Tag Archives: MNBP

Bull Run vs Manassas

Bull Run vs Manassas

Bull Run vs Manassas

This hand-drawn map of the Battle of Bull Run is on display at the Manassas National Battlefield Park. As far as artifacts go it is fairly standard. A participant of the battle recreated the battlefield on paper. Possibly as part of an after-action report, or maybe just so they would not forget. We don’t know about the author, but we know one thing for sure.  The person who made the map was from the Union.

How do we know? The title on the map is Battle fo Bull Run. Had it been a Confederate that drew the map most likely it would have been labeled Battle of Manassas. During the war, the Union Army tended to name battles after the closest body of water. The Confederates used the nearest town.


Some other examples are:

The battle fought between April 6 and 7, 1862 is known in the North as Pittsburg Landing, but in the South, it was called Shiloh.

September 17, 1862, found the north fighting the Battle of Antietam, but the South fought the Battle of Sharpsburg.

April 8th, 1864 was the Battle fo Mansfield to the Confederates, but to the Union, it named Sabine Cross Roads.

Of course, in the end, the name of a particular battle was usually determined by the winner. Today, especially if you visit the national parks that have sprung up around the former battlefields you may recognize most of the ones in the South will use the Southern names.

As for why they were named as such, one historian theorizes that since many Northerners were from cities they considered bodies of water as the more noteworthy geographic feature. Southerners, however, tended to be more rural so they regarded towns as most noteworthy.

So if you are discussing the Civil War with someone pay attention to how they refer to battles, it may give you some insight as to where they are from!

Henry Hill Monument At Manassas

Henry Hill Monument At Manassas

Henry Hill Monument At Manassas

The Civil War began with a slow burn years before any shots were fired. Slavery, states rights, honor, and profit all pulled the men of the country into colliding orbits that collapsed like a supernova on July 21, 1861 at Manassas Virginia on the banks of Bull Run Creek.

The fresh and eager volunteers from North and South were about to start a dance that would last for many. A dance that would cost hundreds of thousands of lives. None of them thought that this would only be the first battle of many. For some, it would be there last.

The monument above was dedicated on June 13, 1865, not long after the war finally ended. It is located on Henry Hill a site on the battlefield that saw some of the hottest action. The monument stood twenty feet tall and was made of from locally quarried red sandstone. It was built by Union soldiers who were garrisoned in nearby Fairfield County. Gaining permission from their officers and the government they spent the last several weeks of their enlistments building the monument to their fallen comrades. A little way down the road the constructed a second monument to the men that fell during the second Battle of Bull Run in 1862.

This stands as one of the first monuments to commemorate the brave soldiers that fought in the war. The simple inscription says everything more that needs to be said.

“Memory of the Patriots Who Fell At Bull Run July 21, 1861.”


A War On Your Doorstep…Twice for McLean

A War On Your Doorstep...Twice for McLean

A War On Your Doorstep…Twice for McLean

Wilmer McLean was a businessman, in fact, a wholesale grocer in Virginia that probably would have never been a blip on the historical radar if not for where he chose to live. When the Battle of First Manassas (Bull Run to our Yankee friends) broke out in Virginia on July 21, 1861, McLean’s house was literally on the front line.

Confederate General Beauregard used it for his headquarters and the house itself suffered damage from Union artillery during the fight.  In the picture above is the foundation stone from that very house. The inscription reads simply “Wilmer McLean, 1856…Rector. Builder.” The battle ended in a Confederate victory and four long and bloody years of war were underway.

At 47 Wilmer felt he was too old to join in the fighting though he was a retired major in the Virginia militia. Instead, he worked in his capacity as a grocer, supplying what he could to the Confederate army. With Northern Virginia now pretty much under Federal control though he found it tough to provide for his family and feared for their safety. So in the spring of 1863, he packed them up and bought a house about 120 miles south. To Appomattox, Virginia.


On April 9th, 1865 a knock on his front door let Wilmer know that his home had been chosen as the sight of the surrender negotiations between Generals Robert E. Lee and US Grant. There in his parlor, the two titans met and all but ended the major fighting of the Civil War. His home had seen the start of the war and the end of the war.

Falling on hard times in 1867 he sold the house in Appomattox and moved the family back to Manassas then later to Alexandria. It would be easy to feel a little sorry for this man who the war seemed to follow like a specter, but then again for a number of years in the 1870’s he worked for the Internal Revenue Service, so maybe not.

