A warm July day saw the Virginia Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy again host the annual commemoration of the Battle of First Manassas yesterday at the battlefield, under the trees in sight of the Stonewall Jackson and Barnard Bee markers.
A good sized crowd well fortified with ice cold lemonade listened to period music on an autoharp, words of welcome from the National Park Service Ranger, Jim Burgess, and other remarks from various UDC women present.
Your Mayor was guest speaker, who taking a cue from the award winning ABC TV show, spoke on “Desperate Housewives and Disparate Officers.” The wives’ desperation came from concern over their husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers, while the officers were different from each other in a variety of ways, and brought their unique personalities into the battle situation.
The biggest laughs seem to come from the recital of President Jefferson Davis arriving late on the scene when the Yankees were in retreat, but having been told by some stragglers that the Confederates had lost. Davis had come from Richmond by train, and switched to horseback for the final leg to Manassas. Riding into the midst of the soldiers, Davis stood up in the stirrups, shouted, “I am President Davis! All who are able, follow me back to the field!” It was said that Jackson didn’t quite hear what Davis had said, and hadn’t recognized him til Dr. Hunter McGuire told him who it was, but not wanting to upstage his President, Jackson then raised his cap and shouted, “Three cheers for the President! We have whipped them - they ran like dogs! Give me 10,000 men and I’ll take Washington tomorrow.”
As I opined, the testosterone and adrenalin were running high and it took some time to settle them all down, and which time the decision was made to let the Yankees go for the day. Military men to this day ague whether or not they South should have seized the opportunity to pursue them.
It also was apparently the first time the “rebel yell” was heard on a battlefield. The cost to the Union was 2,896 killed, wounded or missing; for the South, 1,982 were killed or wounded or missing. Manassas went back to being a sleepy little Virginia town for thirteen months, until the Second Manassas Battle.