We were so excited to be able to spend 10 days with Nana and Papa. They snuck out in the quiet of dark morning, sort of like the calm before the storm on the first day of school. Before they left we managed to venture out one more time to the Manassas National Battlefield park. We were able to see the actual site of two major battles of the Civil War.
First we briefly walked through the Henry Hill Visitor center. We saw where the Henry house originally sat and Judith Henry’s grave marker. She was 85 and bedridden. Shrapnel from the Union army tore through the wall of her bedroom. She suffered horrible injuries and died from them later that day. She was the only civilian killed that day.
Henry hill was where Stonewall Jackson earned his nickname. The confederates were at the top of the hill but holding it through heavy losses. Brig. Gen. Barnard Bee said, “There stands Jackson like a stone wall!” When the Union retreated from the hill a wagon overturned blocking the bridge. The undisciplined volunteers starting dropping their guns and running. We drove through Chinn ridge where everyone started to run.
We saw a memorial to Stonewall Jackson.
Later that same weekend a lady told us that if someone has the same last name as your maiden name then you are related. I guess I know where my stubborn comes from…
Now where’s that soapbox and my stool? Just kidding. I do want to say something though. I wonder if this statue, and it is impressive, will be torn down in my children’s life time. What the old saying? Those who choose to not know history are doomed to repeat it? A civil war is not something I care to repeat. I grew up in the south. Feel free to tell me my version of history is white washed. I think there are two sides to every story. I think there were people who were scared. They were scared for their plantations and their families. Fear is something that will lead you to make poor choices. It governs your view. This was a horrible moment in time. I want my kids to know what both sides were fighting for. (Shout out to Hawaii public school system. I think they gave a pretty unbiased historic perspective as people who didn’t have a dog in the fight so to speak.) I want them to understand what it was about and why we should be happy to have our country as it stands today. If they know the ugly, hopefully they will choose to try to make the world a better place and not relive that horrible time. As we walked along and read the sayings posted, we heard about the men who’s uniforms. There were more than 200 different ones and they all looked the same. They didn’t know who they were fighting.
Some of the quotes we read…
“I had a dim notion about the ‘romance’ of a soldier’s life. I have bravely got over it since.” – a survivor of the first battle of Mannasses
“I felt that I was in the presence of death. My first thought was, This is unfair; somebody is to blame for getting us all killed. I didn’t come out here to fight this way; I wish the earth would crack open and let me drop in.” – Private B.M. Zettler, 8th Georgia Infantry.
That said, let me tell you what happened when we walked through the doors of the Henry Hill visitor’s center. Arleigh saw the painting that was in her 8th grade history book. The big girls know about the Battle of Bull Run. They watched a map light up and recount exactly what happened. We heard about the people dressing up and getting in their wagons to come down from D.C. and watch the spectacle of war. We saw all the different uniforms from both sides and talked about how hard it would have been to know who you were fighting against in all the smoke and noise. We walked outside and saw the cannons and the artillery wagons. We walked around the battlefield down to a stone house that still stands.
It was all very fascinating. We stood by Lee Highway and noticed downtown D.C. is less than 25 miles away. Hard to imagine the people riding their wagons with their Sunday afternoon picnic to watch isn’t it?
The stone house held bodies, was a hospital and was briefly a tavern. I’d like to know a little more about it.
I think I’m going to have to go back after I read a little more. I’d like to know more about Stonewall Jackson and the people here, like the Robinson family. Before the Civil War James Robinson was a few black man that by the mid-19th century was one of the wealthiest men in the area. I know he was able to get his wife and children away before the war arrived at his doorstep. He hid under a bridge while the fighting raged and when the commotion died, he found many confederate soldiers dead in his yard. I believe there were 13 of them. As the war progressed his home became a hospital for Union troops. The foundation of his home is still there on Sudley Road.
I’ll attach a few more pictures from the day. If you’re in our neck of the woods, clearly we think it’s worth a stop.