Archive for July, 2011

Eight Civil War battlefields get government grants

By Linda Wheeler, Washington Post Blogs 

More than $1.2 million in grants from the National Park Service’sAmerican Battlefield Protection Program were awarded this week to a variety of national battlefield projects including eight Civil War sites in six states: Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia.

Virginia was the only state to get more than one. A $30,000 grant went to the Bull Run Preserve, Inc. for a series of workshops to teach the public how to respond to the threat of road widens, railroad expansions and cell towers in battlefield areas.

A second grant for $55,000 was acquired by Citizens for Fauquier County for the creation of digital maps and associated GIS data at nine battlefields. The third grant was given to Radford University for $67,000 to develop digital technologies to interpret the battlefields at Saltsville.

 

Exec. director of National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Md. is myth-buster, works on shows

STAN GOLDBERG  The Frederick News-Post

FREDERICK, Md. — Actress Ashley Judd learned the truth about her great-great-great-grandfather from George Wunderlich, executive director of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick.

Ashley Judd

She thought her ancestor had lost a leg as a Union soldier in the Civil War.

“He supposedly lost his leg at the prison camp in Andersonville, that’s all that she knew,” said Wunderlich. “What we found out was that he never was a prisoner of war in Andersonville, Ga. He lost the leg in the Battle of Saltville, Va.”

The information came to light when the two were working on “Who Do You Think You Are,” an NBC television series that traces the genealogy of celebrities such as Judd. Wunderlich was doing research for the program.

He showed her how her ancestor would have been treated and what would have happened to him after surgery.

“She was shocked when she heard how the leg was amputated and what conditions were like in the hospital,” said Wunderlich, 48. “She got rather emotional. At one point on the camera she teared up, which was … something I did not expect.”

Wunderlich began working with history-related TV programs in 1999. He and a group of people who work with him try to find out the truth about history, mostly from the 1800s.

“It’s a bit like a 19th-century myth-buster,” he said.

Wunderlich also serves as a commentator, although he rarely sees himself on television because he hasn’t owned a TV for 12 years.

He has done 17 shows over the past 2 1/2 years. Among the shows he’s worked on are “The Real Cowboys” and “Battlefield Detectives” for the History Channel, “Who Do You Think You Are” for NBC, “The History Detectives” for PBS and a tourism program for the BBC.

“I consider myself an historical windbag,” he said.

It started with his interest in banjos. Then he became interested in ballistics and medical history. Now he’s delving into more general history. His main area of expertise is from the 1830s to the 1890s.

“It’s kind of expanded expeditiously since I first started doing this back in the 1990s,” he said. “I’ve gotten a reputation for being a fairly easy person to work with. People know that I’m not a pain. People see me on film, evidently like what I did and will ask me to do different things.”

When he provides commentary he might be on the air two or three minutes for one show, much longer for another. He finds being on TV is good for the museum.

George Wunderlich speaks to a class at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Md.

“Every time I’ve done a show, people arrive at the front desk (at the museum) and say, ‘We just saw your director on television and we want to see the museum,'” he said. “It brings tourists to Frederick and it helps keep our museum in the public eye.”

The exposure has also given him a public face, which has led to lecture engagements at universities throughout the country.

Many of the programs in which he is involved are filmed in Frederick County.

“If you saw the show and you see me at a gun range, the chances are very good it was the Frederick city police gun range,” he said.

And Judd isn’t the only celebrity he’s worked with. He did another “Who Do You Think You Are” episode with Brooke Shields about her Civil War ancestor. Unfortunately, his part never aired. They found out she was related to King Louis XIV of France and aired that instead.

“It was awesome meeting her,” Wunderlich said. “She was the teen heartthrob of my generation. So getting to spend an afternoon with her was quite an experience.”

Wunderlich had his first TV exposure in 1999, one year before he became the National Museum of Civil War Medicine’s director of education and three years before he became its executive director.

He was invited to appear on PBS’ “The Woodwright’s Shop” with host Roy Underhill because he had been making banjos — mostly in the style of the 19th century — since 1992.

“I was scared to death at first, but he really put me at ease,” he said. “In that show, I was actually building banjos and, at that time, it was something I could practically do in my sleep.”

From there he appeared on “History Detectives.” Soon, other offers started coming in.

He works with a research group from the museum — including his top researcher, Terry Reimer, director of research for the museum. The group will examine the smallest details. They once did a ballistic test on a ham to help determine if a cowboy was shot with a soft-tipped arrow or a rifle.

“We provide research and fact-checking and story line recommendations,” he said. “They come to me and say, ‘We are thinking of doing a show like this. What is your professional opinion?'”

His favorite show was “The Real Lonesome Dove,” on the History Channel. He spent many days in New Mexico following the exploits of Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving, friends and cattle ranchers of the American West. He researched the type of coffin used when Goodnight brought Loving’s body back to Texas.

“He got a coffin made out of tin and soldered it closed,” Wunderlich said. “Then he put the coffin in a wooden box filled with charcoal to absorb any fluids that might come out of the body. We even put a jack rabbit in a coffin and surrounded it with ash to see if it would work.”

He still plays the banjo and put on a conference about the history of the banjo. But now he’s developed more interests.

