2nd USCT Infantry Regiment 1st USCT Infantry Regiment 1st Alabama Cavalry Regiment 1861 Skirmishes 1862 Skirmishes 1863 Skirmishes 1864 Skirmishes 1865 Skirmishes Alternate Battle Names 3rd Regiment Alabama Infantry 1861-04-12 Battle of Fort Sumter 1861-04-15 Evacuation of Fort Sumter 1861-04-19 Riots in Baltimore 1861-05-07 Gloucester Point 1861-05-10 Camp Jackson 1861-05-10 Riots in St. Louis 1861-05-18 Sewell’s Point 1861-05-29 Aquia Creek 1861-06-01 Fairfax Court House I 1861-06-01 Arlington Mills 1861-06-03 Philippi 1861-06-05 Pig Point 1861-06-10 Big Bethel 1861-06-15 Hooe’s Ferry 1861-06-17 Vienna 1861-06-17 Boonville 1861-06-19 Cole Camp 1861-06-27 Mathias Point 1861-07-02 Hoke’s Run 1861-07-05 Carthage 1861-07-05 Neosho 1861-07-08 Laurel Hill 1861-07-11 Rich Mountain 1861-07-12 Barboursville 1861-07-13 Corrick’s Ford 1861-07-17 Scary Creek 1861-07-17 Bunker Hill 1861-07-18 Blackburn’s Ford 1861-07-21 Manassas I 1861-07-22 Forsyth 1861-07-25 Mesilla I 1861-07-27 Fort Fillmore 1861-07-28 Sinking of the Petrel 1861-08 Siege of Tubac 1861-08 Cooke’s Canyon 1861-08 Battle of the Florida Mountains 1861-08-02 Dug Springs 1861-08-03 Curran Post Office 1861-08-05 Athens 1861-08-07 Hampton 1861-08-10 Wilson’s Creek 1861-08-10 Potosi 1861-08-19 Charleston 1861-08-25 Mason’s Hill 1861-08-26 Kessler’s Cross Lanes 1861-08-28 Hatteras Inlet Batteries 1861-08-31 Munson’s Hill 1861-09-02 Dry Wood Creek 1861-09-02 Gallinas Massacre 1861-09-08 Placito 1861-09-10 Carnifex Ferry 1861-09-11 Lewinsville 1861-09-12 Cheat Mountain 1861-09-12 Lexington I 1861-09-17 Liberty 1861-09-19 Barbourville 1861-09-21 Fredericktown I 1861-09-24 Canada Alamosa 1861-09-27 Pinos Altos 1861-10-03 Greenbrier River 1861-10-05 Cockle Creek 1861-10-09 Santa Rosa Island 1861-10-12 Battle of the Head of Passes 1861-10-21 Ball’s Bluff 1861-10-21 Camp Wildcat 1861-10-21 Fredericktown II 1861-10-23 Big Sandy Expedition 1861-10-25 Springfield I 1861-11-03 Port Royal 1861-11-07 Belmont 1861-11-08 Ivy Mountain 1861-11-19 Round Mountain 1861-11-20 Skirmish at Brownsville 1861-11-20 Hunter’s Mills 1861-12-04 Bog Wallow Ambush 1861-12-09 Chusto-Talasah 1861-12-13 Camp Allegheny 1861-12-17 Rowlett’s Station 1861-12-19 Skirmish at Blackwater Creek 1861-12-20 Dranesville 1861-12-26 Chustenahlah 1861-12-28 Mount Zion Church 1861-12-28 Sacramento 1862-01-01 Crook’s 1862 Expedition 1862-01-03 Cockpit Point 1862-01-05 Hancock 1862-01-08 Roan’s Tan Yard 1862-01-10 Middle Creek 1862-01-11 Lucas Bend 1862-01-19 Mill Springs

1861-08-25 Mason’s Hill


Start: 1861-08-25


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General James Longstreet stood at the vanguard of the Confederate advance through Northern Virginia in late summer of 1861.  During the end of August, Longstreet pushed a force of infantry beyond his picket line at Falls Church, Virginia and closer to the Union capital.*  Assisted by Col. J.E.B. Stuart’s 1st Virginia Cavalry, the soldiers drove in Federal pickets and seized two prominences that dominated the surrounding countryside — Mason’s Hill and Munson’s Hill.  The newly captured territory was only a handful of miles from the nation’s capital.  As Longstreet later recalled,

“[w]e were provokingly near Washington, with orders not to attempt to advance even to Alexandria.”

