Blackford's Ford: Advance and Retreat

Blackford’s Ford: Advance and Retreat

History: The Confederate States of America was located across the Potomac River during the Civil War. The river was, to Confederates, the boundary between two warring nations. You are standing in the United States of America here in Maryland.

On July 5, 1864, a column under Gen. Jubal A. Early crossed the Potomac River here at Blackford’s Ford in the third and final Confederate invasion of Maryland and the North. After the bridges upstream from Washington were destroyed, natural fords replaced them as strategic crossing points. Even moving with haste, it took Early’s men until the next day to complete the crossing.

Early relied on the elements of speed and surprise to sow confusion among his adversaries and accomplish his goals: to attack Washington, draw Federal troops from the vicinity of Richmond, and free Confederate prisoners held at Point Lookout. Like the other two invasions in 1862 and 1863, Early’s 1864 campaign was unsuccessful.

More to Explore: Visit Ferry Hill Plantation, the former home of John Blackford who owned the ferry crossing here. Blackford’s farm was once 700 acres. It is now part of C & O Canal National Historical Park and serves as a visitor center that is open on weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day for tours.

Walk or bike along the C & O Canal Towpath Trail to see the winding Potomac River amid mountainous terrain and view 19th-century canal locks and lock houses. Explore the river for bass angling and boating. Access is available at a nearby boat ramp.

Photo Credits:

  1. “Beckoning Thunder, by Dale Gallon (, showing the ford
    as it was on September 17, 1862, when Gen. A.P. Hill’s men crossed during
    the Antietam Campaign.” Courtesy of Dale Gallon.
  2. “Boteler Mill dam near Blackford’s Ford.” Courtesy Library of Congress