Visiting the Manassas National Battlefield Park on a warm spring day, there’s no indication of the bloody conflicts that occurred on those grounds during the Civil War. On this field, Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson earned his nickname Stonewall Jackson when his brigade provided needed support to southern troops who otherwise would have fallen under heavy Union fire. These two battles, occurring at the beginning of a long struggle, signaled the end of innocence for many young men who went off to war in high spirits fighting for a cause, only to experience the brutality and violence in hand to hand combat.
The Civil War remains the bloodiest war in American history, claiming more than 625,000 lives. In contrast, the death toll for Americans during the Revolutionary War was around 25,000, World War I, more than 116,000, and World War II, more than 405,000. From 2003 to 2011, the war in Iraq claimed 4,484 American lives, and the war in Afghanistan, still ongoing, has so far resulted in the deaths of around 1,900 Americans.
Any loss of life is devastating. The numbers lost during the Civil War, however, truly sadden us because Americans were fighting Americans; neighbors turned on neighbors and families were torn apart. Memorial Day is a time when we remember those who have fought to defend our freedoms. Visiting a battlefield like Manassas brings those sacrifices into focus.
There were two critical battles at Manassas, the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861, and the Second Battle of Bull Run fought between August 28 and August 30, 1862, also known as the First Battle of Manassas and the Second Battle of Manassas. Both battles were victories for the Confederate army. Yet at the end of the first battle, the Confederate soldiers were so exhausted and demoralized, that they failed to pursue the retreating Union army into Washington.
Whether you visit Manassas or another battlefield, take one of the tours, usually led by a member of the National Park Service. These tours are mini history lessons and, chances are, will spark a desire to learn more.
Manassas National Battlefield Park
12521 Lee Highway
Manassas, VA 20109-2005
Visitor Information 703-361-1339
Park Headquarters 703-754-1861