Efforts to replace the Balls Bluff marker

If you track the local news here in Loudoun County, an article which ran in Leesburg Today mentioned efforts to replace a highway marker lost during the fall.  The marker noted the battle of Balls Bluff, fought October 21, 1861.  Originally, I noticed the marker was “down” in November.  It appeared over the years the point the marker attached to the pole had simply rusted out.  Being a “good boy scout” I left it in place, but notified authorities.  Unfortunately, someone picked up the marker at some point later on, leaving us with a lonely post along the highway and a gap in our public-facing historical interpretation. (See the full news article on the Leesburg Today web page.)

Photo by J.J. Prats, April 2007, courtesy HMDB.
Marker in better days, photo by J.J. Prats, April 2007, courtesy HMDB.

Jim Morgan and the Friends of Balls Bluff are now working to resolve that by replacing the marker.  Jim is, as many will recall, the author of the definitive history of the battle. The Friends are currently raising the necessary money to cover the replacement of the marker:

Checks should be made out to Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, noting the money is for the Friends of Ball’s Bluff sign project, and sent to: Friends of Ball’s Bluff, c/o Temple Hall Farm Regional Park, 15789 Temple Hall Lane, Leesburg, VA 020176.

As the old marker’s 1927 casting mold is long gone, the Friends are taking the opportunity to update the marker’s text:

Just to the east, 1,700 Union troops crossed the Potomac River and clashed with 1,700 Confederates on 21 Oct. 1861. The previous evening, a Union reconnaissance patrol had mistaken a row of trees for a small group of Confederate tents. Brig. Gen. Charles Stone ordered an early-morning raid on this ‘camp.’ Confederates under Col. Nathan Evans confronted the Federals, who were then reinforced. Col. and Sen. Edward D. Baker took command and became the only U.S. senator ever killed in combat. The Federals were routed as they retreated across the river. Congress created the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War to investigate the defeat.

The original text, transcribed on HMDB, read:

One mile east occurred the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, October 21, 1861. A Union force, which had crossed the river at this point, was driven back over it by the Confederates.

Yes… more words in the text… keep in mind that the 1927 marker was written for the “Model T” travelers, so large font text.  So we need an updated text that caters to the contemporary audience.  The other point is that the marker indicated “one mile east.”  Well when the Virginia Department of Transportation moved the marker from US 15 Business to the US 15 by-pass sometime a few decades ago, that was not updated.

There are some suggestions as to placing the marker at a point which has some direct link to the battle (i.e. near one of the old road traces or closer to the battlefield).  More on that as details are worked out.

And… as the article notes, the Friends also have their annual fundraising dinner just around the corner:

The Friends of Ball’s Bluff also is planning its Ball’s Bluff Remembrance Day Dinner Feb. 22 at The Woodlands at Algonkian Regional Park in Sterling.

Morgan said the annual fundraising dinner—formerly known as the Edward Baker Day Dinner—has been renamed in response to concerns that the reference to President Lincoln’s close friend and Union commander who was killed at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff seemed to restrict the commemoration to honoring only one side of those involved in the conflict.

Morgan invites the public to enjoy what he calls “a rather delectable menu” and to hear renowned Civil War author Frank O’Reilly tell the story of the soldiers who fought at Ball’s Bluff and Fredericksburg. The 6 p.m. social hour is followed with dinner at 6:30 p.m., during which Reilly will speak. Dinner is $45 per person and reservations should be made to Dale Hook at NOVA Parks at 703-352-5900. Payment is required at the time of reservation. REHAU is the sponsor for the dinner.

Please consider donating to help the marker replacement project and attending the dinner.


Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

One thought on “Efforts to replace the Balls Bluff marker

  1. The same thing happened with the Mosby marker at Atoka, also one of the old ones. We set it aside behind a tree, contacted VDOT and VDHR, and a day later the marker was missing.

    All the Best, Rich Gillespie Director of Education Mosby Heritage Area Association Post Office Box 1497 Middleburg VA 20118 (540) 687-5578–OFFICE (540) 822-4351–HOME rgillespie@mosbyheritagearea.org Visit us on the web at http://www.mosbyheritagearea.org “Preservation through Education”

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