“I tend to like all history, even if it’s something that is not my normal study,” he said. “It’s fun when I prepare for those shows to do the historical research. I’ve come from being primarily a banjo guy to being a medicine, ballistics, Civil War, history guy.”

National Park Service Director Jarvis Addresses The Value and Importance Of Maintaining Civil War Sites

Submitted by Jon Jarvis on July 25, 2011 – National Parks Traveler

Editor’s note: As the National Park Service last week commemorated the start of the Civil War 150 years ago, Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis addressed an audience at the Manassas National Battlefield and told those in attendance about the value and importance of maintaining Civil War sites in the National Park System.

It is an honor to stand with you on one of our most sacred American landscapes. Here, 150 years ago today, the nation got its first real look at civil war. This is where American democracy began its baptism by fire. Where the grueling four-year journey that shaped a nation, began in earnest.

The battle of Manassas dispelled the myth that the war would be a quick affair. The Confederate secretary of war, LeRoy Pope Walker, suggested prior to the battle that when all was said and done, he would be able to wipe up the blood that would be spilled with his pocket handkerchief.

Historian Shelby Foote liked to point out that it would have made a good doctoral dissertation, calculating how many handkerchiefs it would have taken to clean up the blood that was actually shed.

Over 620,000 lives. That was the price exacted by the Civil War. But those were only the military deaths. The war’s impact extended much farther than the battlefield.

The Civil War’s social, political, and economic effects were equally profound as the nation divorced itself—with great violence—from an institution that reduced human beings to property.

The war transformed our conceptions of race and freedom. It changed ideas about death and religion. It remains to this day our greatest national upheaval.

The places where the war was fought are among our nation’s most sacred sites: Gettysburg, Shiloh, Antietam, Manassas. The names themselves evoke not only the great struggle, but the personalities and events of that incredible time.

Over 75 of these battlefields and related sites are now national parks. For the National Park Service, serving as the steward of these places, which occupy such a defining role in American memory, is not just a great honor, but a solemn responsibility.

Over time, individual battles have taken on a kind of historical shorthand. Chancellorsville has come to represent the intelligence and audacity of Robert E. Lee; Gettysburg: the high-water mark of the Confederacy; Vicksburg: the plodding determination of Ulysses S. Grant.

The first battle of Manassas was the first great Southern victory, a shock to the federal army, and the place where the name “Stonewall” entered the American lexicon. But deeper than that, Manassas was where the awful realization set in that this was going to be a protracted struggle, whose cost neither side had really bargained for.

Quaker Guns near Manassas, VA. During the initial stages of the Civil War, before First Manassas (Bull Run), the Confederate forces knew that the Federal troops were watching them from balloons in Alexandria. In order to fool the Federal troops that they were heavier fortified than they really were, they used "Quaker Guns" which were chopped down tree trunks, and painted them black and pretended they were cannon. (Library of Congress photo)

By nightfall on July 21, combatants and spectators alike were probably asking themselves, “What have we done?”

One of the most important questions visitors to Civil War battlefields can ask today is: “How did we get to the point of war?”

Helping them find the answer is one of the National Park Service’s most important roles as keeper and interpreter of these iconic American places. Because our mission encompasses not only preservation, but education. It is our responsibility to help visitors understand not only the war itself—its methods and mechanics, its heroes and generals—but also the circumstances that brought it on, the passions that set us against each other, and how the war set our future course as a nation.

In 1861, some four million African Americans were living in slavery. Protected under the Constitution, slavery was legal in 15 states and the District of Columbia. It was a well-established part of life in America, a powerful economic, political, and social force.

Just a few years before the outbreak of hostilities, the Supreme Court had ruled in the Dred Scott case that black Americans—whether slave or free—could not be citizens under the Constitution. By the eve of the war, slavery had become a festering issue, one that could no longer be put off. Mixed in with the debate over slavery was the nature of the states’ relationship to a central authority.

The South fiercely believed it was fighting for the survival of its way of life. Its leaders referred to the struggle as the second American Revolution.

The idea of secession is foreign to us today, but for the people of the South, where they felt the radical passion of the Founding Fathers very strongly, secession was entirely within their rights as independent states.

As a nation, we found ourselves in the peculiar position of debating whether we were, in fact, a nation. The Civil War decided, once and for all, the questions of slavery, of union or disunion.

The debate over states’ rights would continue long after Appomattox, but there would be no more argument over whether we were one nation. Before the war, people spoke of the country in the plural, saying “The United States are.” After the war, it was singular: “The United States is.”

Today our national story – of our one nation – is told in 394 national parks across America. The National Park Service has the privilege of being entrusted with this story, with its truth. We are the keeper of the American legacy in all its sweep and drama.

At every turn of this narrative, there are prescient lessons for today. These places, these national parks, have been set aside for posterity, not because they are old, but because they are timeless.

We stand on this battlefield today because we understand that in addition to celebrating our greatest achievements, we must commemorate our most somber moments. In our most trying time as a nation, both sides looked within, and found no alternative but to pay the terrible price. The result was our greatest social revolution, and our greatest evolution as a people.

Unburied Dead at the Wilderness

In the darkest days of the war, Abraham Lincoln said, “If we could first know where we are, and wither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.”

That is the relevance of history.

