The Battle of Bull Run Confederate flag

        During the weekend of July 27-29, 2002, Debbie and I, along with our nephew Damian, visited Manassas, Virginia, site of two Civil War battles (The First and Second Battles of Bull Run). It only took us 4 hours to drive to Northern Virginia (around 230 miles). When we arrived in Manassas, we first stopped for lunch at the Shoney's next door to our hotel. The hotel, a Day's Inn, is on Ball's Ford Road next to Sudley Road, which is next to the Debbie and Frank on Manassas battlefieldbattlefield and the Visitor Center. We couldn't have been closer. After we checked in, we headed over to the battlefield.

        We covered the sights of the first battle on the first day. The First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) was fought on July 21, 1861. It was the first major battle of the war and would be smaller than most of the major battles that followed (around 70,000 men in all with only about 18,000 men on each side actually engaged in combat.).

        In the battle, Union General Irwin McDowell (photo lower left), like a lot of Union generals in the war, somehow snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. On July 16, 1861, less then four months after the attack on Fort Sumter, the untried Union army under McDowell (whose buried at The Presidio in San Francisco) was ordered to march from Washington D.C. south into Virginia. Waiting for them was the Confederate army, led by General Pierre G. T. Beauregard (photo lower right), drawn up behind Bull Run (a small stream) north of the small town of Manassas. On the morning of July 21, McDowell attacked starting the battle.

        McDowell sent a small portion of his forces west along the Warrenton Pike towards the Stone Bridge over Bull Run. This however, was not is main attack but only a feint. His main force crossed Bull Run further north at Sudley Ford (modern day route 234) and attacked the Confederate left flank on Matthew's Hill.

        Fighting raged throughout the day as the McDowell's army did well and the Confederate forces were driven back to Henry Hill. It would be here that General Thomas J. Jackson earned the nickname “Stonewall.” When Confederate General Bernard Bee found Jackson and his Virginia Brigade on Henry Hill he exlaimed, The Enemy are driving us. Jackson, a former U.S. Army officer and professor at the Virginia Military Institute, is said to have replied, Sir, we will give them the bayonet. Bee exhorted his own troops to re-form by shouting, There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer.

Gen McDowellP. G. T. Beauregard        On Henry Hill is a reconstruction of a farm house that was destroyed during the battle. At the time of the battle, Judith Carter Henry, an 85-year-old widow and invalid, was on her bed, unable to move. As the Union artillery commander, Captain James B. Ricketts, began receiving rifle fire, he concluded that it was coming from the Henry House and turned his guns on the building. One of the casualties of the artillery fire was Henry as a shell crashed through her bedroom wall and tore off one of her feet and inflicted multiple injuries, from which she died later that day.

        Late in the afternoon, after vicious fighting back and forth on Henry Hill, Confederate reinforcements, led by Jackson, broke the Union right flank. The Union soldiers heard for probably the first time a sound that would bring instant chills in the days to come, a shrill, yelping fox hunter's call, an eerie quaver that was to become known as the "Rebel Yell." The Federal retreat rapidly deteriorated into a rout. It would later be called "The Great Skiddaddle". Although victorious, Confederate forces were too disorganized to pursue. Confederate General Bee (mortally wounded and would die the next day) and Colonel Bartow (the first Confederate brigade commander to be killed in the Civil War) were killed. After the battle, George Templeton Strong wrote in his diary, Today will be known as BLACK MONDAY. We are utterly and disgracefully routed, beaten, whipped by secessionists.

        By July 22, the shattered Union army reached the safety of Washington D.C. This battle convinced the North that the war would be a long and costly affair. McDowell was relieved of command of the Union army and replaced by Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, who set about reorganizing and training the troops. In their defeat the North who lost 2,900 casualties (460 killed) while the South lost 2,000 casualties (387 killed). Despite the victory, the battle hurt the Confederacy as they believed that the ease of victory would mean the war would be easy and did not prepare as they should have. On the other hand, the Union realized that the war would be long and difficult and started to prepare. President Lincoln called for 500,000 2-year volunteers to end the rebellion.

