Manassas- Hiking Guide to Civil War Battlefields (Part One)

DSC01283This is a series of short hikes on historic battlefields from the American Revolution and Civil War. Most of the vantage points of the battles take place on guided park tours (bus) through the Nation among Nations grant I participate in each summer. However, I do try and hike a portion of each battlefield. Below is the section I walked on Manassas Battlefield. I chose this section as it’s claim to fame is where the legend of Stonewall Jackson was made. It is a simple hike approximately one mile with several vantage points and markers.

Manassas Map

History Synopsis:

On July 16- 1861, an army of thirty five thousand men left Washington D.C. to begin their quest to capture Richmond by the end of the year. The belief existed that the inexperienced Union Army would overwhelm the Confederacy with numbers and resources, ending the war as soon as it began. Demonstrating northern sentiment, members of Congress  rode out to make a day of it and watch the event. Little did they know the difficulties their army would encounter from the resolve of the Confederate Army.

The 90-day volunteers were jolted into action by orders of President Abraham Lincoln when Fort Sumter fell earlier that year. They marched five miles to secure the vital rail yards at Manassas Junction a strategic point based on three rail lines; the Orange, Alexandria and Manassas intersected to provide access to the Shenandoah Valley and a straight shot to Richmond.

Led by General Irvin McDowell’s, his army reached Centreville near a stream named Bull Run and encountered twenty two thousand Confederate troops led by General Pierre Beauregard. Beauregard’s men were ordered to guard bridges and fords paramount to their  arsenal and weaponry.

McDowell  initiated a concrete plan as he sent his attack columns in a long march to flank the Confederate left. Diversionary tactics enhanced this maneuver when he ordered the attack with 30 pound artillery to keep the Confederates at bay and distracted. Unfortunately, his strategy was stalled by the inexperience of his men. This provided time for the Confederates to adjust to the plan and send in reinforcements. To no avail,  through superior numbers the Union was able to secure the left flank, but the time it took hindered McDowell’s overall plan as further reinforcements were heading north to secure beleaguered Confederate lines.

Holding on as long as possible the Southern brigades collapsed and fled into the tree lines surrounding Henry Hill. It was at this point that Thomas J. Jackson immortality was born. General Jackson’s brigade withstood the Union onslaught and repulsed Union troops with steadfast determination. From this point a rallying cry was heard ” There stands Jackson like a stone wall, rally behind the Virginians!” Soon brigades under Barnard Bee and Francis Bartow marched to assist Jackson.   The tactics worked and the Union momentum halted.

Exhausted from the march and attacks McDowell took time to reform his lines and refresh his rookie troops. An hour later  fighting resumed, and as each bombarded the other to gain the hill, it seemed it would end in a stalemate. Finally just after 4:00 p.m. newly arrived southern units crashed into the Union right flank on Chinn Ridge, forcing the Union troops to withdraw from the field.

A scene of chaos ensued as the volunteers retired across Bull Run they saw the road jammed with congressman and citizens in route to view the battle.  Retreat turned to panic by all on the road as the first battle unexpectedly turned in favor of the Confederacy. From this point on the Civil War became a war of devastating proportions and challenged the existence of the United States of America.

Categories: Nation of Nations Series (United States History) | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Manassas- Hiking Guide to Civil War Battlefields (Part One)

  1. I look forward to seeing a listing. I’ve heard there are many activities guests can participate in. Not the actual battle Reenactments but dances and learning the songs and music of the period.


  2. I will be posting a series of Virginia battlefield sites in the next few days. The trip I just finished started in South Carolina and ended in Washington, D.C. – perhaps you can get some summer trip ideas from them. Thanks for following!

  3. This is great information. I know there are Civil War Reenactments in Virginia. Do your studies and research take you to any of these sites?

    I would like to know what your thoughts are for a family summer trip through Manassas and other areas that you speak of in this post.

    Very interesting reading.


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