MANASSAS, Va. -- This area of Northern Virginia bore the brunt of
Civil War fighting. Located between Washington, the Union capital,
and Richmond, Va., the Confederate capital, it was the site of more
than 60% of the battles in America's most divisive war.
battlefields of Manassas, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania,
Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, along with several smaller
ones, are close to each other and can all be toured in a short
Manassas was the site of two pivotal Civil War confrontations.
The Battle of First Manassas (called, in the North, the Battle of
First Bull Run), took place on July 21, 1861.
There are two self-guided tours of the first battle: a one-mile
walk (Henry Hill trail, the main battlefield) and a five-mile walk
(Stone Bridge Trail).
First Manassas is memorable as the first major battle of the
The Union, brimming with confidence, believed the war would be
over in a matter of weeks. Curious spectators, if you can believe
that a war had such onlookers, came from Washington packing picnic
lunches to watch the impending battle.
Although one can only imagine what they thought they were going
to witness, the reality of war was much different. Once the battle
was under way, the picnickers made a mad dash back to the safety of
Washington, their romanticism shattered.
The "green," untested soldiers were equally naive and totally
unprepared for the brutality of the 10-hour struggle. The intensity
of combat at First Manassas convinced the North that the war would
be neither easy nor brief.
First Manassas is also notable because it was there that Gen.
Thomas Jackson got his nickname for holding ground against heavy
Union fire. Henceforth known as "Stonewall," he became a model
against which subsequent American generals have been judged.
The Battle of Second Manassas (or the Battle of Second Bull
Run), fought Aug. 28 to 30, 1862, was a larger battle covering much
There is a 12-mile, 12-stop driving tour that is mapped out;
there are plaques at each stop.
Driving stop No. 8 is sobering; a monument marks the ridge where
Confederate troops charged out of the woods and mowed down two
regiments of New York soldiers (called Zouaves and wearing red
Within five minutes, the Fifth New York Zouaves were
annihilated, losing the highest percentage of men in any Union
regiment in a single battle during the war.