October 21, 1861: Battle of Ball’s Bluff

A complete fiasco for the Union, the minor defeat at Ball’s Bluff was not important in itself, but it became a cause celebre due to the death of Colonel Edward Baker, a Senator from California and a friend of Abraham Lincoln.  Baker at the battle of Ball’s Bluff achieved the dubious distinction of being the only United States Senator ever killed in battle, and his death was seized upon by Republican critics of the war policy of the administration, which they deemed too soft, as an excuse for a full-fledged Congressional investigation and led to the creation of the Congressional Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War.  For the rest of the War Union commanders had to worry about not only fighting the Confederates but being crucified in front of the Committee if they did not produce victories.

Brigadier General Charles Stone, in overall command of the operation, became the scapegoat in defeat.  McClellan had him arrested, under orders from Secretary of War Stanton, on February 8, 1862, and cries that he was a traitor resounded in Congress.  He was held without charges until August 17, 1863.  Stone’s treatment was shameful and he never held an active command again during the War, except for a brief period as a brigade commander in 1864 before his resignation from the Army on September 13, 1864.  After the War, on the recommendation of General Sherman who held him in high esteem, he served from 1870-1883 in the Egyptian Army, rising to the rank of Lieutenant General and Chief of Staff.  His last service to the United States was serving as Chief Engineer in the construction of the pedestal and foundation for the Statue of Liberty. Here is his report on the battle: (more…)

Published in: on October 21, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 21, 1861: Battle of Ball’s Bluff  
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