There, also, lies the power of our Civil War sites.

These places command our reverence not only because of what happened there, but because they help us understand the monumental trial and sacrifice that shaped our nation, our government, and our society.

We can recognize the passions aroused in our own political dialogue concerning the issues of today: Freedom, race, justice, citizenship, the economy, the role of the federal government, national security.

They are not quite the same as the issues that brought millions of men to arms in 1861, but we continue to cherish—and debate—the principles that brought bloodshed.

The Civil War holds vital lessons for all of us: That civil discourse and mutual understanding are essential to a democracy. That we are defined not by what divides us, but by what joins us together. That a nation that lays claims to greatness, must look within itself and be willing to pay the price of standing by its high ideals.

Here at Manassas, and at hundreds of other places like this, the nation got a sobering lesson in how costly that can be. The National Park Service is proud to be the steward of that legacy.

I can promise you that we will be here every day of every year watching over this place, to keep it and protect it; to pass its story on to future generations of Americans. For it is not simply a battlefield that we preserve here. It is our birthright as a nation, purchased at an unimaginable cost, and one that we will care for with all the reverence it demands.

Civil War comes back to life on Virginia battlefield

By Fabienne Faur (AFP)

Reenactors gather to reenact the 1st Bull Run/1st Manassas Battle in Virginia on July 23, 2011(AFP, Karen Bleier)

MANASSAS, Virginia — The cannons boomed and the guns flared as the mists of times parted, and north and south squared off again on a Virginia field in a living reminder of the first major battle of the Civil War.

“We know the war is over,” said Ron Miller, proudly attired in the uniform of the southern Confederacy, which went on to win this battle 150 years ago, though not ultimately the war.

But he said “it’s important that our country remembers its heritage and its history. I do this to teach our history to our children.”

This weekend, under baking hot temperatures, thousands of spectators were gathering to watch a re-enactment of the Battle of First Manassas/Bull Run, fought on July 21, 1861 at Manassas, in the southern state of Virginia.

Miller, whose great-grandfather and great-great grandfather fought in the four-year Civil War, is one of hundreds of history fans who at weekends don the uniforms of their forefathers and reenact battles from the war that forged modern-day America.

With their red wool shirts and black trousers, 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry reenactors prepare to do battle at the 150th anniversary of 1st Bull Run on July 23, 2011(AFP, Karen Bleier)

“Look how they load the cannon,” Miller, 60, told children watching him intently as more than 8,700 reenactors as well as some 375 cavalry horses from the US, Canada and Europe were Saturday and Sunday recreating history here.

The re-enactment of the battle is just one of hundreds of events being held around the United States to mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the 1861-1865 war.

“I’ve always been fond of history,” Miller told AFP, saying he was inspired by the tales handed down by his relatives. His great grandfather had even enlisted at 14 and fought in every major engagement.

Across the vast site outside Manassas, white tents were erected to serve as bivouacs and give historical insights into life in this corner of the South, 150 years ago.

A man dressed in the style of a French Zouave soldier was taking a nap, as lone violinists played softly nearby.

Despite the baking sun, Kevin Zepp, 60, stood tall in his simple gray wool trousers marked with the colors of his Alabama regiment.

“If you were a farmer or a worker in a factory, you had these trousers. It’s like the modern jeans, you put the military stripes on it,” he explained.

Sheltering under a tree, Karen Quanbeck, 52, explained that she was playing the role of Catherine Barbara Broune, a peasant woman who had worked with her brother, a priest, to transport the wounded and find medicines.

And while this weekend’s events hold a special historical significance, there are hundreds of volunteers who dress up in costumes throughout the year to bring the Civil War back to life across the country.

“We meet once a month,” said retired teacher Nancy Anwyll, from Springfield, Virginia. “I’ve had an ancestor in the Civil War on both sides. I’m trying to learn more what they had to endure, I have to learn what they went through.”

War broke out in April 1861 soon after 11 southern states formed the Confederate States of America. While the exact causes of the war are still hotly debated, there is no doubt that an over-riding issue was slavery.

The agricultural South relied heavily on slaves to work their rich cotton plantations and feared the new US president, Abraham Lincoln, would eventually set them free.

Federal cavalrymen prepare to clash at the 150th Anniversary of 1st Bull Run Reenactment on July 23, 2011(AFP, Karen Bleier)

While Lincoln declared an end to slavery in 1863, race relations remain one of the nation’s most divisive issues.

“A lot of differences we had during the civil war do exist today — the state rights, the race relations — there’s a lot of things we can still work out today,” said Dennis Rabida, 46, from New Jersey.

Retired soldier Dan Byers said he had come to “honor his ancestors,” recalling that the northerners had “invaded our country,” the South.

The clashes in Manassas were ferocious, pitting a northern Union army of some 30,000 against a slightly smaller Confederate force.

In the end, the Confederates won the battle, although they were to go on to lose the war. About 5,000 troops on both sides died on the Manassas battlefield that day, but by the end of the war, the toll was 600,000 lives lost.

Manassas rescue fueled preservation movement

Manassas was where today’s battlefield preservation efforts began, with an assist from Fredericksburg. 

By CLINT SCHEMMER

 

A hundred and fifty years ago Thursday near this railroad junction, terrible bloodshed occurred.