Map of the battlefield

Debbie and I with a Union cannon on Henry Hill in the morning Damian and I with a Confederate cannon on Henry Hill at sunset
Debbie and I with a Union cannon on Henry Hill in the morning
(the cannon is a 10-pounder Parrott)
Damian and I with a Confederate cannon on Henry Hill at sunset
(the cannon is a 12-ponder Napoleon)

General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson        When we went to the Visitor Center first, which is on Henry Hill, the site of the fiercest fighting of the battle. This is where General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson made his famous stand. Where, according to legend, Confederate General Bee made his famous saying, ""There stands Jackson like a stone wall." They showed a movie describing the events of both battles which was done very well. Then we took a walking tour, given by one of the Park Rangers. The tour was only 45 minutes, which is good because lightning started to appear, followed by a heavy downpour.

Jackson        Unlike Gettysburg, the Bull Run Battlefield has very few monuments. On Henry Hill, there are two monuments to Confederate generals who were killed there. There is a large statue to General "Stonewall" Jackson (the only statue on the battlefield) and a monument next to the Henry House commemorating all of the Union dead. Also on the battlefield, there are monuments to three New York Regiments (the 5th NY, the 10th NY and the 14th Brooklyn). Not much when you consider that Gettysburg has over a hundred.

        One other comment on the statue to Stonewall Jackson. Either the sculptor was being very generous toward Jackson's physique or he was more bulked up than Arnold Schwarzenegger. I somehow doubt Jackson was pumped up on steroids, but the statue makes him look like some Superman-like cartoon caricature. Look at the chest and arm muscles in the picture above. Even his horse, Little Sorrel, is bulked up.

        The name of the battle has caused controversy since 1861. The Union Army frequently named battles after significant rivers and creeks that played a role in the fighting; the Confederates frequently used the names of nearby towns and farms. The U.S. National Park Service uses the Confederate-inspired name (Manassas) for its national battlefield park, but the Union name (Bull Run) also has widespread currency in popular literature. 

The Stone Bridge The Stone House
The Stone Bridge The Stone House

        After walking around Henry Hill, we walked down to the Stone House. The Stone House was a common landmark for both the Battles First and Second Manassas. Used as a hospital for wounded soldiers, the house still stands at the intersection of the Manassas/Sudley Road and the Warrenton Turnpike. This intersection controlled the battlefield, during Second Bull Run, allowing those who possessed it to move about with relative ease. It was Frank in Bull Runthis crucial junction that Union General John Pope was able to save through the sacrifices of the remaining Union brigades against  the Confederate soldiers coming over Chinn Ridge. If the Union Army had been pushed out of here, a route to Washington, D.C., was only 30 miles away, would be open. They have a Civil War guide/interpretor there to explain what went on during the two battles. Shells can still be seen embedded in it's walls.

            We drove out to the Stone Bridge. The Stone Bridge and the stream, Bull Run, that flows beneath it are inseparably linked with the story of the two battles of Manassas. Located on the Warrenton Turnpike, approximately 1/2 miles east of its intersection with the Manassas-Sudley Road (where the Stone House is), it formed, during the first battle, the anchor of the Confederate left and the objective of the Federal diversion under General Tyler. Following the rout of General McDowell's Union forces, it constituted one of the main avenues of escape north. During Second Bull Run, it was the main route of the Federal advance AND retreat. Though the bridge was destroyed a number of times and rebuilt, the abutments at the bottom are original (you can see Debbie and Damian waving from the top).

            I got a chance to wade around in Bull Run (at right) near the Stone Bridge. Debbie, of course, was grossed out by this, but did take my picture. The water doesn't move very fast (if at all) and as you can see, it's somewhat muddy.

            After that we went to dinner. We went to a rib place, called The Red Hot & Blue - Memphis Pit Bar-B-Que, that was plastered with pictures of Elvis Presley. Damian liked it because they had a free re-fill soda machine. Debbie ignored the pictures of "The King". After dinner, we went into Manassas (which is about 5 miles from the battlefield) for ice cream.

