White’s Ford was an important ford over the Potomac River during the American Civil War. It was used in many major actions, including the crossing into Maryland of the Confederate army prior to the Maryland Campaign and Confederate Major General J.E.B. Stuart’s ride around Union Major General George B. McClellan on October 10, 1862, when he used the ford to cross into Loudoun County, Virginia. It is located a few miles above present-day White’s Ferry. When Robert E Lee’s troops crossed into Maryland during the Antietam campaign they sang “Maryland, My Maryland”
Early settlers recognized that the relatively still waters of the Potomac River at the location would provide an ideal location for a ferry. The first known ferry operation at the location was Conrad’s Ferry, pronounced contemporaneously by the locals as “Coonrod’s Ferry” in 1817. After the Civil War, former Confederate officer Elijah V. White purchased it and made many improvements to the service. He named his ferry boat in honor of his former commander, General Jubal Anderson Early. And White’s Ford is named after that same Elijah White. At one point there were 100 ferries operating along the Potomac River and this is the last one.
More than a convenient river crossing, the ferry provided a place of commerce between the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the surrounding community. Farmers from Virginia used the ferry to get their crops to markets in Maryland and Washington, D.C. via the canal. In the days before modern refrigeration, a farmer’s access to reliable transportation meant the difference between prosperity and watching a year’s worth of work rot in storage. Together, the ferry and the canal shortened the time it took farmers to get their goods to market. To further assist them, White built a granary along the canal to store grains until they could be loaded and shipped via the canal.
The cars line up on what looks like a boat ramp and fill up the ferry. The ferry follows a wire cable to the other side . You can see how narrow the crossing is. It runs continuously, year round, from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. $4 one way or $6 round trip.