the Potomac today, one must proceed well out of the way.  That said here’s my suggested tour route:

My suggested start point is Sterling, Virginia.  From Va. Highway 28, exit onto Church Road (CR 625), and at the first stoplight, turn left onto Ruritan Circle (CR 859).  After crossing the W&OD Trail, pull off to the left and visit the marker on the trail.  This is the area of Guilford Station.  The I Corps moved here from Herndon Station on June 19, and a telegraph line here linked into Fairfax.

From the trail continue east on Ruritan Circle back to Church Road.  After half a mile turn left onto Cascades Parkway (CR 637).  Continue north for one mile and turn at the SECOND entrance for Claude Moore Park.  This is Old Vestal’s Gap Road.  Immediately on your right is a trace of the original road.  A Civil War Trails marker stands near the visitor center.  You can follow a short (half mile round trip) trail to the overlook near the spot of the signal station.  This is also a great spot to get an overview of the route to Leesburg.  Not only is Sugarloaf Mountain visible, but the water towers near Fort Evans and also those near Poolesville, Md.

Sugarloaf Mountain from the Signal Station Overlook

Sugarloaf Mountain from the Signal Station Overlook

A short walk from the parking area to the east, along the old road trace, stands Lanesville, where Reynolds posted his headquarters.  The road was used by portions of Braddock’s ill-fated expedition of 1755.  In 1814, the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution were spirited away to Leesburg using the road.

From the park, exit back onto Cascades Parkway, turning right (north).  After a mile take the ramp onto Leesburg Pike (Va. 7) heading west toward Leesburg.  If you watch carefully, in about 2.3 miles, in the middle of the interchange with Sully Road (Va. 28), you’ll see the old pike toll house.  It stands on the south side of the highway, it’s roof just peaking over the modern Broad Run bridge.  In 1863 a bridge here crossed at the toll house.  This was the only crossing point of the run in this area  and likely I Corps crossed in front of the toll house.

Continue on the Pike for another 2.3 miles and turn right (north), onto Janelia Farm Road.  Follow the road to a “T” and turn left onto Riverside Parkway.  Follow the Parkway until it reaches Lansdowne Boulevard and turn right into Lansdowne community.  Continue to Riverpoint Drive, and turn north (right).  Turn east (right) on Squirrel Ridge Place, following it to the Elizabeth Mills Regional Park.  As with the XI Corps tour, you can walk along the Potomac to the site of Edwards Ferry.

I’ll cover some of the sites on the Maryland side in a later post, to avoid adding to an already long post.



  1. Itinerary of the Army of the Potomac and co-operating forces, June 5-July 31, 1863.  OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial 43, p. 143.
  2. Report of Capt. Lemuel B. Norton.  OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial 43, p. 200.
  3. Orders to Commanding Officer First Corps, June 25, 1863.  OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial 45, p. 305-6.
  4. Dispatch from Reynolds to Hooker.  OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial45, p. 313.
  5. Dispatch from Hooker to Reynolds.  OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial 45, p. 313-4.
  6. Dispatch from Reynolds to General S. Williams.  OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial 45, p. 315-6.
  7. Dispatch from Reynolds to General S. Williams. OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial 45, p. 317.

Edwards Ferry – More Notes on the “Numbers”

One good thing about the blogging format, at least the way I’m using it here, you get to see my research on this subject as it evolves.   The down side of course, YOU get to see my research on this subject as it evolves, warts and all!  Such is the case here today, as I was reviewing some old notes.

I’d completely forgotten about a study in 1963 by Colonel A.B. Johnson.  Johnson explored the logistical issues for the passage of the Army of the Potomac through Loudoun County.  His study on the topic was far, far more exhausting than mine, and focused more on the length of supply trains needed to keep the army moving.

Simply put, Johnson calculated many more of the variables, for instance the break in the line of march between units and the interspersing of officers horses.  He also tabulated the raw number of horses in the column – 15,000 for the cavalry, 6,100 for the artillery, and 1,948 of the officers of the infantry – totaling 35,048.  And another bit for those interested in the logistical numbers, he calculated, based on a factor of thirty supply wagons for every thousand men, that 3,000 wagons supported the Army of the Potomac.

Get the calculators out.  Johnson estimated for 77,000 infantry (a number higher than the actual returns in the Official Records), counting officer’s rides and breaks for the units, that column of fours along was 23 miles long.  The Cavalry column was 8.5 miles.  And the artillery covered 10 miles.  Those 3,000 wagons presented another 35 miles of traffic.

