- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2014

“History isn’t about dates and places and wars. It’s about the people who fill the spaces between them.”

— Jodi Picoult, “The Storyteller” 2013

Tracing the footfalls of Ulysses S. Grant and visiting the room where Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson breathed his last can be experienced within a day’s drive of the nation’s capital, ringed by battlefields where thousands of soldiers fought and bled and died in the Civil War.

Protected by the National Park Service, these hallowed grounds still echo the conflict they once contained — Yankee vs. rebel, brother vs. brother — and call to following generations to never forget.

A tour could well begin at the site of the war’s first major battle — Manassas National Battlefield Park — and continue on to five other sites, following the paths where soldiers marched from the fields of Bristoe, once soaked with the blood of Union troops, to Gettysburg, where the fate of both sides was sealed.

All parks are open daily from dawn to dusk.

Manassas National Battlefield Park

The date: July 21, 1861.

The place: Prince William County, Virginia.

The battle: A few hours after sunrise, Union forces — led by Brigadier Gens. Irvin McDowell and Daniel Tyler — advanced on Confederate troops stationed along the Bull Run River. After hours of fighting, the rebels routed the Union Army, who soldiers fled in retreat. The Confederate victory earned a little known brigadier general from Virginia Military Institute the nickname “Stonewall” for his stalwart defense against Union troops.

The site of the clash (commonly known as the First Battle of Bull Run but referred to as First Manassas by Confederate forces) witnessed a second Confederate victory more than a year later; today, that area is the Manassas National Battlefield Park, at 12521 Lee Highway.

The park offers three hiking trails of varying lengths, a ranger-led walking tour and a network of roads that allows for self-guided driving tours.

It also houses a visitor center and two historic structures: the Brawner Farm Interpretive Center, an accurate replica of the farmhouse originally on the battlefield that was damaged during Second Manassas, and the Stone House, which served as a hospital during the two battles.

The park charges a $3 entrance fee for visitors over the age of 16.

Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park

Story Continues →