Contains more than 20 maps, diagrams and illustrations
On the night of 20 October 1861, Union Brig. Gen. Charles P. Stone put into action a plan to attack what had been reported as a small, unguarded Confederate camp between the Potomac River at Ball's Bluff and Leesburg, Virginia. Later, after Stone learned there was no camp, he allowed the operation to continue, now modified to capture Leesburg itself. But a lack of adequate communication between commanders, problems with logistics, and violations of the principles of war hampered the operation. What originally was to be a small raid instead turned into a military disaster. The action resulted in the death of a popular U.S. senator and long-time friend of President Abraham Lincoln, the arrest and imprisonment of General Stone, and the creation of a congressional oversight committee that would keep senior Union commanders looking over their shoulders for the remainder of the war. For such a small and relatively insignificant military action, Ball's Bluff would cast a long shadow. The purpose of a Ball's Bluff staff ride is to learn from the past by analyzing the battle through the eyes of the men who were there, both leaders and rank-and-file soldiers. The battle contains many lessons in command and control, communications, intelligence, weapons technology versus tactics, and the ever-present confusion, or "fog," of battle. Hopefully, these lessons will allow us to gain insights into decision making and the human condition during combat. Today, the battlefield is enclosed in the 225-acre Ball's Bluff Regional Park, managed by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. A short trail includes interpretive markers and a small national cemetery containing the remains of fifty-four soldiers.