“There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Rally behind the Virginians.” Bernard Elliot Bee, Jr.
About 25 miles southwest of Washington, DC, the first major battle of the Civil War, named the First Battle of Bull Run by the Union forces and the First Battle of Manassas by the South, was fought here and resulted in an unexpected Confederate victory. In July 1861 about three months after Fort Sumter, each side assembled about 34,000 troops, but only half actively engaged in the conflict. At the time, the battle became the bloodiest in U. S. history. Union casualties were 460 killed, 1,124 wounded, and 1,312 missing or captured; Confederate casualties were 387 killed, 1,582 wounded, and 13 missing. The fighting lasted just one day with the Union army retreating north. Over the next four years more casualties would total more than any other U. S. conflict. Further, the Civil War nearly produced more U. S. deaths than all of the wars in American history combined.
The Manassas National Battlefield Park, established in May, 1940, covers more than 5,000 acres. The entrance is less than a mile from exit 47 on Interstate 66. We arrived shortly before the five o’clock closing of the visitor center, but found several minutes to talk with a ranger, grab a hiking map, and view the museum.
An officer from Lexington’s Virginia Military Institute, Thomas Jackson, earned his nickname here from the Confederate general, Barnard Elliott Bee, Jr., who died from his wounds the next day. Within two years, Jackson would die from his wounds suffered in the battle at Chancellorsville. His sister, Laura, married an Arnold and was an Unionist.
While the Visitor Center closes at five, the Park remains open until dark. We walked to Stone Bridge, over Bull Run, in a very hot and muggy evening, with temperatures still hanging onto the nineties. The flat terrain featured a small bump here and there with the dip into Bull Run processing a few steep steps.
We spotted very few tourists lurking about, but plenty of locals enjoying an evening walk or run.
Our short visit, allowed us an early start for tomorrow on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.