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Battle of Dranesville Re-enacted 150 Years Later

The event took place Oct. 23 as part of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and the Battle of Ball's Bluff at Morven Park.

The Battle of Dranesville was re-enacted on Oct. 23 at . The original “battle” was actually more of a skirmish that took place five days before Christmas in 1861, the first year of the Civil War.

Federal troops under Brigadier-General E. O. C. Ord, sent to Dranesville from Langley near what is now McLean, encountered Confederate cavalry pickets foraging for winter provisions near "Drane Hill," a point of high land near the intersection of present-day Route 7 and Georgetown Pike, then turnpikes connecting Leesburg, Alexandria, and Georgetown. These troops had been personally selected and trained by Confederate Col. J.E.B. Stuart.

Neither force expected to encounter the other, and historians say both misinterpreted the enemy’s intentions. According to William S. Hammond of Lexington, VA, Ord reported seven men killed and 61 wounded. Stuart reported 43 killed, 143 wounded, and eight missing. About half the Confederate casualties resulted from friendly fire. The Federal forces numbered  about 5,000 and the Confederates between 2,000 and 2,500. The engagement lasted about two hours.

Last Sunday, the engagement began when re-enactors on horseback, visible to passing Sunday traffic on U.S. 15, were joined by Confederate soldiers who streamed from the woods. They faced ranks of newly-trained federals who formed into battle lines and traded rifle fire with the Confederates, driving them back with artillery.

Re-enactor Don Strum, of Pennsylvania, said he thought about his great-great uncle, William A.K. Strum of North Carolina, who fought at Dranesville. Strum said he is a re-enactor because he loves history, not because any partisan feelings have survived 150 years since the Civil War. “It’s sad they were fighting each other,” he said.

Re-enactor Mike Lavis of Buffalo, N.Y., said that reading letters and journals written by soldiers bring them to life.

“They become personal to us across the 150 years,” he said. “All they ever asked of us was never to forget them.”

Colm McCluskey, 8, of Spotsylvania, watched with his parents, Joe and Dolores, because his brother is a re-enactor. After the skirmish, McCluskey gave a precise synopsis of the battle: "There’s more Confederate dead, than Union,” he said. 

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