Today is the 151st anniversary of the Battle of Ball's Bluff (Battle of Leesburg) in Virginia.
We've been commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War for about a year and a half now, so it is well we take a look back.
In October of 1861, things were still somewhat disorganized - the first major battle (First Manassas) having been fought only three months before.
By October of 1862, two of the bloodiest battles of the war had been fought -Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing) in April 1862 and Antietam in September, 1862. So Ball's Bluff by then was probably just a footnote. A sad footnote, true, featuring Union dependence on a map drawn without a steep bluff overlooking the Potomac that would be a prominent part of the battle. A battle that took the life of a standing U.S. Senator; a man who Abraham Lincoln named a son after. A battle that never should have happened (not that any battle ever "should have happened").
Ball's Bluff was also a battle that pointed out the importance of rivers in fighting the Civil War. So many times we live near rivers with no clue as to why people, back in the "old days", settled near rivers.
Rivers weren't just for pretty or for recreation. For so much of our history, and the history of mankind, rivers were our main highways, our water supply, and sometimes even the fertilization of our fields through flooding.
To the citizens of Civil War Virgina, the Potomac was a lot more than the river that George Washington made famous.
The Mississippi would become a major object of battle and control in the West. As I blogged about last Sunday, too many of us think of the Civil War as a war fought on land, and fought only in the Eastern states.
But there's more.
Ball's Bluff, like so many Civil War battles, sat neglected and endangered for many, many years. Developers almost got it in the 1980's but failed. Gradually the park is growing in size. A 150th anniversary reenactment was held last October, one I had hoped to visit but the September flooding of my area and my neighborhood forced us to change our plans. Still, like so many Civil War battlefields, it is located in a residential neighborhood, from what I understand.
So I will wish Ball's Bluff a "happy" 151st. May it continue to grow, and may I manage to visit it one day.