Incident at Vienna

17 06 2011

Today is the 150th anniversary of a little incident at Vienna, VA involving a trainload of Union soldiers and a dastardly “masked” Confederate artillery battery. The incident, to some minds, had an impact on how McDowell’s army would move through Northern Virginia a few weeks later – I’m not so convinced that it did.

Ron Baumgarten at Not All So Quiet Along the Potomac wrote some nice posts on Vienna recently, and you can read them here.

And Craig Swain of To the Sound of the Guns has a cool photo essay of the now rails-to-trails site of the action here.



3 responses

17 06 2011
Craig Swain

Thanks for the mention. I tend to agree that the “masked battery” bit is far overplayed both in the contemporary press and by historians. I’d argue that any precautions made to avoid masked batteries were the very same precautions taken to avoid Confederate defenses in general – good recons, proper force security, etc.

Yet the same people who make hay about the masked batteries speak of grapeshot falling among the ranks during the battle…. might be something to that.


17 06 2011

Thanks, Harry. Agree with the comments on “masked batteries.” As I wrote over at Craig’s blog, I read a NYT article on Vienna from June 19, 1861that said that the batteries were only “masked” at Vienna because the proper reconnaissance was not being done by Schenck’s men! Guess that “investigative journalists” of the time were onto something…Here is the except from the article:

As in the affair at Big Bethel, we are again entertained with the idea that our forces fell into a sort of ambush. They came, we are told, upon a masked battery, and were the victims of a surprise. We have heretofore given our opinion of this specific line of apology. To raw troops, led by inexperienced officers, without the vigilant outlook of scouting parties, and advanced guards, all batteries, where guns are not conspicuously mounted upon the summit of intrenchments, are masked batteries.


17 06 2011
Susan Evelyn McDowell Cole

Good articles gentlemen! Glad to see the touring is over and there is some writing going on again!


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