On April 12, 1861, with the firing on Fort Sumter, America went to war with itself. Just as the country was divided, so were Virginia and Loudoun County. The western portion of Virginia became the separate state of West Virginia in 1863. Here in Loudoun County, the division was based largely on the original settlement patterns, with the northwestern part of the county in opposition to the secessionist majority.
The Potomac River formed a dividing line and to most Southerners, Maryland was enemy held territory. The Union army gathered along the river, centered on Washington, D.C., with the Confederates some 25 miles away along Bull Run near the railroad hub known as Manassas Junction. There, on July 21, the war's first large land battle was fought. With the resulting Confederate victory, the Union Army pulled back to reorganize. During the late summer and fall, the stage was being set for other battles. On October 21, fighting broke out here at Ball's Bluff.