Millions know the event today as the First Battle of Manassas (or Bull Run in the North). A year later, a second fight was waged on some of the same ground–the Second Battle of Manassas. Both were Confederate victories, each profound in its impact.

Fewer people have heard of the 1980s Third Battle of Manassas or know that its efforts were also profound, in very different, and less warlike, ways.

The third battle, fought here and in the halls of Congress over a shopping mall and mixed-use development nearly built on part of the Second Manassas battlefield, fostered a national preservation movement that continues today.

It is on the minds of many people in and around Manassas now as thousands mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s first big battle. In encounters and interviews here this week, the topic came up time and again.

It was just so for historian Joan M. Zenzen, author of “Battling for Manassas,” who was at Henry Hill–heart of Manassas National Battlefield Park–on Thursday to give a talk to visitors and sign copies of her book.

Her work chronicles the battle over the William Center project in western Prince William, next to the park, and all that it led to.

Acquiring that tract, through a legislative taking, cost the nation $134 million. It made advocates and government officials realize there had to be a better way to save Civil War sites and avert messy spats.

A. Wilson Greene, then a historian in Fredericksburg, was one. A Manassas-like “eleventh-hour-and-fifty-ninth-minute rescue operation, at a cost that is so astronomical, is simply not a blueprint” for preservation, he told Zenzen.

FREDERICKSBURG SPARK

In June 1987, Greene and some 30 others met in Fredericksburg to size up events at Manassas and also-threatened battlefields at Brandy Station in Culpeper County and Chantilly in Fairfax County.

They formed the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, based in Fredericksburg. The nonprofit mapped 75 battlefields to identify land to be saved, raised money and bought thousands of acres. In 1999, the APCWS merged with the Civil War Trust, which carries on its work today.

“The preservation controversies at Manassas gave birth to the modern battlefield preservation movement,” said Jim Campi, the trust’s policy and communications director.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, led by Richard Moe, and the National Parks and Conservation Association were other key players in the Manassas fights, Zenzen said. The two groups remain active in preservation today, recently in the Wilderness Walmart flap in Orange County.

Fresh off the heels of the William Center mess, Spotsylvania Countyopted to support preserving part of Confederate Gen. James Longstreet’s flank-attack site at Fawn Lake.

“Officials were saying, ‘Let’s do this, because we don’t want another Manassas mall [controversy],'” Zenzen said.

Manassas also spawned a bunch of local battlefield-advocacy groups that are critical to efforts today, she said.

“They have their fingers on the pulse, rally the troops early, get funding from local people and know the local politics, which is ultimately very, very important,” Zenzen said.

She pointed out the work, in the Fredericksburg area, of the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust.

In Washington, the Manassas spectacle prompted Congress to charter the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, whose study remains the bible for battlefield preservation, and to create the American Battlefield Protection Program, a small agency that continues the commission’s work and provides matching-dollar grants for land acquisition.

SAVING DEEP CUT

One measure of how far things have come since 1987 could be seen Wednesday at Brawner Farm, a part of Manassas National Battlefield Park that is a stone’s throw from the spot where the Manassas battle re-enactments will be held today and tomorrow.

State and federal officials and Civil War Trust members gathered at Brawner’s 19th-century farmhouse to herald a land deal stitching together pieces of Deep Cut, where the Second Battle of Manassas was decided.

They announced that 54 private acres within the park’s congressionally authorized boundary–an inholding or so-called “doughnut hole”–were being donated to the trust by Service Corporation International of Houston and conserved by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Douglas Domenech, Virginia’s secretary of natural resources, called the news the latest example of the “great strides” the state has made in battlefield preservation.

Such efforts are good, Domenech said, for what he called “the three E’s”–education, the environment and the economy.

“The great number of tourists, spectators and re-enactors coming to Manassas to witness the anniversary events this week is proof positive that a well-preserved battlefield is an economic boon for the community and the commonwealth,” he said.

The Civil War sesquicentennial gives fresh urgency to preserving battlefields, said Domenech and Jon Jarvis, director of the National Park Service.

But government, Jarvis said, usually steps in late in the game: “The preservation of these places has always been driven by the citizenry, by individuals and organizations like the Civil War Trust. It really isn’t driven by government.”

Jarvis said that Ken Burns discovered that truism while researching his recent PBS documentary “America’s Best Idea,” on the creation of the national parks.

“It has always been up to individual people who stepped up at critical times and devoted their lives to the protection of these places,” he said.

THREATS WON’T GO AWAY

On Thursday, as the Battle of Manassas’ 150th-anniversary hoopla swirled around her, Zenzen independently echoed that idea.

Vigilance will always be essential, she said, no matter how many battlefield acres nonprofits and government agencies are able to save.

“You have to constantly remind people what’s the value of these landscapes and of the battlefield parks–why is it that we don’t want to widen Lee Highway right next to the Stone House at Manassas and don’t want to have 10 cellphone towers on the horizon from Henry Hill, or high-rises right next to the Wilderness battlefield,” Zenzen said.

“If you don’t keep talking that talk and trying to persuade people to retain the character of these places, people won’t be able to take their kids and walk across them and feel like they’re touching that history.”

