The Battle of Ball's Bluff was fought just outside Leesburg, Virginia, on the banks of the Potomac River on October 21, 1861. Although not a large engagement, it was nevertheless a crushing defeat for the Union and for President Abraham Lincoln in particular, as it resulted in the death of his friend Colonel Edward D. Baker, U.S. Senator from Oregon.

This poem was published in 1866 in a volume called Battle Pieces and Aspects of the War. At this point in his career, 15 years after the publication of Moby Dick, Melville had not achieved the critical acclaim he would later enjoy and considered himself a failure.

"Ball's Bluff: A Reverie"