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The site of a resounding victory for the Confederacy, the Ball's Bluff Battlefield & Cemetery mark the spot where Union forces were overwhelmed attempting to cross the Potomac and move into Leesburg. Confederate troops stifled the Union advance, and many of its soldiers were driven over the bluff and into the river where they drowned.
Bodies floating downriver to Washington underscored the horrific reality of the war for the public. More than 500 Union prisoners were captured that night. While a minor engagement in comparison with the battles that would take place in years to follow, it was the second largest battle of the Eastern Theater in 1861, and in its aftermath had repercussions in the Union Army's chain of command structure and raised separation of powers issues under the United States Constitution during the war.
Part of the battlefield, now wooded, is preserved as a park, and surrounds one of the country's smallest national cemeteries, marking the common grave of more than 50 Union Soldiers with a semi-circle of 25 headstones. Exhibits, nature trails and a one-mile hiking loop in the park are open to the public.