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Ball's Bluff Battlefield Expansion Project
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January 2017: Expansion Approved
Loudoun County’s nomination for expansion of the Ball's Bluff Battlefield National Historic Landmark has been approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the expansion of the Civil War landmark from its current 76 acres near Leesburg to include over 3,300 acres of riverfront land on both sides of the Potomac River and including Harrison Island, Maryland.

Approval of the expansion marks the successful culmination of a long-term project spearheaded by the Loudoun County Heritage Commission as directed by the Board of Supervisors. The original designation included only the land on which the final and most intense fighting took place and the steep bluffs that Union troops moved down as they tried to flee. The expanded Ball's Bluff National Historic Landmark now includes: 
  • The land and earthworks along both sides of Edwards Ferry Road where cavalry units ranged; 
  • The earthen fort from which the Confederates observed and directed the battle; 
  • The federal artillery positions on the heights above the Maryland shore from which the Confederate positions were bombarded; and 
  • Harrison Island which served as a staging area for the Federal troops trying to cross the storm swollen Potomac.
National historic landmarks are nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. They do not reduce the rights of any property owners within the landmark boundaries. About 2,500 historic places across the United States bear this distinction.  In addition to the Ball's Bluff Battlefield and National Cemetery, four other Loudoun properties are national historic landmarks; Oak Hill, Oatlands, the George Marshall House and the Village of Waterford.

For more information about the expansion, contact the Department of Planning and Zoning at 703-777-0246 or by email.

November 1, 2016 
The National Historic Landmarks Committee met in Washington, D.C. on October 18, 2016, to consider the updated Ball’s Bluff National Historic Landmark expansion nomination. The committee moved that nomination go forward to the National Park System Advisory Board with a recommendation of approval. Once the advisory board reviews the nomination, the nomination will be sent to the Secretary of the Interior for final approval. It is anticipated that the Secretary will act on the nomination by the end of the calendar year.

Update: September 1, 2016 
The redacted version of the Ball's Bluff Battlefield National Historic Landmark expansion nomination is online. The posted version is redacted to protect sensitive archaeological site information referenced in the nomination. View the nomination here.

Update: August 22, 2016 
The National Historic Landmarks Committee considered the Ball’s Bluff Battlefield National Historic Landmark expansion nomination at their May 9, 2016 meeting. The Landmarks Committee deferred action on the nomination to their October 18-19 meeting. The committee requested additional information regarding the archaeological significance of the Battlefield. Throughout the summer, the consultants have been working on the amended nomination and a final draft of the amended nomination will be posted soon.

 Update: March 23, 2016 

Over the past year, Rivanna Archaeological Services and their team of consultants have been conducting research and documenting the landscape of the Ball’s Bluff Battlefield which has resulted in a final draft of a new and expanded National Historic Landmark nomination for the Battlefield.  The consulting team has now concluded that the 3,301 acre expanded area under consideration meets the high standards for historic significance and physical integrity required to receive the special and rare honor of designation as a National Historic Landmark. Public review and comment on the nomination is welcome until May 9, 2016 and should be sent to the Heritage Commission.

The new nomination will be considered by the Landmarks Committee at its May 9/10 2016 meeting.  If the Landmarks Committee approves the consultant’s report, it will forward the nomination to the National Park Service Advisory Board for formal review and approval.  If the Advisory Board supports the nomination it will forward its recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior for a final decision.  If all goes well, in the fall of 2016 the Secretary of the Interior will formally designate the proposed 3,301 acre battlefield as the Balls Bluff National Historic Landmark.

Update: May 21, 2015
photo of tour group
In February  2015, Loudoun County contracted with Rivanna Archaelogical Services (RAS) to conduct the fields surveys and research necessary to complete the nomination for the expanded Ball's Bluff Battlefield National Historic Landmark. 

RAS has assembled a team of experts for this project consisting of an historian, architectural historian, landscape architect and archaeologist. Architectural and landscape surveys are being completed this spring.  These data, in conjunction with existing and new research, will comprise the basis for the nomination.  A community meeting was held on February 19, 2015, to introduce the RAS team and to provide property owners with an overview of the project and anticipated timeline.

Update: July 29, 2014

 Photo of Edwards Ferry Landing
 Edwards Ferry Landing is a key part of the historical area.
 Photo of Edwards Ferry Road
 Much of the view from Edwards Ferry Road remains as it was in 1861.

Loudoun County has received a grant award from the American Battlefield Protection Program to study the Ball's Bluff Battlefield and prepare a nomination for the expansion of the existing National Historic Landmark.  Click here to view the National Park Service's Press Release.  In the Fall, the County will begin the process to hire professional researchers to conduct the studies necessary to prepare a formal nomination. 

Update: February 18, 2014

The Heritage Commission submitted the grant application to the National Park Service's American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) in January.  Grant awards will be announced by July 1, 2014. Click here to view the ABPP Grant application.


Please continue to check this page for more information regarding future public input and information sessions.

Project Background

The Loudoun County Heritage Commission seeks to honor the land near Balls Bluff where Federal and Confederate soldiers fought in October of 1861.  In late October of 1861, a small scouting party of Federal troops crossed the Potomac River seeking information about Confederate camps near Leesburg.  Through a series of errors and mistakes, this small scouting mission developed into a serious battle in which many hundreds of soldiers were wounded, captured or died.  The losses were particularly dire for the Federal side, which was unable to retreat across the swollen Potomac.  A U.S. Senator, Edward Baker, was killed in the battle.  The U.S. Congress, reacting to the disastrous outcome so close to Washington, D.C., established the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War which significantly affected the entire course of the terrible war.

The 76-acre National Historic Landmark at Balls Bluff contains a small National Cemetery and is the site of the last and worst of the fighting.  However significant events occurred over a much wider area that day in October ranging from Edwards Ferry - where thousands of Federal troops crossed over from Maryland but never managed to come to the aid of their beleaguered colleagues so close by - to Whites Ferry, where thousands of Federal troops were camped on the Maryland side. It also includes land on the Maryland side of the Potomac along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and Harrison's Island from which the Federal troops crossed and to which they tried desperately to return.  Much of this land, on both sides of the river, looks just as it did 152 years ago.

The Heritage Commission proposes to increase the official boundaries of the Balls Bluff National Historic Landmark to include approximately 2,900 acres over which both sides ranged during this struggle.  To this end, the commission has completed a Preliminary Information Form (PIF) which describes the significance of the battle in the context of the landscape today.

National Historic Landmark status is the highest designation awarded by the Federal Government for historic areas and is given only for locations that have made a significant contribution to the nation's history.  There are only 2,500 such designations in the United States today.  This designation would in no way affect property rights, but it represents a significant honor.

The Heritage Commission is seeking a grant from the National Park Service's American Battlefield Protection Program to help fund the historical research needed to support the expansion of the designated battlefield area and establish official boundaries for the enlarged Historic Landmark.

The Heritage Commission hosted two public information sessions about the Balls Bluff Expansion project for property owners within the potentially enlarged area and interested citizens:

  • Thursday, November 7, 2013, at 7 p.m. at Rehau Incorporated, 1503 Edwards Ferry Road, Leesburg - 4th Floor
  • Tuesday, November 12, 2013, at 7 p.m. at Temple Hall, 15855 Limestone School Road, Leesburg

At these public meetings, noted historians told more about the important history surrounding the properties. Other experts were on hand to answer questions about the research process for determining the new boundaries. They also explained the National Historic Landmark status and how it will not in any way affect the use of the properties within the boundary.  To view the letter that was sent to all of the property owners within the potential new boundary, click here.

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