The twenty-five graves here in one of America's smallest national cemeteries contain the partial remains of 54 Union soldiers killed at the Battle of Ball's Bluff, October 21, 1861. All are unidentified except Pvt. James Allen of Northbridge, Massachusetts, who served with the 15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.
The majority of Confederate dead were removed to Leesburg. Most of the fallen Union soldiers found on or near the battlefield were temporarily buried in shallow mass graves between the current cemetery and the Clinton Hatcher marker just to the west. Some of the dead from both sides were shipped to their homes for burial.
In the fall of 1865, Governor Andrew Curtin sought to have Pennsylvania's dead removed and returned home. Individual remains could not be identified four years after the battle, so the U.S. Army decided to establish a cemetery here for the Union dead. Work was completed on December 18, 1865.
October 21, 1861: Battle of Ball's Bluff
October 22, 1861: Under a flag of truce, a Union Burial detail inters 47 bodies and marks approximately 20 more that were later buried by the Confederates.
Spring 1862: Examination of field by Union authorities and temporary reinterment in mass graves.
Fall 1865: Authorization of national cemetery and beginning of permanent reinterments.
December 18, 1865: Completion of Ball's Bluff National Cemetery.
February 1871: Construction of first stone wall to replace picket fence.
September 1901: Construction of current stone wall.
August 1984: Cemetery and battlefield designated National Historic Landmark.
June 1986: Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority assumes ownership of battlefield immediately surrounding cemetery.
(Sidebar Quote): "Sir, I concur in this petition concerning the cemetery at Ball's Bluff, Virginia so far as to hope that there will be no abandonment of what is there or has been done. As a local point of patriotic and romantic historical interest, it seems to me salient enough to deserve to be retained."
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., March 2, 1901, letter to Secretary of War Elihu Root. As a young man, Holmes fought at Ball's Bluff with the 20th Massachusetts.
Funds for this project were donated by the Loudoun County Civil War Round Table.