On September 11, 1861, Lt. Orlando Poe led a party of U.S. Army Topographical Engineers to map the area around Lewinsville for military use. Col. Isaac Stevens and 1,800 men protected the engineers. Stevens’s command included the 79th New York (Highlanders) Infantry, detachments from four other regiments, 90 cavalrymen, and Capt. Charles Griffin’s Battery, 5th U.S. Artillery. Ordered not to bring on a general engagement, the expedition marched from Camp Advance on Chain Bridge Road to Lewinsville, arriving at 10 A.M. Skirmishers and artillerymen guarded the surveyors while Confederate cavalry pickets observed from a safe distance.
About four hours later, having completed their mission, the Federals were forming columns to withdraw when about 400 Confederates under Col. J.E.B. Stuart attacked from two sides with Maj. James B. Terrill’s 13th Virginia Volunteers, a company of the 1st Virginia Cavalry, and two guns of the Washington Artillery. Confederate Capt. Thomas L. Rosser’s artillery, posted 600 yards southwest of John Gilbert’s farmhouse, rained shot and shell on the retiring Federals, while Griffin’s guns responded from the road and from opposite Mackall’s Hill. Alarmed by the cannonading, Union General William F. Smith, division commander, hurried to the field with a battery, but the fight was essentially over.
Stevens and the Highlanders formed the rear guard as the Union forced returned to Camp Advance.
Three Union soldiers were killed, several were wounded, and four were taken prisoner. The Confederates claimed no casualties. This small engagement became known as the “Battle of Lewinsville.”