Thursday, May 22, 2014

Visiting the Manassas National Battlefield Park, Va.

Sandwiched between the bustle of Washington, D.C. and the serenity of the Shenandoah Valley region of the Blue Ridge Mountains lies Manassas National Battlefield Park. The park, located in Northern Virginia, is the site where two prominent battles occurred during the Civil War. The first battle of Manassas, commonly known as the First Battle of Bull Run, occurred over these fields on July 21, 1861, the Second Battle of Bull Run took place in August 1862. 

Today, this national park commemorates these historic events in American History. The National Park Service has done a great job preserving the land's history and integrity, despite being located in such a heavily populated region. Within the park's confines, it's dignified and focused on history, although two major roads do cross through the park areas.

Manassas Battlefield
Manassas Battlefield Park on a winter's day. This photo was taken around 2006.

Stop by the Visitor's Center

During your visit to Manassas Battlefield Park, there is much to see; the park itself spans several miles. You can start your visit right on the grounds where the visitor's center is located and rangers are happy to provide you with a map. Also, while there, check with the front desk, there are a number of ranger-guided tours scheduled throughout the week (or day). 

Additionally, in and around the visitor's center there is a museum, the monument of General "Stonewall" Jackson, cannons, and other historic landmarks, including the Henry House. The fields are open and resemble the way they probably looked during the Civil War era. Many markers describing events that took place are positioned throughout the park.

See the Stone House

Across the way from the visitor's area sits the Stone House. This is a fascinating part of the park because of its long history (and I'm always attracted to older architecture). During the two Civil War battles, it served as a field hospital. 

Stone House at Manassas Battlefield Park
Exterior of Stone House at Manassas Battlefield Park taken around 2012-13

It also has an interesting history because not only was it a residential home for many decades, its historic roots also include serving as a tavern. Visitors can tour the inside of Stone House (look for the red flag on the door that signals its open); staff is always willing to give a wonderful verbal history as you walk through the rooms. Everything has been restored to the way it would have looked during the Civil War era. The second floor is usually off limits but has occasionally been opened to visitors.

Stone House at Manassas Battlefield
Interior of Stone House

Tour options

To tour the park, you can do one or more self-guided walking tours, take a ranger-guided tour, attend a ranger talk, or do the driving tour. There is the Henry Hill tour which is approximately a mile, the First Manassas tour which is a five-mile loop, and the Second Manassas tour which is also approximately five miles. Each tour covers major points of each of the Manassas battles. You can also opt to take the 16-mile driving tour on your own (I have yet to do this one so I'm a little scant on details).

The park also has many walking paths and several picnic areas; pets are allowed on the grounds as long as they remain leashed and held at all times. Highlights include Stone Bridge, Unfinished Railroad, Chinn Ridge and Brawner Farm.

Manassas National Battlefield Park is open daily until sunset, but the houses and buildings close between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. It's a good idea to check with NPS schedules to determine what time each building closes. Seasonal hours and special events may vary these times.

This park is interesting and contains many vital pieces of information regarding Civil War history. If you are in the Northern Virginia area, it's definitely worth it to set aside some time and come visit.

[Related reading: Civil War battlefields in Virginia]

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