"MANASSAS/BULL RUN - CIVIL WAR TWO'FER" Top 5 Page for this destination Manassas National Battlefield Park by mtncorg

The battlefield park of Manassas preserves two separate battles - besides serving to preserve some green spaces amongst the threatening envelopment of suburbia. First Manassas, or First Bull Run, was the first large battle fought in the American Civil War - July 21,1861. Here, two untried volunteer armies of some 30-35,000 men got together for a daylong battle that was going the way of the North until late reinforcements on the Confederate side turned the tide. The subsequent Union retreat turned into a rout as men raced against each other to get back to the defenses of Washington. Luckily for them, the Rebels were too disorganized at the end of the battle to give any significant chase.

Plenty of battles ran their courses before both sides got back onto old grounds to have at it again. People knew by now - First Manassas had shown them - that the War was probably not going to be a short one. They also knew something that the men who came together at First Manassas did not - war means violence, destruction and legalized mayhem. By the time of Second Manassas, the armies had gotten a lot larger - Federals on the scene were about 73,000 while the Rebels brought some 55,000. The larger armies meant larger casualty lists. At First Manassas there were 2900 Union and 2000 Confederate casualties. At Second Manassas, those numbers increased to 14,500 Union and 9,500 Confederates. As can probably be inferred, Second Manassas was also a victory for the South - though the Federals withdrew with a little more discipline this time. The victory did open the way to Lee's first invasion of the North and the bloody battle at Antietam some 18 days later.

The National Park Service has preserved a good section of the two battlefields here in suburban Virginia. They successfully fought off a shopping mall developer to keep this area from looking like the sprawl which has engulfed so much of the region. Conveniently, the two battles occurred in mostly separate areas of the Park - though 2nd Manassas did overlap into the other battlefield in its late stages. Two good trails loop through the respective halves of the Park linking respective battle sites - the First Manassas Loop covering 5.4 miles and the Second Manassas Loop going for 6.2 miles. A shorter one mile trail - Henry Hill Loop - covers the climactic area of the First Manassas battlefield. For those more auto-inclined, a 16 mile driving tour is listed on the Park brochure that will cover the Second Manassas in 11 stops. For either battle, the Visitor Center on Henry Hill is probably a first good stop- on top of Henry Hill and is located near what was the end of the Union right flank during the climax of the First Manassas. You pay your $3 admission - another $3 if you want to watch a 45 minute movie that covers the two battles; movies shown on the hour - and can wander about the exhibits inside, including a large electronic map that demonstrates troop movements during the Battle of First Manassas. There is a bookstore, rest rooms and water available here, as well.. There are also two main roads that bisects the Park - north/south is the VA 234 Sudley Road and east/west is US 29 Lee Highway. Care should be taken around them as they can get quite busy with traffic. I visited Manassas on a very wet weekend. While the weather did cut down the numbers I met on trails and along the Second Manassas auto tour - there are parts of that drive which are on gravel roads - the Visitor Center was still remarkably crowded.

For a comprehensive online Staff Ride, one needs to look no further than the highlighted link from the US Army's Center for Military History.

Tips are organized thus - 'to do' tips include the First Manassas sites and 'off the beaten path' tips include those sites dealing with the Second Manassas battle.

  • Intro Updated Apr 10, 2009
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  • karenincalifornia's Profile Photo
    Nov 29, 2009 at 4:09 PM

    I could make this a Civil War Three'Fer by dropping by here this coming Thursday night and sitting in a dive bar with a TV to watch the OSU vs. UO game.


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