Preserved Area from the Civil War’s Potomac Blockade Opening for Tours

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Provided by Prince William County

The Cockpit Point Civil War Park, the county’s newest historic property, will open at 11:00 a. m. on March 11, with guided tours by reservation. The park is located at 18245 Cockpit Point Road in Dumfries.

The Cockpit Point Battery, or canon emplacement, is eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a site that has an integral part of history. To be listed, a site must remain intact enough to retain its historical integrity.

Rob Orrison, the county’s historic site operations supervisor, said, “This property is unique as it contains some of the best preserved earthworks and forts from the Civil War in Northern Virginia. It’s by far the best preserved Civil War battery associated with the Potomac Blockade.” He went on to say that the site “enhances an already impressive inventory of County-owned and protected historic properties in Prince William County.”

There are also two bald eagle nests on the property and the natural resources on the property are a real treasure with old growth forest, a large pond and wetlands, according to Orrison. “This property will be a real resource not just for tourists but also local residents.

The battery served as part of the Confederate’s Potomac Blockade against Union shipping between October 1861 and March 1862 and is the best preserved of all of the batteries that lined the Potomac River during the Civil War. The Potomac Blockade was established as a Confederate strategic plan to try and put pressure on the Union, which had to ship supplies, personnel and equipment by rail while the blockade remained in effect.

While the blockade lasted until March 1862, Cockpit Point fell to the Union Navy in the Battle of Cockpit Point in January 1862, when two Union ships – the USS Yankee and the USS Anacostia – blasted away at the battery’s cannons from positions that couldn’t be easily hit by return fire. As the USS Anacostia fired dozens of rounds at the battery, the USS Yankee sailed within range of the battery’s guns, and Confederate forces were able to hit the USS Yankee with one of only four shots fired. The shot caused minor damage to the ship and slightly wounded a Union seaman. The Union shots from the USS Anacostia were accurate enough to force the Confederates to abandon one of the batteries.

The Battle of Cockpit Point was the only naval battle to be fought in Prince William County.

Tours of the battery, at $20 per person, will be offered by reservations only. Call 703-792-4754 to register. The tours will begin at 11:00 a. m., 1:00 p. m. and 3:00 p. m. Tours will include off-trail hiking over difficult terrain.

Visit the Prince William County Historic Preservation’s webpage for more information about Cockpit Point and other historic properties.

 

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