The Strange Case of East Tennessee

The Strange Case of East Tennessee

The Strange Case of EastTennessee

Tennessee was not one of the first states to secede from the Union. This usually catches a lot of people by surprise. In fact, it was actually in question as to whether or not they would secede at all. As late as February 1861 54% of the people of Tennessee were not in favor of holding a secession convention at all. That percentage would change after April 12th, 1861 the day that the Confederates fired on the Union outpost of Ft. Sumter.

In response to the attack on April 15th, President Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 volunteers to put down the rebellion. This move pushed the rest of the southern states out of the Union.  On June 8th, 1861 Tennessee held their secession referendum. West Tennessee was overwhelmingly in favor of secession, East Tennessee was steadfastly opposed. It would be up to Middle Tennessee to break the deadlock and break it they did. Middle Tennessee in February of that year was 51% opposed to secession, by June and the vote that number had swung to 88% in favor. Tennessee would leave the Union.

East Tennessee

Now for the part that you may not know.

East Tennessee was not real happy with being forced to leave the Union and in a series of conventions, the twenty-six counties that made up that part of the state decided to secede from Tennessee. (Much like what happened with Virginia and West Virginia.) They made their petition to the state legislature in Nashville, who promptly refused it and for good measure sent troops in to occupy East Tennessee and keep it part of the state.

Am I the only one that sees the irony here? The State of Tennessee leaves the Union because Lincoln called for troops to keep states in the Union. But when a large portion of their population asked to breakaway from the state, they responded with force. Hmmmm.

East Tennessee would stay under Confederate occupation until 1863. All the while they provided troops to the Federal Army and maintaining a guerrilla war against the rebels. This base of support would end up leading to Tennessee being the first state allowed back in the Union during Reconstruction.




At A Loss

The surgeons kit above was fairly standard equipment for Civil War doctors. You can see there is not a lot there that is not made for cutting or sawing, that is mainly because that is what a doctor on the battlefield would do most, cut and saw.

It is estimated that over 60,000 battlefield surgeries were done during the war, and of those almost 45,000 were amputations. While it may seem extreme today at the time amputation was done to protect the patient against gangrene which was almost always life threatening. What made it worse was that there was really no anesthetic available, and even if the patient did survive the surgery, infection could always make the entire point moot. Needless to say amputation was something that many soldiers feared.

If whoever the amputation went well and the patient survived the recovery, there was a good chance they would be able to live a very productive life. Even though it was still not as advanced as today, prosthetics, artificial legs and even hands, were available to the men. In fact in the years between 1861 and 1873 over 150 patents were issued for artificial limbs. Both sides during and after the war provided funds to the veterans that needed these devices.

So for many the site of that kit in the photo above being brought out led to outright terror, for most of them it also meant a chance at life.

200th Post – Manassas, Poll Results and Our Future Plans

For our 200th post I wanted to show what I thought was an amazing sight. This picture was taken at Manassas National Battlefield Park at the location of the Confederate artillery line during he battle.  If you follow the cannon you will see they go off into the distance, I believe there were thirteen total. The Civil War was fought before we had movie cameras that could capture events and often accounts of the battle would take days or weeks to reach the families of those that participated. For the men that fought them there was always a struggle to tell their story.

Some men of course were good with the words and that is how we know what we know, but many more never got to tell the story of their experiences. It is those that feel that I always feel for the most when I stand at one of these historic locations. North and South combined totaled about 870 killed in action on the day of what would be the first of many battles. A little more than a year later at Antietam almost 23,000 died. The scale was just amazing.

So on this day I stood on the Confederate line trying to imagine what they saw and heard as cannons roared and men shouted. It is important to never forget those that died or those that lived. For 200 post I have tried to tell their stories from all of America’s wars. The mundane and the extraordinary. I hope that you have found it entertaining and worth while and that you would be willing to share this blog with your friends and family.

So the pool that I put up a couple of weeks ago regarding new features for the blog is closed and oddly enough we ended up with a three-way tie. You voted for more book reviews, military movie reviews and shorter articles. So as we move into the 200 this is what we are going to do.

One week a month will be considered review week. The Tuesday post will be a book review, the Thursday post will be a movie review. As always we will stick to the theme of American Military History. Wednesday we will have a little fun and post a word of military origin and a brief look at its etymology (word history). They’ll be brief but will add a little flavor.

So that is our plan moving forward. Thank you all for helping us grow our audience. Here is to another 200!