Thursday, September 20, 2007

Manassas Visit. . .

The Jackson Monument at Manassas

Ranger Mannie and I shared our mutual day off from work on Wednesday with a visit to the Manassas Battlefield. We planned this little soiree several weeks back, figuring that we would need a little get-away after the busyness of Antietam’s Anniversary Weekend. Last year we journeyed to Fort Washington & Fort Foote, south of D.C., and stopped by Monocacy on our way home. This past spring, Mannie met me here in Gettysburg, and together we hiked Longstreet’s July 2, 1863, assault on the southern part of the field. So this was our third little Civil War excursion. . .
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We met in Frederick early in the morning, and by 9:45 A.M. had arrived at the Manassas Visitor Center. Paying the $3.00 entrance fee, we next enjoyed a fiber-optic map demonstration which briefly, but very clearly, explained the First Battle of Bull Run. The adjacent museum was top-notch.

Heading out to the battlefield. . .Our first stop was the Superman Statue—uhh, I mean Jackson Statue behind the visitor center. Keith Snyder, our colleague at Antietam, told us a few days back all about the statue being struck by lightning when he worked at Manassas. We were initially skeptical, but, wouldn’t you know it. . .
Check out Mannie’s blog (link at the bottom of this page) for photographic proof.
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It was a gloriously beautiful day, so, armed with our cameras and good pairs of hiking shoes, we set out on what proved to be a six, maybe seven, mile-long hike that took us from the Visitor Center to Jackson’s Line, to the Warrenton Turnpike, back to Jackson’s Line, over Young’s Branch, back across the Warrenton Turnpike, and then east we journeyed, finally arriving at the famous Stone Bridge over Bull Run.

The modern bridge just a few yards away detracted a bit from the historical ambiance of this battlefield landmark. . .but it was still pretty cool to be there.

Here's Mannie in the Bull Run, giving the old thumbs-up. . .

I think Mannie was standing exactly where this soldier allowed his horse to grab a much-needed drink.
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We followed the creek north to the ford where Sherman’s men crossed, then through the woods to the Carter Cemetery, and to Matthews Hill beyond, where the major action began on that Sunday, July 21, 1861. We learned of Burnside’s advance and of Evans’s noble stand. . .and we were impressed with tree-clearing activities that opened a large vista from Matthews Hill, south toward the Visitor Center on Henry House Hill.

Cannon on Matthews Hill

Mannie points to the high ground of Henry House Hill beyond

Wartime sketch of Ambrose Burnside leading his brigade on Matthews Hill

Here we see Mannie taking a close-up shot of one of these cannon. . .

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Making our way down the southern slope of Matthews Hill and toward the Warrenton Turnpike once again, we both snapped several shots of the famous Stone House, which, as a wayside panel informed us, was seen by tens of thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers and which survived not one but two major battles.

Wartime Photograph of the famous Stone House. . .

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Now feeling the effects of the many-miles’ long journey, we slowly tramped our way back up Henry House Hill, and saw the Judith Henry home, which did not fare as well as the Stone House during the battle.

The Henry House. . .home to the 85-year-old Judith Henry who became one of the war's first civilian casualties.

This monuments was dedicated in June 1865, just months after the guns fell silent, and even before most of the volunteers were mustered out of service. . .

The Monument's Dedication
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More photographs were taken here, followed by a brief pit stop at the Visitor Center. We had a notion when the day began to focus on the Second Battle of Bull Run, but we focused, instead, on the war’s first major land battle. Never had the battle made more sense; everything just fell into place.
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My ’94 Oldsmobile led us toward the scene of much of the Second Battle. Along the way, I showed Mannie, ad neauseum, where Nagle’s Brigade and the men of the 48th attacked Jackson’s line. . .

We made a brief stop at the Confederate Cemetery at Groveton, then checked out the new Stuart’s Hill interpretative center. . .It was pretty cool, and we both agreed we would have to come back to hike the Second Battle’s trails. . .

266 Confederate soldiers were buried here; only 2 are identified. . .

A view from Stuart's Hill. . .if you squint, you can see the Brawner Farm in the distance

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Before heading out for the day, we swung by the Unfinished Railroad Cut. Now, earlier in the day, when we first arrived, we were told about tree-removing going on at the Deep Cut, and boy, they weren’t kidding. Again, check out Mannie’s post for photos of this and for more particulars about their efforts.

The men of Nagle's Brigade--including the 48th PA--broke through the Confederate line here, along this unfinished railroad cut. . .We couldn't do much hiking here even if we wanted to, for it was closed due to the tree removal. . .

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A few more stops, including the spot where the 5th &10th New York Zouave regiments met with slaughter, and then to Chinn Ridge, where I cautioned many a deer to be careful on the park’s roads.

The Monument to the 5th New York (Duryee's Zouaves)
The Monument to the 10th New York

I told these guys they had best be careful. . .
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We headed back to Frederick in the afternoon, arriving there by 4:15 P.M. I was back home in Gettysburg an hour later; Mannie, no doubt, making it back to his place much sooner.

In all, it was a great trip, and we learned a great deal. I told Mannie throughout that my impression of Manassas had changed almost from the minute we arrived. I have only been there a half dozen times or so growing up; the last time was maybe six or seven years ago. In my mind, I remembered it as a battlefield surrounded by sprawl and development, but this, to me, no longer seems to be the case. They really got a great place down there, and there is a lot of the battlefield that still remains protected.

Before parting ways, we agreed that our next little excursion would be to tramp the gaps at South Mountain. . .Turner’s, Fox’s, and Crampton’s. We set a tentative date for sometime in October.

Click here to read Mannie’s report on our Manassas Visit:

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