The Preservation of Second Manassas

Battle of Second Manassas
Hallowed Ground Magazine, Spring 2012

The effort to preserve the Manassas Battlefield dates back almost a century to the establishment of a park at the Henry Farm by the Sons of Confederate Veterans in 1921. This park remained the only preserved battlefield land at Manassas until the federal government began acquiring land as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal. On May 10, 1940, the Manassas National Battlefield Park was officially established.

Henry Hill Monument
One of two monuments "in honor of the Patriots" who fell on the battlefields at Manassas, was dedicated with great pomp on June 11, 1865. Photographer Alexander Gardner's team captured the proceedings at both ceremonies, including this view of dignitaries in front of the new monument on Henry Hill.

During the 20th century, northern Virginia experienced continuous and rapid development that threatened to overwhelm the battlefield — a particularly high-profile incident occurred in 1993–1994, when the Walt Disney Corporation proposed building a history theme park near the battlefield before public outcry prompted a retreat. Over the years, the National Park Service has identified and acquired threatened sites, but funding and federal regulations make quick action almost impossible. The Civil War Trust has stepped into this gap, preserving some of the last remaining private inholdings within the park.

The Trust’s first preservation transaction was the acquisition of 136 acres of historic and military viewshed land in 2000. With the approach of the sesquicentennial, the Trust targeted several high-quality tracts of incredible historic significance, including the site where Union Maj. Gen. Fitz-John Porter led an assault on Jackson’s line along the Unfinished Railroad on August 30, 1862. Today, the Trust has preserved nearly 190 acres of significant, bloody ground, and remains ever vigilant for potential future preservation opportunities. To mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of First Manassas, the Trust formally announced the transfer of two of these inholding parcels to the National Park Service.

The monument at Groveton is differentiated by the stacked cannonballs atop the obelisk, whereas the Henry Hill version was crowned by a single artillery shell. Artillery projectiles, still laying plentifully near the Deep Cut in 1864, were placed on the memorial for it's dedication. Some of the land in the distance was preserved by the Civil War Trust in 2011.

Historic interpretation has also remained a priority at Manassas. Today, Manassas National Battlefield Park is open to the public daily, with rangers to provide guided tours and information and a trail network that loops visitors from the Union lines around to the Confederate positions. Additional services and interpretation, including the new Brawner Farm visitor contact station, are available seasonally. In recent years, the park has made significant progress in landscape restoration, opening vistas and removing non-historic elements to help visitors better understand how the battle unfolded.

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