Second Battle of Bull Run

Damian starring down the cannons            On Sunday, we went back to the battlefield. They have an Auto Tour that takes you to that follows along with the events of the Second Battle of Bull Run. This battle was much larger, though with pretty much the same results. It was a 3-day battle that was fought from August 28-30, 1862. In the battle, Confederate General Robert E. Lee thoroughly defeated the arrogant Union General John Pope. On the left we see Damian literally "starring down the cannons."

        In order to draw Pope's army into battle, "Stonewall" Jackson ordered an attack on a Federal column that was passing across his front on the Warrenton Turnpike (modern day route 29) on August 28. The fighting at Brawner Farm lasted several hours and resulted in a stalemate.  Pope became convinced that he had trapped Jackson and concentrated the bulk of his army against him.

        On August 29, Pope launched a series of assaults against Jackson's position along an unfinished railroad grade. The attacks were repulsed with heavy casualties on both sides. At noon, Confederate General James Longstreet arrived on the field from Thoroughfare Gap and took position on Jackson’s right flank.  On August 30, Pope renewed his attacks, seemingly unaware that Longstreet was on the field. When massed Confederate artillery devastated a Union assault by Union General Fitz John Porter’s command, Longstreet’s wing Damian on a cannonof 28,000 men counterattacked in the largest, simultaneous mass assault of the war. The Union left flank was crushed and the army driven back to Bull Run. Only an effective Union rearguard action prevented a replay of the First Manassas disaster. With this crushing victory, Lee would take the initiative after the battle to invade Maryland, culminating in the Battle of Antietam. On the other side, General Pope would be "retired".

        Union casualties came to around 13,830 and Confederate casualties came to around 8,350 men. Combined casualties for the battle were 22,180 men, which is over four times the 4,800 casualties from the first battle. The best thing about an auto tour is that there is air conditioning (in the car) on a very hot day. We did stop though and hiked along the Unfinished Railroad (the site of Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson's defenses). On the right we see Damian and another Confederate cannon (a brass 12-pounder Napoleon). It looks like he has seen enough of Civil War battlefields for one day.

Washington D.C.

        On Sunday, we drove to Washington D.C., which is around 35 miles north. We went to Washington National Cathedral. We walked around and found the tomb of President Woodrow Wilson. We stayed Jefferson memorialfor the 11 am service. It's an Episcopalian Cathedral, so the service was fairly similar to a Catholic Mass. After the Service, we drove into Georgetown for lunch. We went to a place called Clyde's of Georgetown on M Street. After lunch we walked along the historic C&O Canal.

        It was very hot that Sunday, easily hitting 100 (not to mention the humidity). Damian wanted to go to the Washington Monument. Unfortunately they were closing at 5 pm and all of the tickets for the day had been sold. I remember when they used to be open to Midnight in the summer, not any more. We than went to The Congressional Cemetery, I had a couple of photos to get (a vice president and a NJ governor). I had a map, so they were easy to find. Former FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover is here too.

        We drove back to Pennsylvania Avenue and walked around. The heat started to get to us, so we ducked into a Barnes & Nobles to cool off. Damian went to the music section right away. After we left, we went over to The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. They have a lot of waterfalls, so I figured it might be a little cooler. We visited here a number of years ago, right after they opened it. It was during January, so it was very cold. So, now we have seen it during both temperature extremes.

       The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is one of the most expansive memorials. The memorial is divided into four outdoor galleries, one for each of FDR’s presidential terms. The rooms are defined by walls of red South Dakota granite with quotations from FDR carved into the granite. Water cascades and quiet pools are throughout the memorial which makes it one of my favorites. The first room deals with the Great Depression. It has one of Roosevelt's more famous quotes, ""The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." The second room is more on the depression. The third and fourth room deals with World War II. There are a number of statues. The most famous one, which was somewhat controversial when it was unveiled, was the one depicting FDR seated with his dog Fala at his feet. People criticized it because you couldn't see the wheelchair he was sitting in with the exception of a small wheel in the back. FDR did everything he could to hide the fact he was in a wheelchair and the sculptor reflected that. Some people felt that he should be shown in his wheelchair. Since my first visit, another statue of FDR is there where you can see the wheelchair totally uncovered. There is a statue to Roosevelt's wife, Eleanor in front of a seal of the United Nations in commemoration of her role as one of the first U.S. delegates to the U.N. This statue represents the first time a First Lady has been so honored in a presidential memorial.