From their new position, the Confederates had a full view of Washington, including the unfinished Capitol dome rising in the distance.  They also could observe the Union lines in Northern Virginia as far as Alexandria.


The soldiers set to work digging earthworks on Mason’s and Munson’s Hills. The heights swept the plains around Bailey’s Crossroads, where the Leesburg & Alexandria Turnpike met the Colombia Turnpike. As long as the Confederate forces were dug in atop these two hills, the Union Army dare not occupy territory closer to Falls Church and Annandale.

The position at Mason’s and Munson’s Hills was normally held by a couple regiments of infantry, a battery, and Stuart’s cavalry.  The infantry and artillery units rotated every few days, but Stuart’s men remained a permanent fixture.  Longstreet remembered in his memoirs that because

“the authorities allowed me but one battery. . . we collected a number of old wagon-wheels and mounted on them stove-pipes of different calibre, till we had formidable-looking batteries, some large enough of calibre to threaten Alexandria, and even the National Capitol and Executive Mansion.”

According to Private Edgar Warfield of the 17th Virginia, Co.H, the soldiers had some fun with the stovepipe gun at the Union Army’s expense.  As he related in his memoirs,

“[i]t was a favorite trick to run it out into the center of the road and go through the motions of loading a gun and pointing it at the enemy, who promptly stampeded, under the impression that we had a piece of artillery with us.”

The Confederates, taking full advantage of their position on the high ground, erected signal stations on Mason’s and Munson’s Hills. Officers from General Wade Hampton’s Legion sent messages at night from across the Potomac to Munson’s Hill. The Confederates also hatched a clever scheme to relay messages to Munson’s Hill from Washington. An ex-Maryland legislator, E. Pliny Bryan, was sent to rent a room in Washington from which Munson’s Hill could be seen. As described by E.P. Alexander, who at the time was active in Confederate intelligence gathering and signal work:

[Bryan] was to take the bearing of the hill by compass from his window, and communicate it to us by an agreed-upon advertisement in a daily paper, which we received regularly. This would give us the bearing on which to turn our powerful telescope, loaned for the purpose by a Charleston gentleman, and in position on Munson’s Hill. Then we would identify his window by finding a coffee-pot in it, and by motions of the coffee-pot, and opening and shutting the blinds, etc., he would send his messages, and we would reply, if necessary, by a large flag and by firing guns.

The plan was on the verge of being executed in September 1861, when the Confederates abandoned their advanced positions.

At the end of August, the Confederates raised the Stars and Bars on Munson’s Hill.  The New York Times informed its readers that the large flag “was visible with a glass from the top of the shiphouse at the Navy-yard” in Washington.  A similar flag was raised from Mason’s Hill.  The presence of the Confederates so close to Washington, flying their flag defiantly and in plain view from the capital, caused consternation among Washingtonians and in the Union ranks.

During this time, the Union Army relied on aerial reconnaissance by Professor Thaddeus S.C. Lowe, who ascended in his balloon from Ft. Corcoran, Ball’s Cross Roads, and Chain Bridge to observe the Confederate positions on the two hills.  According to Confederate General Jubal Early, Lowe kept a balloon up “almost constantly.”  Confederate gunners atop Munson’s Hill found Lowe an inviting target and fired shots at his balloon. Luckily for Lowe, they missed their mark.

Order of Battle


With the armies so close to one another, and tensions running high, fighting was bound to erupt in the no-man’s land between the lines.


Total Killed Wounded Missing Captured
USA Battle Flag
CSA Battle Flag small
Combined Forces

References: http://dclawyeronthecivilwar.blogspot.ca/2011/08/longstreet-advances-closer-to.html

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