Come take a guided tour of the Ball’s Bluff battlefield, and hear about the the Harvard connections of many of the combatants.
Ball’s Bluff, outside Leesburg VA was one of the earliest battles of the Civil War in October 1861. It was a baptism of fire for the 20th Massachusetts Regiment–called “the Harvard Regiment” due to the many officers who were Harvard alumni or students. This tour is especially told from the point of view of those Harvard men–some names you will remember from their plaques at Memorial Hall and Soldiers Field. We will do a three-hour walk over wood-chip trails and a bit on a gravel road, almost all flat terrain and at a conventional pace.
We will meet at the entrance to the park, a kind of traffic circle where we will park and walk to where the battle began. Bill Wilkin will be our guide–former Army officer, foreign service officer, recovering attorney, and recently retired history teacher. This walking tour is not just for military types; Bill is interested in the backstories and postwar lives of the participants in a battle that led to a groundbreaking congressional investigation. Club members who work on Capitol Hill will hear about two US Senators, two congressmen, a US Attorney General from Harvard, as well as a Harvard justice of the Supreme Court — all of whom fought here (can you identify the alumnus in his uniform in the photo?). Curiously, this battle has a California connection (rare for the Civil War), as well as a noteworthy British participant.
Stop for a bathroom break in Leesburg before the tour; there is no Visitors Center, only a portapotty in the parking lot. It is the tradition of the Harvard Club for us to make a donation to the park each time we visit – the registration fee is to cover that donation.