The Washington Times - July 14, 2008, 12:11PM

Yesterday was a beautiful day to revisit Balls Bluff, one of the smaller battle areas and the only batlefield in Louidon County, VA. It was the site of a Union debacle, as the Union commanders thought they spotted Confederate tents across the Potomac from their site on Harrison Island in the middle of the Potomac. Fording the river and scaling the 150’ sheer bluff walls of the hillside, they found the tents were trees, by which time the Confederates were waiting for them, driving the Yankees back over the cliff and if history can be believed, letting the Potomac run red with blood.

Having not been there in some 20 years, we were surprised at the many improvements in the battlefield area since the Northern Virginia Regional Authority assumed control of it.  Now there are some six hiking trails, well marked; the interpretive signage is quite well done with signs everywhere.  One thing that is needed is the “you are there” markers on each sign, it can be difficult to to orient oneself to the signs and the area.


There are benches in the shade at numerous sites, and the now well worn trails are easy to follow. I remember being there one fall day many years ago, when the trails were leaf covered and with no directional signs, it was a coin toss as to which way to go.

The parking lot is not as close to the Cemetery as it  used to be, but it easy to find and there is even one porta-potty there for immediate needs.

The only difficulty we could find was at the cliff overlook stop, with a bench, but any view of the cliff side and the river below was blocked by the bushes and undergrowth which has grown so much that all you see are trees, with the Maryland countryside visible only by the top of a barn in Poolesville.  Some work on the area’s side views needs to be undertaken, no small feat in and of itself.

There were about 20 others out there  yesterday, even with about 90 degree temperature, but all had come prepared with bottles of water, and towels.  Again, the paths make the hiking easy, and the overall atmosphere is one of peace and quiet, belying the number of lives lost on October 21, 1861.

One of the smallest National Cemeteries in the country is there, some 53 graves and burials are inside a well tended plot surrounded by a brick and stone wall; almost all are  unknown.  Outside the walled area to the left is the marked grave of one Confederate soldier who fell there.  Another marker near the cemetery markes the falling place of a congressman by the name of Baker, the only congressman to fight in the war, it is said.

Balls Bluff is easy to find, out Rout 7 from Tyson’s Corner to the Rt.15 bypass; then turning right on Battlefield Parkway, again with obvious signs, and a left turn onto Balls Bluff Road through the subdivision.  When the road ends, you are at the park.

Longest trail is about 1.7 miles, and well worth the trek.  Tours are given at 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p .m. on weekends, and periodically throughout the year.

A treasure, right in our own back  yard.