Damian and I IN the FDR Memorial Damian in line at the FDR memorial
Damian and I IN the FDR Memorial Damian in line at the FDR memorial

        It was, but not really enough. We went to dinner in Alexandria, Virginia to the Warehouse Bar & Grill. Debbie and I went there back in 1996. Debbie loves their crabcakes. Dinner was very good. I had the filet minion and Damian had the largest steak they had. We stopped in a Ben & Jerry's so Damian and I could get some ice cream. Than back to the hotel.

Mount Vernon

        After this, we drove into Manassas for lunch. We went to the Philadelphia Tavern for some Philly cheesesteaks. Debbie said they were made the correct way. Since she lived in Philadelphia when she was in college, I took her word for it. After lunch we drove to Alexandria to visit Mount Vernon, George Washington's Plantation. Mount Vernon was home to George Washington for more than 45 years. The Estate was originally granted to Washington's great grandfather John Washington in 1674. It eventually passed to Washington's older half-brother, Lawrence, who renamed the property Mount Vernon after his commanding officer, Admiral Edward Vernon of the British Royal Navy. George Washington inherited the property upon the death of his brother Lawrence's widow in 1761. Over the years, Washington enlarged the residence and built up the property from 2,000 to nearly 8,000 acres. He divided the acreage into five working farms, including the Mansion House Farm, where he lived with his family. 

Frank, Debbie and Damian behind Mount Vernon       

            Debbie and I were here in 1996, but I wanted to go back. Also, I wanted Damian to see it. Even though it was a Monday and again very hot and humid, there were still a lot of people here. We toured the main house and walked around the grounds. When Washington inherited the estate, the farmhouse that is now call "the Mansion" consisted of four rooms and a central passage on the first floor and three bedrooms on the second. The process of enlarging and improving the house began in the years before Washington's marriage in 1759, when he raised the structure to two-and-a-half stories and extensively redecorated the interior. The north and south wings of the house were begun just before the start of the Revolutionary War. The very last room, the Large Dining Room, was completed after the war's end. Washington did have some interesting ideas on interior wall paint.

       Washington also transformed the Mansion's modest frame exterior, using a process called "rustication." This meant replacing the original plain wooden siding with bevel-edged pine blocks that had been coated with a mixture of paint and sand to give the appearance of stone. If you knock on the walls, you can hear a hollow wooden sound. Further, Washington added a large two-story porch, or "piazza," overlooking the Potomac in the back of the mansion (which you can see in the above photo). Another Washington addition to the house was a cupola -- which served as both a decorative rooftop element and a practical device. With windows open, the cupola helped to cool the house on sultry summer days.  After the war, Washington added to the Mansion its final crowning touch -- a dove of peace weathervane atop the cupola.

        There is still a lot of excavating on the estate being done by archeologists. Of course, as we walked around his estate, we stopped by to see George and Martha in their vault.

        We walked down to the Potomac River. They have a working farm on the grounds of Mount Vernon to show people what it would be like to work on a farm in the 1790's. Of course they put Damian to work. They had him crushing corn, carrying water buckets and raking hay. The best part was, they didn't pay him a thing. He wanted to pet the sheep, but they were staying where it was cool and he couldn't reach them.

Damian crushing corn

Damian carrying water
Damian raking hay

    After that we headed home. We did fine on time, making it back to Bayonne in four and a half hours, with a dinner stop in Southern New Jersey.

"Stonewall" at sunset
"Stonewall" at sunset

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