Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Balls Bluff National Cemetery

In October, 1861, Union forces tried to cross the Potomac River near Leesburg, Virginia and were disastrously repulsed on the steep cliffs at a place called Ball’s Bluff.  Many fleeing Union soldiers were forced into the Potomac River, where they drowned.  Bodies of Union soldiers floated down the Potomac and washed up in Washington, demoralizing Northerners.

Most of the fallen Union soldiers found on or near the battlefield were buried in shallow, mass graves.  In 1865, the Governor Andrew Curtin of Pennsylvania tried to have Pennsylvania’s dead returned home.  Four years after the war, however, individual remains could not be identified, so the U.S. Army decided to establish a cemetery here for the Union dead.

Twenty five graves here in one of America’s smallest national cemeteries contain the partial remains of 54 Union soldiers killed at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff on October 21, 1861.  All are unidentified Union soldiers, except Pvt. James Allen of Northbridge, Massachusetts, who served with the 15th Massachusetts Infantry.

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