Thoroughfare Gap Endangered
Most Endangered Battlefields 2010
Thoroughfare Gap, VA - August 28, 1862
ALTHOUGH A SMALL engagement, with only about 100 combined casualties, the Battle of Thoroughfare Gap was of immense strategic significance. The failure of Union troops to stop the advance of Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet virtually ensured the defeat of the Union Army at the Second Battle of Manassas. This spurred the Confederacy to take the offensive with an invasion of Maryland and, ultimately, the Battle of Antietam.
Initially, only a small force of Union cavalry defended the Gap, but it was quickly displaced by the arrival of Longstreet’s troops. When federal infantry arrived, Longstreet moved his troops up the valley walls in response to an attempted flanking maneuver. With the gap firmly held, the Southerners took the offensive, attacking and soundly defeating the Union troops that stood between them and the other wing of the Confederate army at nearby Manassas.
In February, Advantage Environmental Consultants began seeking comments from the preservation community regarding a proposal to build a 150-foot-tall T-Mobile cellular communications tower within the core battlefield area at Thoroughfare Gap.
Although the mountain pass was widened in the 1960s to accommodate the construction of Interstate 66, the slopes that were the scene of some of the battle’s heaviest fighting, particularly north of the gap, have remained virtually unchanged for nearly 150 years. Although the developers claim they do not “believe” the tower would be visible from the majority of the battlefield, they submitted their plans for consideration without first conducting balloon tests, standard simulations of the project’s height and impact.
Preservationists fear that a cell tower hovering above this most famous of all Bull Run Mountain gaps would dramatically malign the picturesque, interpretive setting at the base of the gap near Chapman’s Mill. Historians also believe that there may yet be unidentified Civil War graves in the immediate vicinity. Additionally, the site has historic significance as the scene of an 1898 Spanish-American War Military Camp.
CWSAC has classified Thoroughfare Gap as a Priority III, Class C battlefield.