Manassas Battlefield

Manassas (Bull Run) Battlefield

March 19, 2006

On Sunday, March 19, I went to the site of the U.S. Civil War battles at Manassas, also known as Bull Run. I am really not much of a Civil War buff, but I had been staying in northern VA a lot for the last year and a half, about 10 miles away from the battlefield, and decided I'd go check it out.

Manassas is located about 32 miles from Washington, DC. There are two main railroad lines that go through the area, which was the reason that the town of Manassas Junction was created. Because of this, it became a strategic area for the south, and the first line of defense for the Confederate capitol in Richmond, VA, about 95 miles to the south.

There were two major battles here, the first on July 21, 1861 and the second June 25 - July 1, 1862. First Manassas, also known as the first Battle of Bull Run, was the first battle of the Civil War and it was expected by the Union army and the civilians in the area that it would also put a quick end to the dispute. They were sadly mistaken.

In 1861, this area was pasture land, with grass waist high and small trees throughout the area, not the nicely mowed fields you can see in these photos.

I have heard it said that this was the Union's best planned battle of the Civil War. Unfortunately, the execution of the battle plan left a little to be desired.

Captain Ricketts of the Union army commanded a battery of cannon and set them up on Henry Hill, named for the owner of the farm and farmhouse you can see in this first photo. During the entire day he never got the support he needed for this battle to result in a victory for the Union army.

This photo was taken from the area by the back door of the visitor center.

Looking out across the fields to the oposite hilltop, you can see the row of Confederate cannon set up 300 yards away. If you look real close in this photo, you can see some of them in the middle of the photo.

It was during this battle that Colonel Thomas J. Jackson earned the nickname Stonewall Jackson.

This photo was taken from the line of Confederate cannon, looking back at the line of Union cannon and the Henry house. The Union cannon are to the left of that large tree. You can't see them in this photo.

This is the Henry house. Judith Henry was an 85 year old invalid and refused to allow herself to be moved from the house. At some point, Captain Ricketts detected rifle fire coming from the direction of the house and ordered his cannon to fire in that direction. Judith Henry was mortally wounded and became the only civilian death as a result of this battle.

This is a monument that was erected to honor those who died here.

And here is the grave of Judith Henry (the large stone in the middle), and others.

This is another view showing the limbers and a caisson. When transporting field pieces, a limber was used to pull the gun, which in turn was pulled by six horses. A caisson is a chest to hold ammunition, and in this case is similar to the limbers, but with two chests. The word caisson also refers to the combination of a limber pulling a caisson, which is what you can see on the left side of this photo. As you can also see in this photo, a limber has an ammunition chest as well.

Two cannons were moved to the right flank of the Union line and set up so they could fire down the length of the Confederate line of cannon. A group of Confederate soldiers attacked this position and thwarted this plan before it could be carried out.

This photo shows the position of one of these cannons. You cannot see the Confederate cannon in this photo, but they are along the top of the hill in front of the line of evergreen trees.

This is Stone Bridge which goes across the stream called Bull Run. At the beginning of the battle, a "demonstration" was created here by the Union army as a diversion while the rest of the army moved around the left flank of the Confederate army and moved into position on Henry Hill.

The battle resulted in a rout of the Union army, which retreated back to Washington with its tail between its legs. The civilians who came here to witness the "glory" of the battle were disillusioned and slunk back to their homes as well.

The day I was here was cold and very windy. I intend to go back sometime when the weather is better and walk the trails and read all of the signs around the battlefields.

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