Clint Schemmer: 540/368-5029
Email: cschemmer@freelancestar.com

 

150th Anniversary Reenactment of the First Battle of Manassas/Bull Run Will Occur as Scheduled July 23-24, 2011

PRINCE WILLIAM AND MANASSAS, Va., July 22, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The commemorative reenactment of The First Battle of Manassas/Bull Run will proceed as scheduled on Saturday, July 23 and Sunday, July 24, 2011 at Pageland Farm in Gainesville, VA.   Roughly 17,000 spectators are expected to watch this definitive reenactment of the first major land battle of the American Civil War and reflect upon the 150th Anniversary. More than 8,700 reenactors from across the United States,Canada, and Europe will participate. Organizers are prepared to welcome all participants with 35,000 bottles of free water, cooling stations and misting tents, air conditioned shuttle buses and other accommodations for the heat. It is suggested that participants drink plenty of water prior to arrival and while at the event, wear a hat, sunscreen, sneakers or shoes (not sandals) and bring insect repellent for their comfort.

“Public safety and emergency management officials are prepared to keep everyone at the event as safe and comfortable as possible, we couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome the world to Prince William & Manassas,” said Ann Marie Maher, Executive Director of the area’s tourism marketing organization.  “Visitors and reenactors will experience a once-in-a-lifetime event this weekend.”

Online ticket sales (via www.manassasbullrun.com) end at 10 p.m. tonight, Friday, July 22. Day of ticket sales will be available at the event parking area at Jiffy Lube Live, 7800 Cellar Door Drive, Bristow, VA 20136 where free shuttles will run continuously from 6:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. The battle reenactment begins at 9:30 a.m. and are expected to continue until 12 noon with living history programs, and confederate and union camps open to the public after the reenactment.   Modern and period day vendors will also be on-site.

For FAQs and the latest information, participants can visit www.manassasbullrun.com or follow the tourism bureau’s updates on Facebook (www.facebook.com/pwcmanassas) or Twitter (www.twitter.com/visitPWC).

Discover Prince William and Manassas is the area’s tourism marketing organization promoting Prince William County andManassas, Virginia.

SOURCE Discover Prince William & Manassas

RELATED LINKS

http://www.manassasbullrun.com

Wool-clad Civil War re-enactors brace for heat

MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press

National Park service employee Stanley McGee runs safety checks on muskets as Civil War re-enactors prepare to participate in the First Battle of Manassas 150th Anniversary Commemorative ceremony at the Manassas National Battlefield Park in Manassas, Va., Thursday, July 21, 2011. Thursday marks the 150th anniversary of the first major battle of the Civil War. Photo: Steve Helber / AP

MANASSAS, Va. (AP) — For all the attention to authenticity, organizers for a major re-enactment marking the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Bull Run can’t replicate one important detail: the weather.

Forecasts this weekend in Manassas call for temperatures to reach triple digits, with the heat index perhaps exceeding 115 degrees. Back in 1861, when the North and South clashed in the Civil War’s first major land battle, recorded temperatures were in the 80s.

But authentic wool uniforms are a point of pride and are not to be sacrificed in the name of staying cool. So what’s a re-enactor to do?

“Suck it up,” called out a member of the 4th Virginia Infantry, Company A, when fellow re-enactor Corey James, 20, of North Canton, Ohio, was asked about the weather.

The re-enactors differ on whether the wool uniforms worn by soldiers of the era are as oppressively hot as they appear. One re-enactor shows off his muslin undergarments, which he said are typical for the era and breathe and help stay cool. George Alcox, 58, of Berea, Ohio, pretended to agree.

“They’re not as hot as they look. They’re hotter,” he said.

At Manassas, uniforms are especially important. More than 200 uniforms were worn in the battle, which relied heavily on militia units from the various states, each of which had its own distinctive uniform. The patchwork of colors contributed to confusion on the battlefield, as soldiers struggled to determine who was friend and who was foe.

At the time, flamboyant uniforms modeled on the French Zouave units that served in North Africa were in style, with baggy trousers and fez hats.

John Gerndt, 51, of Centreville, portrays soldiers in several different units depending on which battle is re-enacted. But the First Battle of Manassas allows him to break out his uniform for the 11th New York Infantry, 1st Fire Zouave regiment, which only saw action in Manassas. Drawn from New York firefighters, the red and blue wool uniform is one of the more distinctive on the battlefield.

“We’ll see how I hold up,” Gerndt said Thursday of the looming re-enactments, dripping beads of sweat already at 9 a.m. as he attended ceremonies hosted by the National Park Service.

He carries a 19th-century canteen and tries to drink plenty of water before the re-enactments begin.

“There’s really nothing you can do except slow down a little bit” on the battlefield, he said. “My sacrifice, on my level is well worth me doing a little bit of sweating” to honor the soldiers who died in battle.

Don Warlick, who helped create the battle scenes in the Civil War film “Gods and Generals,” is directing the re-enactments at Camp Manassas. He said the heat can pose a problem, especially for a re-enactor population that is largely middle aged even though soldiers themselves were typically young men.

“Our society has gotten more accustomed to air conditioning, not doing things the old way,” Warlick said.

So he urges people to slow down and stay hydrated.

