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 historical events in American History. The park is mostly a quiet and tranquil place, and one which hasn't been tarnished by the heavy commercialism which sometimes accompanies historical landmarks. NPS has done a grand job preserving its 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.

There is much to see during your visit to Manassas Battlefield Park; the park itself spans several miles. When you arrive at the park, you can go to the visitor's center to purchase a visitor's pass. It currently costs $3.00 per adult (kids under 16 are free) and the pass is good for 3 days. You can even start your visit right on the grounds where the visitor's center is located. 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.

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, in its historical roots had also served as a tavern. During the warmer months, you can tour Stone House; the staff gives a wonderful oratory 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 to visitors, but occasionally is open for visitors.

Stone House at Manassas Battlefield
Interior of Stone House
To tour the park, you can take a self-guided walking 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 take an opportunity for a tour with Park Ranger guided hikes or you can opt to take a 16-mile driving tour on your own.

The park also possesses 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. You can find specific information at

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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