The Battle of Blackburn’s Ford was fought on Thursday, July 18, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler and Confederate forces commanded by Brig. Gen. James Longstreet in Prince William and Fairfax Counties, Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was a Confederate victory and resulted in 151 total casualties.
In mid-July 1861, Union Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell’s 35,000-man Army of Northeastern Virginia advanced into Virginia toward the railroad junction at Manassas. Standing in his way was the 22,000-man Confederate Army of the Potomac under Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard. At Centreville, McDowell ordered Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler’s division to look for a crossing over Bull Run Creek at Blackburn or Mitchell’s fords. At Blackburn Ford, Tyler saw only a few Confederate artillery pieces and ordered forward a single brigade commanded by Col. Israel B. Richardson.
Tyler failed to see Brig. Gen. James Longstreet’s brigade hidden in the woods on the opposite shore. The inexperienced combatants subsequently slugged it out in the oppressive afternoon heat, until the 12th New York Infantry Regiment began to withdraw. After several hours of fighting, Union troops fully retreated in the face of Confederate reinforcements under Col. Jubal A. Early.
When the smoke cleared, 83 Union and 68 Confederate soldiers lay dead or wounded. The casualties paled in comparison to the First Battle of Bull Run, which would be fought nearby just a few days later. But it set the stage for what was to come. The victory raised morale in the green Southern recruits, while dampening their opponents’ spirits. Bruised at Blackburn’s Ford, McDowell decided to advance west and flank the Confederate army at Stone Bridge over Bull Run Creek, igniting the first major battle of the war.