My “straw man” numbers were based on the “engineered throughput” of the bridge.  Johnson’s are more practical for staff planning.  So let me compare those:

Engineered Throughput Johnson’s “Staff Planning Throughput” Actual
Length of Combat Arms Column: 26 miles 41 miles Note 1
Length of Trains: 22 miles (Note 2) 35 miles Note 1
Total Column: 48 miles 76 miles (83.5 miles?) (Note 3) 195 miles (Note 4)
Time to Pass at 3 mph: 16 hours 25 to 28 hours 65 hours
  • Note 1:  Separating the actual length of the combat arms and supply trains is next to impossible, as the Corps crossed with their trains.
  • Note 2:  I’ll accept Johnson’s estimates on the supply train numbers but reference the engineer’s 40 feet planning length of a wagon, vice Johnson’s 60 feet.
  • Note 3:  Johnson arrives at a number of 83.5 miles, but his numbers add up to 76 miles.  I’ll offer both figures here.
  • Note 4:  This is a swag on my part – 65 hours at 3 mph produces 195 miles.

Thus, the “perfectly harmonious crossing” which is only governed by the bridge’s engineered capacity would take 16 hours.  The “perfectly ordered” crossing based on a staff assessment of the numbers would take around 28 hours.  The reality was 65 hours.

Johnson’s numbers relate another important factor to consider.  Take the higher number of 83.5 miles.  Imagine the crossing made today, using US 15 between and the modern bridge at Point of Rocks, Maryland.  On that route, Gettysburg is roughly 60 miles north of Leesburg.  Thus as the lead elements of the Army of the Potomac reached Cemetery Hill, the end of the column would still be 23 or more miles SOUTH of Leesburg!

At any rate, you have my “straw man” of 16 hours to pass through Edwards Ferry, in a theoretical world with all the traffic lined up like well disciplined geese.  A more practical assessment was a 28 hours, if all the formations were behaving smartly.  Then the reality of 65 hours.

Engineered Throughput Johnson’s “Staff Planning Throughput” Actual
Length of Combat Arms Column 26 miles 41 miles Note 1
Length of Trains 35 miles (Note 2) 35 miles Note 1
Total Column 61 miles 76 miles (83.5 miles?) 195 miles (Note 3)
Time to Pass at 3 mph 20 hours 25 to 28 hours 65 hours

Edwards Ferry – The Eleventh Corps Crossing

Getting back to a blogging cycle after a week of work, let me shift the focus a bit with regard to Edwards Ferry.  After site orientation, time lines (part 1) (part 2) (part 3) (part 4), and a discussion of the bridge engineering and planning factors, now I need to look at the units that crossed, and how they got there.  Such serves two purposes.  Such allows me to share the places and things I’ve found while scouting about Loudoun County.  But also allows me to discuss what was one heck of a traffic jam by the river.

The first corps to make the crossing at Edwards Ferry was General O.O. Howard’s XI Corps.  The Corps arrived in the vicinity of Leesburg on June 17, marching from Centreville to Trappe Rock along Goose Creek (said to be close to Cow-Horn Ford).  The McDowell Maps of 1862 place Trappe Rock near Murry’s Ford along a side road into Leesburg.  However, the placename also referred (and still does today) to a quarry further north near the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad.

XI Corps Camp near Leesburg

XI Corps Camp near Leesburg

The distance between the quarry and Murry’s Ford is about two miles, along Belmont Ridge on the east side of Goose Creek.  There’s several ways to interpret this.  First, if the military personnel considered Trappe Rock the point along Murry’s Ford, and marked such on the map, then that’s were they were, regardless of the local name.  On the other hand, the map may be wrong and Howard’s men camped further north.  However, I’m inclined to press the former, as the reports did not mention the location of the railroad grade (the bridge there was destroyed in 1861). And it is possible the Corps spread across the entire two miles of the ridge after their 17 to 20 mile march from Centreville.  Also indicated on the map is the location of “Burnt Bridge” where the Leesburg Pike crossed Goose Creek.  This bridge was destroyed in 1861, but another was placed in that vicinity as the Army advanced toward Leesburg.

Murry’s Ford  today features an abandoned concrete bridge dating to 1916.  The creek at this point is much different than at the time of the war.  In 1863 a stone dam stood about 2000 feet downstream.  Another dam stood a few hundred yards upsteam, supporting Cochran’s Mill.  These dams, several Goose Creek Canal locks, and the mill are now under water impounded behind the 25 foot tall Goose Creek Dam about a mile downstream, built in 1961.

Murry's Ford Bridge Today

Murry's Ford Bridge Today

If instead the XI Corps stayed near the quarry, well the view today is a bit less tranquil:

Trappe Rock Quarry

Trappe Rock Quarry

The quarry is known among geologists for its goosecreekite, a rather unique zeolite mineral deposit.  (And no, I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night in case you are wondering.)

