Manassas National Battlefield Park
Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes designated Manassas National Battlefield Park on May 10, 1940 to commemorate the Civil War battles of First and Second Manassas. Located in the Piedmont Region of Virginia in Prince William and Fairfax counties, the Park comprises 5,071 acres approximately 25 miles west of Washington, D.C. Because of the delayed designation as a national park, compared with other Civil War battlefields, and the presence of relatively few commemorative monuments, the Manassas National Battlefield Park provides an opportunity to explore the complicated relationship between Civil War history, political action, and commemoration fueled by the Confederate victories and resulting Federal defeats at the battles of First and Second Manassas.1 The vistas and unspoiled views afforded visitors are rare among the preserved battlefields in our national parks, allowing interpretation and appreciation of the history in a manner not available elsewhere.
Congressman and others, who drove out from Washington in their carriages with picnic baskets to watch the fight, reflected the nation’s fascination with an early, glorified expectation of what civil war entailed. While they flocked to the Battle of First Manassas, civilians fled the destruction that came with the Battle of Second Manassas. The Confederate’s solid victory in 1862, 13 months after First Manassas, brought them to the height of their power. This second Union defeat was the culmination of Robert E. Lee’s bold Northern Virginia Campaign, shifting the seat of war from the gates of Richmond, Virginia to the doorsteps of Washington, D.C., and opening the way for his first invasion of the North.
Today, in an atmosphere of commemoration and solemnity, the Manassas National Battlefield Park protects the battlefield landscape, historic structures, museum collections, and archeological resources that are tangible links to the events that unfolded at the battles of First and Second Manassas and serve as a physical record of the people who experienced the Civil War first-hand1. The Park’s attention to its natural resources, as well as the elements of increasing urban sprawl that affect them, provide valuable information for the American public seeking environmental education experiences related to National Park preservation.
1: Excerpts paraphrased from Foundation Document Overview Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia