The Civil War News & Views Open Discussion Forum

October 21, 2011

On this date 150 years ago, Leesburg, Virginia, witnessed battles between rebels and Federal troops, the latter under General Charles Stone's command. Stone was pushing toward Leesburg on orders from Washington and was assisted by Colonel Edward Baker, who was shuttling troops across the Potomac River from Ball's Bluff and Edward's Ferry. When fire from Confederate troops succeeded in pushing the Union troops back at Ball's Bluff and a retreat was in order, Colonel Baker was killed. The men attempted to withdraw but panic and confusion, as well as steep and hilly terrain along the river bank, prevented an orderly retreat. Men were drowned and shot when boats swamped and as the Union troops attempted to escape via the steep cliffs. Losses were severe, 49 killed, 158 wounded, and 714 missing and presumed drowned. Confederates tallied there casualties at 36 dead, 117 wounded, 12 missing.

The disorderly and costly defeat of the Union troops caused a public outcry against General Stone who was charged by the press as being an inept commander, friendly toward the enemy and a traitor to the Northern cause. Colonel Baker, a former Senator from Oregon and a friend of President Lincoln, was considered a martyr. There was little critism aimed at General McClellan under whose orders the entire operation was carried out. The South was overjoyed at the victory and General Nathan Evans was given wide public acclaim as the hero of the Battle of Leesburg, or Ball's Bluff, Virginia.