Practically every work day, I drive through Dranesville, Virginia. I’ve discussed the battle fought there in 1861 in a lengthy post. The cross-roads there were mentioned often in dispatches. Several skirmishes were fought around that area. Confederate troops marching to Leesburg, and eventually on to Sharpsburg, Maryland, passed through in September 1862. The following June, a significant portion of the Army of the Potomac made their way to Edwards Ferry, this time heading for destiny at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. And General J.E.B. Stuart passed, practically right behind the Federals, on part of his ride around the Union army on the way into Pennsylvania. There really should be a Gettysburg Campaign marker there. I have often said a proper Civil War tour of Northern Virginia should include at least a short stop at Dranesville, if for nothing else to consider the wartime road network.
Over the last six months I’ve watched some tree clearing on the north side of Leesburg Pike (Modern Virginia 7).
A new housing development has taken root there.
Workers have started landscaping.
I know, previous development had encroached and suffocated this battlefield years ago. Practically nothing remained from which to “take in” the field as it must have looked during the war. Even the terrain elevations were altered by gas stations, strip malls, and public buildings. Truth be known, we “lost” this battlefield decades ago.
Heck, at the time of the 1861 battle, the wooded area now being cleared was likely open pasture. So to some degree, we are restoring the original treeline. But the apartments and other buildings will certainly remove the last undeveloped parcel on the north side of the road, where the Federals stood during that battle.
But I cannot help but think of the other battlefield I often pass on the way to work – Chantilly. And what might have been.
If we had set aside at least some of the ground.
If we had educated and interpreted more.
If we had countered development with reasonable constraints.