Union soldiers stationed at Bon Air Park will offer a tour of their fortifications and military lifestyle tomorrow (Saturday) as they keep a watch on Confederate skirmishers to the south and west.
The Civil War reenactors will be posted at the park along Wilson Blvd and Four Mile Run from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. to honor the 158th anniversary of the Ball’s Cross Roads Skirmish, part of a series of small battles along the defenses of Washington, D.C. in the wake of the First Battle of Bull Run.
An article from the New York Times cited one Union death and two wounded, and up to 15 Confederate casualties.
“The companies under the command of Capt. Todd and Capt. Dingleday, of the Twenty-third New-York Regiment, conducted themselves heroically, returning the enemy’s fire, which evidently told upon them severely, and repulsed them, and after the rebels had retreated, fell back to the Cross Roads in good order, after which the pickets were again advanced to their original position, and there remained,” the New York Times reported. “Too much credit cannot be given to the officers and men, as each man behaved splendidly.”
The event is free to the public, and will include military drills, a photography exhibit, and various camp displays. One word of warning: the bathrooms at Bon Air Park remain inoperable due to storm damage, which will presumably lend the camp more mid-19th-century authenticity.
More from the event page:
During the war the area near Ball’s Cross Roads and Upton hill was host to tens of thousands of Union and Confederate troops. From June to October of 1861 Arlington’s Four-Mile Run Valley was witness to several Civil War skirmishes. One of the largest occurred on the afternoon of August 27, 1861. Several hundred Union soldiers from the New York 23rd were performing picket duty east of the railroad, which was then called the Alexandria, Loudon & Hampshire. The Union skirmishers were fired upon by Confederates from the 11th Virginia.
The military engagement, as documented by the New York Times, lasted several hours and involved close to 900 soldiers spread out along both sides of Wilson Blvd. including Bon Air and Bluemont Parks. Recent research, including written first hand accounts, suggest the skirmish may have been part of a much larger military operation conducted by the Confederates to probe the Union lines. The engagement, which included an artillery bombardment of Hall’s Hill, resulted in several soldiers being killed and wounded on both sides. The proximity of the skirmish forced General George McClellan to strengthen the forts protecting Washington DC.
Photo courtesy Arlington County
(Updated October 18, 8:55 a.m.) Runners of all ages can expect to have a “spooky good time” at this year’s Zombie Fun Run.
The race is scheduled for Saturday, October 21 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Bon Air Park (850 N. Lexington Street).
This race includes obstacles as well as optional zombie zones in a family-friendly one-mile course. Runners will be let onto the course every 15 minutes in race heats, beginning at 11 a.m. The final heat is set for 1:30 p.m. Costumes are encouraged.
A post-race “Survival Party” will include food trucks, family-friendly games and activities, free moon bounce, zombie craft projects and face painting, so-called “creepy sensory activities” and a costume contest and parade from 1-1:30 p.m.
Anyone interested in running can register in advance online or by phone at 703-228-4747 using activity code 720018. On-site registration will be available on the day of the event on a first-come, first-served basis for a limited number of spots. Registration costs $3 per person online, $5 per person on the day (cash only). Racers aged 4 and under do not require pre-registration.
A portion of land along the W&OD Trail near Bon Air Park may look rather rough after having been stripped of plant life over the past few weeks. But it’s actually part of the county’s plan to restore the land.
The embankment that borders N. Arlington Mill Drive had become overrun with invasive species like bush honeysuckle and porcelain berry. In addition to strangling off native plant species on that swath of land, the invasive plants were sending seeds over the trail into the newly restored area near the Ornamental Tree Garden and along Four Mile Run.
“We found that there are pieces of our parks that are pretty derelict. It’s impossible for the native plants to thrive with the invasives strangling them,” said Environmental Landscape Supervisor Patrick Wegeng. “When the invasives take over, it’s almost like putting the park in a straightjacket. They restrict and inhibit, and we don’t get new natives replacing the old ones, and they just die.”
County workers repeatedly had attempted to prune back some of the offending plants, but the invasives rapidly repopulated and spread further. Therefore, workers were joined by dozens of volunteers during a major invasive plant clearing project in August. Some of the vines and trunks were so thick they couldn’t be pulled or chopped, and instead had to be removed with a machine. Workers have been checking back over the past few weeks to eradicate a few pockets of invasive plants that returned.
The next phase of the project involves re-introducing plant species native to Virginia. First, parts of the land will be seeded with grasses. Later in the fall, other open spaces will be filled with native flower species such as black-eyed Susans. The land will be left to rest during the winter and more planting will begin in the spring.
“It’s such a well traveled trail, we really want people to see the beauty of it and the diversity of plant life instead of ragged nature,” said Wegeng.
In addition to being more aesthetically pleasing, re-introducing native species is expected to have a positive effect on the park’s ecosystem. For example, milkweed is a major food source for monarch butterflies, but had been largely choked off by invasives along this portion of the trail. Once more milkweed is planted and matures, more monarchs are expected to fly through.
“We want the park to be better, more diverse, richer,” said Wegeng.
One factor currently slowing progress on the restoration is weather. The grasses that will be planted need rain in order to germinate and take hold. Arlington’s recent dry spell means the seeding has to be put off for at least another couple of weeks.
“I would have liked to have had this done, but there’s been no rain and it would have been a waste of money. I still don’t see any rain in the forecast for two weeks,” said Wegeng. “I can’t just put these plants in and hope that they grow.”
Over the past year, more than 200 volunteers have helped with various parts of the restoration along the trail. Volunteers are still needed for the upcoming phases of the restoration, such as planting the native species. Nearly anyone can help, depending on the task, including children. Anyone interested in volunteering can email Patrick Wegeng at [email protected]
“I just can’t say enough about all the volunteers that have joined in. If we can show how this [restoration] can be done, with a lot of the benefits of native plants, it’s going to propel this whole movement forward.”
The section near Bon Air Park is one of the first major restorations of its kind the county has undertaken. If more resources and funding become available, Wegeng would like to see restoration along the W&OD Trail stretch all the way to East Falls Church, where he said the land is “in pretty bad shape.”
“We definitely have a lot on our plate, but we seem to be making headway in some areas. I am determined that this one will be a prototype,” he said. “It speaks well of what can be achieved.”
The event was to include “docent led tours, potting stations for your own rose rootings, poetry readings, cookies and lemonade” at the garden, which contains some 2,000 roses. Instead, the event was called off last week because of a midge infestation that decimated most of the rose buds before they had a chance to reveal their fall blooms.
“The reason for lack of bloom was due to an insect (i.e. midge),” Arlington County Environmental Landscape Supervisor Patrick Wegeng said in an email. “We found the midge’s work approximately three weeks ago. We sprayed last week to halt the infestation… It has been determined however that most bloom will not recover this season.”
“According to staff that have worked in the rose garden for numerous years, midge infestations have occurred before within the garden,” Wegeng added. He said the rose plants are in good shape and should have a full bloom this coming spring.
“We had a terrific season until this insect started eating the buds,” Wegeng said.
In place of the public event, the Arlington Rose Foundation — which helps support the rose garden — will instead be holding smaller gathering at a private residence in Reston.