Blackburn's Ford

Blackburn's Ford (HMSLU)

Location: Centreville, VA 20121 Fairfax County
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Country: United States of America
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N 38° 48.204', W 77° 26.977'

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Bullets "Humming Like a Bee-hive"

On July 18, 1861, Gen. Irvin McDowell, the Union army commander, learned that the Confederate army had withdrawn from its Centreville earthworks to a strong defensive position behind Bull Run. McDowell ordered Gen. Daniel Tyler to reconnoiter the stream but not bring on an engagement. Tyler accompanied Col. Israel Richardson's brigade to Blackburn's Ford. Arriving about noon, Tyler and Richardson found a cleared field sloping down from woods to the creek's banks, which were thick with underbrush and trees. Tyler decided to test the Confederate position after seeing enemy artillery in the distance.

Two Federal cannon opened fire, and a brief artillery duel was followed by a Union infantry attack as the novice soldiers of the 1st Massachusetts Infantry swept down the hillside toward the ford. Suddenly a volley of Confederate musketry erupted from the woods across the creek. Repeated attempts to take the ford failed when volley after volley of bullets "humming like a bee-hive" force the New Englanders back. The contest ended about 4:00 when the Federals withdrew. Each side had engaged about 3,000 men; the thick vegetation helped reduce the casualties (68 Confederates and 83 Federals).

The clash at Blackburn's Ford proved a moral victory for the Southerners, who celebrated the Union repulse as a major battle. It demoralized the Federals, who experienced their first combat and learned that the Bull Run fords would be fiercely contested. Two Union soldiers received the Medal of Honor for their bravery.

(Sidebar): Three days later, on July 21, there again was action at Blackburn's Ford when Confederates approached it to flank the Federals. The 5th South Carolina and the 17th and 18th Mississippi under command of Gen. D.R. Jones attacked Col. Thomas Davies' New York regiments at Grigsby's Hill and were repulsed. During the Federal retreat, Confederate forces under command of Gen. Milledge Bonham and Col. James Longstreet moved across the fords to break the Union line of retreat, but Federal forces had established a new line of defense on the outskirts of Centreville.
Series This marker is part of the Virginia Civil War Trails series
Placed ByCivil War Trails
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Thursday, September 4th, 2014 at 2:44am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 287283 N 4297810
Decimal Degrees38.80340000, -77.44961667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 48.204', W 77° 26.977'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 48' 12.24" N, 77° 26' 58.62" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)703, 571
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 7122 Centreville Rd, Centreville VA 20121, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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