160 Years Ago Today: Battle of Hoke’s Run or Falling Waters

On the morning of Tuesday, July 2, 1861, Union Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson crossed the Potomac River at Williamsport, Maryland with two brigades totaling approximately 8,000 men. Confederate Col. Thomas J. Jackson’s 4,000-man brigade was ordered to delay the Federal advance toward Martinsburg, then a town in Virginia (today, West Virginia), approximately 13.5 miles south…

160 Years Ago Today: Engagement at Mathias Point

At the end of May, the Union Potomac Flotilla failed to silence a Confederate shore battery near Aquia Landing on the Potomac River. Nearly a month later, Flotilla Commander James H. Ward sought to clear Mathias Point of Confederate skirmishers, who were using the woods as cover to harass passing ships with small arms fire.…

160 Years Ago Today: Skirmish at Frankfort and Patterson’s Creek

In mid-June, Col. Lewis “Lew” Wallace, commanding the 11th Indiana Infantry Regiment, arrived in Cumberland, Maryland across the Potomac River from Virginia with a mission to guard the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. His 11th Indiana routed a Confederate force out of Romney, Virginia on June 11, then withdrew. Confederate reinforcements under Col. Ambrose Powell Hill…

160 Years Ago Today: The Engagement at Vienna

On May 24, 1861, Union troops crossed the Potomac River into northern Virginia and brushed aside a token defense at Arlington Heights and Alexandria. A few days later, on June 1st, a Union cavalry patrol was chased out of Fairfax Courthouse and a small skirmish erupted at Arlington Mills. Though minor, these incidents convinced Union…

160 Years Ago Today: Engagement at Romney

Col. Lewis "Lew" Wallace, commanding the 11th Indiana Infantry Regiment, was a bit of an aberration. He was a lawyer and friend of Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton, and would go on to write the novel Ben Hur (1880). Wallace used his political connections to get his regiment, styled in French-inspired "zouave" jackets, transferred closer…

160 Years Ago Today: Engagement at Arlington Mills

A grist mill on Four Mile Run in Arlington County, Virginia was a prominent landmark along the Columbia Turnpike, approximately four miles southwest of Long Bridge over the Potomac River and 12 miles east of Fairfax Court House. In the early morning hours of Saturday, June 1, 1861, Union and Confederate forces clashed around the…

160 Years Ago Today: First Battle of Fairfax Court House

The First Battle of Fairfax Court House was fought on Saturday, June 1, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Lt. Charles H. Tompkins and Confederate forces commanded by Capt. John Q. Marr at Fairfax Court House, Virginia during the American Civil War. This small and inconclusive battle was the first land engagement of the war…

160 Years Ago: Engagement at Aquia Creek

By the end of May, there was no longer any doubt as to which side Virginia would take in the American Civil War. On May 23rd, Virginia voters ratified secession by a large majority, and the next day, Union troops crossed the Potomac River and seized Arlington Heights and Alexandria, Virginia. Several small fleets of…

160 Years Ago Today: Alexandria Occupied; Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth Killed

Over the previous weeks, a tense standoff between federal forces and the Commonwealth of Virginia had threatened to spill over into all out war. On April 17, 1861, delegates at the Virginia Secession Convention in Richmond passed an ordinance of secession, pending the results of a popular referendum to be held on May 23rd. U.S.…

160 Years Ago Today: Harpers Ferry Armory Burned

First Lieutenant Roger Jones, a cousin of Robert E. Lee, was on recruiting duty at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania when ordered to take a small force south through Maryland to protect the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, a small mountain town nested at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. Though Virginia had…