“You’ve got to slow down to give the animals and the men time to catch their breath,” he said.

Keeping people hydrated is a daunting task considering that 8,700 people are participating in the re-enactment, many of whom set up camp for the weekend. Ann Marie Maher, executive director of Prince William County’s tourism bureau, which is the battle re-enactment’s main sponsor, said an elaborate pumping system has been set up to get water to the campgrounds. There, free-flowing spigots are one of the rare concessions to modern life that are allowed.

Event planners are also considering the general public’s health in the excessive heat. The National Park Service, which does not sponsor battle re-enactments but is hosting a series of events, canceled some afternoon programs Friday because of the heat. Among the canceled events were walking tours on the preserved battlefield, which offers little respite from the sun.

Maher said the re-enactments Saturday and Sunday will begin at 9:30 a.m., a long-planned concession to the heat. Cooling and misting tents will be available, and shade tents have been added as the forecasts called for 100-degree days, Maher said. Prince William Hospital donated 30,000 bottles of water that will be given to spectators.

Debbie Haight, executive director of Historic Manassas, Inc., which is sponsoring Camp Manassas and a series of programs throughout the city of Manassas, said shuttle buses that will carry crowds are air conditioned. And cooling tents manned by the Red Cross will be available to spectators at the various locales.

“We kind of knew as we were planning that it’s July and it’s Virginia, and it’s going to be hot,” she said.

Park Board attorney says it can’t change Lake Calhoun’s name

By Anthony Lonetree, Star Tribune

Lake Calhoun or Lake Humphrey? Never mind, an attorney suggests.

In a three-page opinion addressing a potential renaming of Lake Calhoun, Brian Rice, attorney for the Minneapolis Park Board, says he believes the board “has no authority to change the name of a lake.”

That power, he wrote in a letter last week to board members, belongs to the state’s commissioner of natural resources. And in the current case — a citizen’s proposal to honor Hubert H. Humphrey instead of John C. Calhoun — even the commissioner is powerless.

That’s because state law prohibits the commissioner from changing a name that’s existed for 40 years, Rice says.

As secretary of war 1817-25, John C. Calhoun ordered the establishment of Fort Snelling. But it was his standing as a passionate pro-slavery orator that prompted local Civil War history buff John Winters to suggest the name change.

On Monday, Winters said Rice’s opinion may not matter because he’s now thinking of trying to put the issue before city voters in 2012. Rice said that strategy may not work either, but he will defer to the city attorney on that opinion.

On this date in history: July 21, 1861 – Battle of 1st Bull Run/1st Manassas

Manassas Junction, Virginia, was the magnet that attracted the armies of North and South to the banks of Bull Run in July 1861. There two railroads, the Manassas Gap and the Orange & Alexandria, connected thirty miles southwest of Washington, D.C. The Orange & Alexandria was a natural line of advance for a Union army marching southward from Washington, while the Manassas Gap was important because Confederate forces in northern Virginia were divided. Eleven thousand men under Joseph E. Johnston guarded the Shenandoah Valley, while Pierre G.T. Beauregard had 22,000 men at Manassas, Centreville, and Fairfax Court House. The Manassas Gap linked these two armies and made it possible for the South to concentrate its forces wherever the threat was greatest.

The commanding general of the Union army, Winfield Scott, opposed an offensive into Virginia. Such a move, Scott feared, would only exacerbate sectional tensions. He also had little faith in the ninety-day volunteers that had been gathering around Washington since April. President Abraham Lincoln, however, believed a quick offensive against Manassas was worth a try and ordered Union general Irvin McDowell to organize a 35,000-man army for an operation against Manassas. McDowell shared Scott’s apprehensions over the reliability of his untrained army, but received little sympathy from Lincoln, who admonished, “You are green it is true, but they are green also.”

General Irvin McDowell

On 16 July, McDowell’s army began its march out of Washington, but did not reach Fairfax Court House until the evening of the seventeenth, giving the Rebels time to evacuate their advanced outpost there. McDowell’s lead division, under Daniel Tyler, reached Centreville the following day and found Beauregard had already evacuated the town to concentrate behind Bull Run. Tyler then pushed on toward the Bull Run crossings, provoking a sharp skirmish at Blackburn’s Ford, in which the Confederates thrashed Tyler’s force and forced it to withdraw back to Centreville.

Beauregard’s army was now positioned in an eight-mile line that was strong on the right, where the Orange & Alexandria Railroad crossed Bull Run and a series of fords – Mitchell’s, Blackburn’s, and McLean’s – provided convenient crossing points. Alone at the far left was Nathan G. Evan’s brigade overlooking a stone bridge where the Warrenton Turnpike crossed Bull Run.

After the setback at Blackburn’s Ford and reconnaisances demonstrated that Beauregard’s right was too strong to be attacked, McDowell learned that Sudley Ford, a few miles upstream from the stone bridge, was weakly defended and offered a convenient route around the Confederate left. So on 20 July he drew up a battle plan that called for Tyler to march his division west along the Warrenton Turnpike from Centreville toward the stone bridge, followed by David Hunter’s and Samuel Heintzelman’s divisions. Tyler would make a demonstration at the bridge to make Beauregard think the main attack would come there, while Heintzelman and Hunter turned north and moved to Sudley Ford. There they would cross the run at 7:00 and then march south along the Manassas-Sudley Road to crush Beauregard’s left and rear.

