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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

Significant, Yet Unknown

~Saturday, May 22, 2021~

Day 342

If you’re wondering why we chose this location, it was for 2 reasons….a good in-between spot between Prince William Forest to our next campground (which I won’t reveal yet), and also because of the historical significance of the area. Having a very nice campsite was an added bonus.

Since Virginia is THE place to learn all about the birth of America and the wars that were fought here, we knew The Manassas National Battlefield Park would teach us even more. About a 45-minute drive from our campground, Manassas was well worth the trip. We had no idea the significance of the battle here, as it was the first battle fought of the Civil War known as The Battle of Manassas or The Battle of Bull Run.

I’d say that’s significant enough. We couldn’t have timed our arrival better as I walked into the museum/visitor center and found out their last tour of the day was at 2:45 (5 minutes after we arrived). Perfect!!

The 45-minute walking tour took place under a shady tree on Henry Hill which was the center of the main battle.

Our tour guide was fantastic and extremely knowledgeable. She began with the story of the north and south tensions that transitioned into war and the details of the men that so bravely fought. Caught in the crossfire was Judith Henry’s home and 86 year-old, bedridden Judith Henry herself. Though warned, she refused to leave as she was fiercely protective of the home and property that her family built up for many years. Her daughter and servant were also in the home at the time where the 2 remained unscathed. Unfortunately, Judith did not. She is the only civilian casualty of the first battle. A reconstructed home built where her house once stood, gives us a sense of just how beautiful and peaceful Henry Hill was before the ugliness of war.

With a divided nation, on that warm July day in 1861, Judith and thousands of men (3,000 union soldiers and 2,000 confederates) would die after a 10-hour ferocious battle. The men were inexperienced young volunteers on both sides, confident that the battle would be a swift one. Soldiers on both sides were stunned by the violence and destruction. They had no idea what they had signed up for. By daybreak on July 22, you would have found a defeated Union army back behind the bristling defenses of Washington, with the confederates claiming victory. And this was only the beginning.

The second tour is an 18-mile drive, designed to cover 12 locations that were significant in the second battle of Manassas that occurred in late August of 1861 again between the Union and the Confederates. Just as before, the defeated Union army withdrew across Bull Run toward the defenses of Washington. Robert E. Lee’s bold and brilliant Manassas campaign opened the door for the south’s first invasion of the north and a bid for foreign intervention. Though the confederates were always outnumbered and out-supplied, they hung in there for so long because of Lee’s tactile brilliance. So fascinating and so much to grasp, especially for someone like myself who in high school, was not paying attention in history class, but rather about my date for Friday night.

This warm windy and brain overload of a day had us exhausted so we looked forward to some R&R back at the campsite. When the sites are this nice, we really try to have some relaxation time in the “backyard” before our next day of adventure. The campground is full as they promised, leaving us to be entertained by parents and their kids. Ah….memories….been there, done all that. Things like…..”don’t walk around the campground in your socks-put your shoes on!” or “who left the zipper open on the tent-you’re letting all the bugs in”. Hilarious!

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