At any rate, the men of the XI Corps received several days rest along the banks of the Goose.  In the evening of June 23, Hooker ordered Howard to cross at the Edwards Ferry Bridges and move to Harper’s Ferry.  In a half day march, the Corps reached Edwards Ferry at around 1 p.m. on the 24th.   This line of march passed near Belmont, a Federal-style mansion dating to 1799.  Perhaps with a bit of irony, the estate was first patented by Thomas Lee, of Stratford, an ancestor of General Robert E. Lee.

But the XI Corps was not to cross the Potomac, yet.  General Hooker countermanded his original order, and Howard held on the south bank of Goose Creek, near Edwards Ferry.  The Corps spent the night on what is today the Lansdowne community.   Howard’s report places his headquarters near the pontoon bridge (recall only the upper bridge was in place at that time).  At this time, the upper pontoon bridge and the pontoons across the mouth of Goose Creek were in place.  Recall the engineers were still asking where to place the second bridge at this time.

Hooker continued to reverse directions through the evening.  At 7:30 p.m. on the 24th, General Hooker ordered Howard to secure the bridge and depots on the Maryland side.  But that order was countermanded by yet another change at 11:35 p.m. that night, tasking, once again, Howard to cross on the 25th and move toward Harpers Ferry.  At last, Howard was to cross.

Mouth of the Goose from the Maryland Shore

Mouth of the Goose from the Maryland Shore

By Howard’s account, the Corps left camp at 3:45 a.m. and began crossing.  By 11:15 a.m. Howard reports from Point of Rocks, roughly twenty marching miles distant.  The report stated the lead division of the Corps had crossed the Monocacy.  However, the crossing was not exactly a smooth operation.  At about the same time Howard reported, General Reynolds had reached Edwards Ferry in front of First Corps.  Here he found the trail elements of XI Corps still crossing.

Looking back at the “numbers” for a bridge crossing, considering about 9,000 infantry in the column, a solid file of four abreast theoretically was just over a mile long.  The Corps’ 26 field pieces, caissons, and other battery wagons added another mile to the column.  Add to that length attachments and trains.  In theory, if the column were tightly compacted and in absolute perfect order, it might have been only three miles long.

Reality was Howard’s Corps was spread out between the Monocacy, through Poolesville, back to Edwards Ferry – well over 10 miles.  Certainly indicating the raw “numbers” are not a realistic measure.  But recall Reynold’s report at 11:30 on the 24th.  One issue was the extra horses taken by XI Corps across the river, which slowed the passing considerably.

Still the delay due to extra ponies was not nearly as long as the delay due to Hooker’s indecision.


UPDATE:  Completely forgot to match the place names to the modern road infrastructure.  While the exact line of march is both difficult to trace, one can at least see the main points along the way.  From downtown Leesburg, take Market Street/Leesburg Pike (Va Business 7) to the east, toward Alexandria.  Turn south (right) onto Plaza Street (CR 643).  After just over a half-mile, the road intersects  the Leesburg bypass (US 15 and Va 7) at a stoplight, continue straight as the name of the road changes to Sycolin Road (still CR 643).  Sycolin offers a winding course through a largely rural area of Loudoun County.

In about 4.4 miles, Sycolin crosses Goose Creek, and the old Murray Ford Bridge is upstream (south).  If you do stop to look at the bridge ruins, exercise caution.  The road is not heavily traveled, and the shoulders are ample, yet other drivers are not expecting to see a parked vehicle there.

Continue east on Sycolin for 3/4 mile, crossing over the Dulles Greenway Toll Road.  This section of the road will soon sprout a subdivision, but currently it offers a great view over the Creek toward Leesburg.  After 3/4 mile, turn north (left) on Belmont Ridge Road (CR 659).  After about 1 1/2 miles, on your left are entrances to the Trappe Rock Quarry.  The safe way to see the quarry is by way of the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Trail Park (two miles from the intersection of Sycolin).  The trail out to the Goose Creek Railroad Bridge site is roughly 1 1/2 mile.  Overlooks along the trail offer views of the quarry.

Otherwise continue on Belmont Ridge Road until the intersection with Leesburg Pike (Va. 7).  Turn east (right) on the Pike.   After a mile, notice the large house on the golf course to the right.  This is Belmont, dating to 1799.  Approximately 1 1/2 mile from Belmont Ridge Road, at the overpass, take the exit for Lansdowne Boulevard.  Follow that Boulevard through the intersection of Riverside Parkway.  Continue to Riverpoint Drive, and turn north (right).  Turn east (right) on Squirrel Ridge Place, following it to the Elizabeth Mills Regional Park.

The XI Corps camped across what is today subdivision and golf course.  The trail from the parking lot passes through the course and follows the Potomac River to the mouth of Goose Creek, mostly on the banks of Goose Creek.  The route outlined here is not an “in the footsteps” route, but rather an approximation bowing to the modern road network and private property lines.