On June 17, 1861, at this bend in the railroad, a Union train carrying 271 men of the 1st Ohio Volunteers was ambushed by nearly 700 South Carolina infantry and cavalry. Amid artillery fire, the Ohioans jumped from the platform cars and took cover in the woods.
The engineer immediately sped the locomotive Clarke, minus the troops and cars, back to Alexandria. Anticipating Union reinforcements, the Confederates burned the abandoned cars and retreated. Eight Federal soldiers were killed in the indecisive clash.
War came to the Alexandria, Loudoun & Hampshire Railroad (predecessor of the W&OD) shortly after Virginia seceded from the Union. Before Federal forces confiscated the railroad on May 24, 1861, Maj. Gen. Robert E. Lee tore up the track and bridges west of Vienna and sent two of the three locomotives south.
After the skirmish at Vienna, the Clarke and other locomotives shuttled troops and supplies to Union encampments between Alexandria Vienna. The AL&H saw little further action other than occasional harassment by Col. John Mosby's men.