Rails of the Manassas Gap Railroad Jan 1865 (Andrew Joseph Russell photo)

It was a good plan. However, its success, like McDowell’s entire campaign, depended upon whether Robert Patterson’s army in the Valley could prevent Johnston from reinforcing Beauregard. Unfortunately for McDowell, Patterson failed, and on 19 July units from Johnston’s army began boarding railroad cars bound for Manassas.

To make matters worse for McDowell, his plan began unraveling from the minute he awoke his men at 2:00 A.M. on 21 July. First, it took an hour for Tyler to get on the road toward the stone bridge. His division then marched at a snail’s pace through the pitch black night until it finally reached the stone bridge at 5:30 A.M. Yet the flanking force had only just begun moving north toward Sudley Ford. At 6 A.M. Tyler began his demonstration by firing an artillery shell across Bull Run; Hunter’s lead brigade under Union General Ambrose Burnside was three miles from Sudley Ford. To make matters worse, Burnside found the road leading to their crossing point was little more than a cart path. Not until 9:30 A.M. – over two hours behind schedule – did the 13,000-man Union flanking force begin crossing Bull Run.

By 8 A.M. Evans had begun to suspect that Tyler’s force at the stone bridge was in fact a feint, a suspicion that was confirmed by a warning from a Confederate signal station: “Look out for your left, you are turned.” Leading 200 men to watch Tyler, Evans led 900 men north to Matthews Hill. By midmorning, the Confederate force on Matthews Hill had swelled to 2,800 with the arrival of Francis Bartow’s and Barnard Bee’s brigades. Their goal was simply to slow down the Federal army and buy time for Beauregard and Johnston to shift forces north to save the Confederate flank.

They bought an hour and a half. By 11:30 A.M. McDowell’s flanking force had crushed the Confederate line on Matthews Hill and sent the Rebels fleeing southward. “Victory! Victory!” an ecstatic McDowell shouted to his men on Matthews Hill. “The day is ours.”

This was not how Beauregard had expected the battle to develop. He had massed his forces on the right so he could attack McDowell’s left and rear and won the approval of Johnston, who had arrived at Manassas on 19 July to assume overall command, for the scheme. Yet, the complex and confusing orders Beauregard issued for the operation and the crisis on Matthews Hill compelled the Southern commanders to abandon this plan and begin shifting forces northward.

The Henry House and the Bull Run Monument on the Manassas Battlefield during a Spring storm. (Photo by Rob Shenk)

Henry Hill, approximately a mile and a half south of Matthews Hill and six miles north of Manassas Junction, would be the key to the battle. If McDowell could capture it, his victory would be complete. But instead of immediately pushing his 18,000 men southward to drive the beaten and disorganized remnants of Evans’s, Bartow’s, and Bee’s commands off Henry Hill, McDowell decided to have only James B. Ricketts’s and Charles Griffin’s batteries fire at the hill from Dogan’s Ridge.

Beauregard and Johnston took full advantage of McDowell’s generosity and began moving reinforcements to Henry Hill. The most important to arrive, Thomas J. Jackson’s brigade, reached the hill around noon. Upon his arrival, Jackson ordered his five regiments of infantry to take cover on the reverse slope of Henry Hill and began rounding up artillery pieces. By the time McDowell decided that he would have to fight for Henry Hill, Jackson had thirteen guns in position.

At around 2 P.M. McDowell ordered the batteries on Dogan’s Ridge to Henry Hill so they could blast Jackson’s line at short range. Ricketts arrived on the hill shortly thereafter and placed his guns south of Henry House, with three hundred yards of open ground between him and Jackson. Griffin’s battery then arrived on Ricketts’s left and a massive duel commenced between their eleven guns and Jackson’s artillery.

The Confederates got the better of the exchange. The Federals were now within range of Jackson’s smoothbore cannon, which they had not been on Dogan’s Ridge, and began taking significant casualties. At the same time, the Confederate line was now too close for the rifled Federal guns to be effective and most of their shells sailed harmlessly over the heads of the Confederates. To make matters worse, McDowell’s efforts to push up infantry support to Ricketts and Griffin were unsuccessful, while Jackson’s line grew stronger by the minute.

General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson got his nickname at First Bull Run/First Manassas (Library of Congress)

Then, as the guns roared, a legend was born that would fire Southern hearts for years to come. As he rallied his troops behind Jackson’s line, General Barnard Bee beseeched them to “follow me back to where the fighting is.” When they asked there that was, Bee dramatically pointed to his left and shouted, “Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall; let’s go to his assistance.”

As this was going on, Griffin concluded that a change of tactics was necessary if the Federals were going to break the Confederate line. He then took two guns back to the Sudley Road, turned south, swung around Rickett’s guns, and positioned them on a slight rise to Ricketts’s right. From here, Griffin hoped to hit Jackson’s line with a destructive enfilade fire.

