Saturday, January 13, 2007

Battlefields of Manassas

I spent last Tuesday at Manassas (Bull Run to some of you). It was an awesome experience – there is so much to see and you can really feel that you are there. It is run by the National Parks Service and is only $3.

The land is very open and quiet, but if you stand still you can imagine how noisy it must have been in July of 1861 and August of 1862. The first battle of Manassas was the first major battle of the Civil War. Both sides thought it would be a lark and the war would be over in one battle. They came in innocent and cocky. Both sides would leave disillusioned. While a technical Confederate victory, it claimed many men on both sides.

You can start with a video at the visitor’s center that is very well done (this costs an extra $3). Then you have a lot of choices – there are several walking tours (from 1 mile to 6 miles) and then driving tours. I did the 1 mile tour and then did part of the driving tour. Both battles were spread out, which means that you will probably want to drive part of the way. It is a very nice drive – you even get dirt road for awhile!

There are cannon everywhere – actually it is like the symbol of Civil War battles because I noticed them at all the sites – Chancellorsville and the Wilderness both had them.

These cannon are behind the visitor’s center. According to the marker, the officer in charge should have turned them, but for some reason didn’t and so all the men on the cannons were killed by Confederates and helped turn the tide for the Confederates. Since this was the first major battle, both sides were untrained and green. Neither really had any idea of what they were getting into – most of the men were new recruits signed up for only 90 days. There was mass confusion on both sides – this being just one mistake of many. Added to this the “blue” and “grey” were not sorted out yet. Both sides had a huge variety of uniforms and it was very hard to tell who was who on the battlefield.

This gives you an idea of the scope of the battlefield and how it was just farmland. Much of it was completely open – which makes you realize how easy it was to shoot each other. There is also forest around there where troops hid at various times. There was even an unfinished railroad track that they used to shoot from then to line up the dead bodies.

Henry Hill was one of the major sites of the first battle. This house was the home of an old woman. No one knew the battle would come here and after it did, her son (who was visiting) tried to move her, but she wouldn’t go. She was killed when cannon fire hit the house. She is buried in the cemetery you see.

This is the battle where General Jackson got his nickname of “Stonewall.” You can see this statue from all over the 1 mile hike around Henry Hill. It is awesome to look at!

This stone house – I took this picture from Henry Hill – was turned into a hospital during both battles.

This is a Confederate cemetery. Notice that there are no markers. With so many dead, mass graves were dug and all just tossed in. There are only two identified bodies in this entire cemetery. Instead there are just markers for the states the soldiers came from. Sad, huh? And a little spooky – a graveyard without any gravestones.

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