Tuesday, June 2, 2009


First, the Battles of Manassas are also known as "BULL RUN". In Ole Virginny parlance, a run is a creek. Bull Run is the creek at Manassas.

The first battle (July 18 - July 21, 1861) was supposed to be the only battle of the Civil War. All of Washington DC and the North expected to easily rout the upstart Confederate Army. The Union Army 35,000 strong was comprised mainly of troops who had volunteered for 90-days service! No training! No discipline!! No clue as to the nature of war!!! The National Parks info explains how the 1st day's march was only 5 miles - because the troops stopped to pick blackberries and fill canteens along the way. Easy pickings for the 22,000 man Confederate Army waiting for them at Bull Run! Over about 4 days, the expected victory became a Union Army retreat. That retreat became a rout as the retreating men were blocked by fleeing Washingtonians who had gone out to Manassas/Centerville by carriages with picnic baskets to watch the battle! The 1st day alone saw close to 900 Union & Confederate dead! In all, by the war's end, over 600,000 died.

The area that was the stage for this 1st battle is very pretty with rolling hills surrounded by groves of trees. A large part of this battle was fought around the Judith Henry farmhouse. She was bedridden and could not be moved and was wounded by a stray bullet and killed during the battle. She is still there in a small family plot. This is also where Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson earned his sobriquet. (Arrow shows Jackson's wall of cannon.)

The 2nd battle in August 1862 was a battle between seasoned veterans and covered 3 days. In this 3 day period over 3,300 troops were killed! The Confederate victory here set up Lee's march north and ultimately to Gettysburg! The battle this time ranged over a wider area of countryside. The beautiful Stone House survived both battles serving as a field hospital both times. The stories about the medical care received by both sides is just horrifying! Piles of amputated limbs!! Hard to imagine today. Just as it had to imagine troops marching down the bucolic roads around this area; markers interspersed here and there telling the story and fragrant honeysuckle twinning around the trees. One particularly poignant site is the Groveton Confederate Cemetery. Of the more than 260 soldiers buried there, only 2 have ever been identified and have markers! The finally day of the 2nd battle was at Stone Bridge where Union troops slipped away in the dark and headed to Washington. The 2nd Battle of Manassas established the reputation of Robert E. Lee as a bold and brilliant leader.

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