Battle of Ball's Bluff Regional Park
Surrounding Ball's Bluff National Cemetery, this regional park preserves the site of the Battle of Ball's Bluff, the first Civil War engagement to take place in Loudoun County. Hiking trails and interpretive signs aid in understanding this important and tragic part of American history.
Ball's Bluff National Cemetery
The diminutive Ball’s Bluff National Cemetery is located approximately two miles from the Town of Leesburg, in Loudoun County, Va. Within the cemetery, which is enclosed by a brick wall, lie the remains of 54 soldiers who died during the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. The remains are interred in 25 graves, and the only known interment is James Allen of Co. H, 15th Massachusetts Infantry.
Year round, dawn to dusk.
Office Hours: Monday thru Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed federal holidays except Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
Visitation Hours: Open daily from dawn to dusk.
(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)
Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park offers several options to enhance your visit to the park. Join one of our expert volunteer guides as they bring history to life or meander through the park on your own for a self-guided tour.
Battlefield tours are open to the public every Saturday and Sunday at 11am and 1pm from early April through the end of November. These free tours are conducted by our volunteer interpreters and offer amazing insight to the battle that took place at Ball’s Bluff. Tours last from one to two hours and require a moderate ability to walk approximately one mile on woodland trails.
Those wishing to take tours on their own may pick up a brochure at the visitor’s kiosk. You may also supplement your self-guided tour by downloading a free audio tour.
The Battle of Ball’s Bluff began the morning of Oct. 21, 1861, with Union and Confederate forces evenly matched. The Confederates were more experienced in battlefield strategy, however. As the conflict continued, Southern troops forced the Union army back toward the bluff. The decisive blow came in the afternoon when Col. Edward D. Baker, the Union commander, was shot in the head and killed. His death spurred on the Confederate soldiers, and a Union retreat was sounded. Some Union soldiers escaped down a cart path, but the majority was forced down a steep and rocky 80-foot bluff. Soldiers who reached the Potomac River tried swimming to Harrision Island or escaped by boat or logs. Many drowned, weighed down by their clothes and ammunition. Others were shot by Confederate troops firing down from the top of the bluff. Still others were captured and marched into Leesburg.
Among the many wounded abandoned on the Virginia shore when Union forces retreated was a young first lieutenant in the 20th Massachusetts, Oliver Wendell Holmes. Although wounded several times during the war, he survived and became one of the most notable justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Since the 1950s, there has been periodic interest in reinterring the remains of this cemetery to Culpeper National Cemetery and disposing of the property. Public sentiment as well as congressional censure has blocked any such action.