At approximately 3 P.M. Griffin observed an unidentified force moving toward his new position from the right. Although a number of men in this force were wearing blue uniforms, Griffin deduced that it was hostile and ordered his men to load their guns with canister. Just then, McDowell’s chief of artillery, William Barry, told Griffin: “Don’t fire there. Those are your battery support.” Griffin disagreed. “They are Confederates,” he protested, “as certain as the world.” Barry was adamant: “I know they are your battery support.” Griffin reluctantly yielded to the judgment of his superior.

The unidentified force was in fact Confederate William Smith’s battalion of Virginia troops. Seventy yards from Griffin’s position they stopped, lowered their muskets, and fired a devastating volley at the Federal gunners. Smith and Arthur Cummings’s 33d Virginia Infantry Regiment then charged and captured Griffin’s guns. Sensing the tide had turned, Jackson then ordered two of his regiments to charge Ricketts’s battery. Soon Ricketts’s guns were in Rebel hands as well.

Centreville, Virginia after the July 1861 battle. (Library of Congress)

Just then McDowell finally managed to get infantry up to his beleaguered artillerymen and a desperate struggle ensued in which the guns changed hands several times. The Federal effort was fatally compromised, however, by McDowell’s failure to commit fully his superior numbers and the fact that, although McDowell managed to get fifteen regiments into the battle, not once did more than two join the fight together. Finally, at around 4 P.M.  a spirited charge by two regiments from Confederate colonel Phillip St. George Cocke’s brigade pushed the last Union forces off Henry Hill.

As the battle raged on Henry Hill, McDowell ordered Oliver O. Howard’s brigade to Chinn Ridge. If Howard could seize the ridge, he would be on the western flank of Henry Hill and in an ideal position from which to deliver a decisive stroke against the Confederate line. Just then, however, Arnold Elzey’s and Jubal Early’s brigades, the last Confederate reinforcements from the Shenandoah Valley, reached the battlefield. At 4 P.M. they arrived on Chinn Ridge and crushed Howard’s command. Beauregard then ordered his entire line forward. This convinced McDowell that his army had enough for one day, and at 4:30 P.M. the Federal retreat began.

The ruins of the Cub Run Bridge after the July 1861 battle. (Library of Congress)

With their army “more disorganized by victory than that of the United States by defeat,” the Confederate high command was unable to organize an effective pursuit. The Federals were thus able to recross Bull Run well enough, but then a Confederate artillery shell capsized a wagon on the Cub Run Bridge, creating a bottleneck on their line of retreat. Whatever order had existed until then evaporated as panic gripped the exhausted Union troops and the civilians who had come out to Centreville to watch the battle. The retreat degenerated into a chaotic flight back to Washington, and what had been a closely fought battle became a decisive Southern victory. Altogether, nearly 900 men had been killed and over 2,700 wounded, numbers that would pale in comparison to later battles, but nonetheless shocked a nation that had naively expected a relatively bloodless war. 

Southerners had anticipated that one victory such as Bull Run would persuade the North to abandon the effort to restore the Union by force. Lincoln, however, made it clear after the battle that he would continue the fight by organizing new armies for the long war to come. Thirteen months later the men in blue and gray would beet again in battle on the plains of Manassas.

Written by Ethan S. Rafus for Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History (2000) (pp. 312-316).

For further reading:

Davis, William C. Battle at Bull Run: A History of the First Major Campaign of the Civil War (1977).

Freeman, Douglas Southall. Lee’s Lieutenant’s: A Study in Command, vol. 1 (1942-1944).

Hennessy, John. The First Battle of Manassas: An End to Innocence July 18-21, 1861 (1989).

Johnson, Robert Underwood, and Clarence Clough Buel, eds. Battles and Leaders of the Civil War: Being for the Most Part Contributions by Union and Confederate Officers (1887-1888).

U.S. War Department. War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (1880-1901).

Civil War 150th Anniversary Events at Manassas National Battlefield

Originally posted by Brian at The District.

Stonewall Jackson Memorial – Manassas National Battlefield Park

Thursday, July 21, will be the 150th anniversary of the first Battle of Manassas, one of the fiercest battles in the Civil War. Throughout the week ahead, Manassas and other area landmarks will hold events to commemorate the occasion. Here are some of the highlights:

  • On Saturday, Arlington House, Robert E. Lee’s former home, will host a Union camp reenactment with military drills and other activities. This is a free event and more details can be found here.
  • Manassas National Battlefield Park will host a four-day long series of events including activities, lectures, demonstrations, military drills, and a concert by the Marine Corps Band. View a complete schedule of events.
  • Play ball! Baseball games will be played following the 1860′s rulebook at Jennie Dean Elementary School at 9601 Prince William Street in Manassas on Friday (2 p.m.), Saturday (9 a.m.) and Sunday 9 a.m.).
  • A parade of Civil War reenactors will march down Main Street, Manassas on Friday at 10 a.m.
  • A huge reenactment of the first Battle of Manassas featuring more than 8,000 Union and Confederate troops, will take place on Saturday and Sunday. Shuttle buses will run from Jiffy Lube Live’s parking lot. Tickets are $40 for bleacher seats, and $24 if you prefer to stand. Kids 6-12 are $31 for seats and $15 for standing. More information can be found on the Manassas Battlefield’s website.

It’s certainly going to be a great week for Civil War enthusiasts. If you do plan on attending these events, be sure to plan accordingly since we are supposed to experience some intense heat over the coming days.

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