The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Bull Run began Thursday much as the skirmish itself did in 1861 - with artillery men on a sparse Manassas field, ignoring the heat to focus on the boom of a cannon.
"This is an important event in history because it's the first battle of the Civil War," said Michael DeAngelo of Allentown, Pa., as he helped prepare the artillery for fire. "This gives us a chance to educate people on what this gun can do and what it was like as a soldier in the war."
The four-day event - marking the anniversary of the first battle between Union and Confederate soldiers in the American Civil War - will include re-enactors of units like Mr. DeAngelo's Confederate Purcell's Battery and other "living historians" and history buffs.
Among the scheduled activities are artillery training, battle re-enactments Saturday and Sunday, an exhibit of Civil War artifacts and tours of the area's historical sites - including Liberia Mansion, the Confederate headquarters for the battle.
Gesturing to several women wearing hoop skirts and high-collared dresses, Manassas Museum volunteer docent Margaret Binning said that while "these people are hot, they're excited," about the weekend's festivities.
As for the heat and whether it would deter some spectators from attending, Ms. Binning said that "if you were planning on going, you're going to come."
Beyond being the first major skirmish, the Battle of Bull Run, also known as the First Battle of Manassas because the South named its battles after nearby jurisdictions, was significant in the four-year war because a Union victory could have given troops a clear march into Richmond to end the Confederacy's revolt. Instead of what the Union forces widely anticipated would be an easy win, the Northern army was routed and the war went on.
The re-enactments are sponsored by Prince William County and run from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at www.manassasbullrun.com.
Though Confederate Army Gen. Robert E. Lee would not join the war until September 1861, visitors will have the opportunity to "meet" him this weekend if they visit Lee's Lieutenants, a small collection of living historians that have set up camp on the museum grounds.
With his rich gray hair and impressive sideburns and beard, Al Stone of Hinton, W.Va., commands attention in his three-piece gray suit as he sits outside his white canvas tent.
"I haven't seen my face since 1982," Mr. Stone said with a smile as he stroked his chin and considered his 16 years of experience playing the revered general. "Every five years, people get excited, but the 150th anniversary is huge."
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