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Historic America

Northern Virginia Campaign: Visiting the Battlefields

Fought between the Union Army of Virginia and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia 160 years ago in the summer 1862, the Northern Virginia Campaign is widely considered to be Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s most successful military campaign. The Second Battle of Bull Run (aka Second Manassas) was its culminating and most famous battle, but the two armies fought over a half dozen skirmishes and minor battles over the course of four weeks. 

Only a few of these battlefields are preserved and open to the public. Many are simply marked with a roadside sign or nothing at all. The four parks that preserve and interpret battles from the Northern Virginia Campaign are Cedar Mountain Battlefield in Culpeper County, Manassas National Battlefield Park and Battlefield Heritage Park in Prince William County, and Ox Hill Battlefield Park in Fairfax.

Cedar Mountain Battlefield, at 9465 General Winder Road (off James Madison Highway) in Culpeper County, Virginia, is open daily from dawn to dusk. Cedar Mountain is an excellent example of private organizations coming together to preserve a historic site. Beginning in 1998, the American Battlefield Trust and Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield have acquired and preserved 498 acres. 

Categories
Historic America

Kettle Run Battlefield in Prince William County, Virginia

This often-overlooked prelude to the Second Battle of Bull Run saw combat between New York’s ‘Excelsior Brigade’ and the ‘Louisiana Tigers’.

The Battle of Kettle Run (aka First Bristoe Station) was fought on August 27, 1862 between Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker and Confederate forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Richard S. Ewell in Prince William County, Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle resulted in approximately 450 to 550 total casualties and was a tactical Union victory, though Confederate forces were able to destroy two trains and miles of railroad before withdrawing.

Bristoe Station was a stop on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, an important rail line running north-south from Alexandria, Virginia to Gordonsville. It formed the northern half of the only rail link between the Union and Confederate capitals at Washington, D.C. and Richmond. During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate armies sought to control this railroad for themselves or deny its use to the enemy.

In August 1862, Confederate General Robert E. Lee sent Maj. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s wing on a flanking march around Maj. Gen. John Pope’s Army of Virginia to strike at Pope’s supply base at Manassas Junction. On August 26, Jackson’s men raided the Orange & Alexandria Railroad at Bristoe Station and moved north.

Categories
Historic America

Bristoe Station Battlefield in Prince William County, Virginia

A chance to inflict a devastating blow on their opponent turned into a disaster for Confederates at this Northern Virginia historic site.

The Battle of Bristoe Station was fought on October 14, 1863 between Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren and Confederate forces commanded by Lt. Gen. A. P. Hill in Prince William County, Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle resulted in approximately 1,920 total casualties and was a tactical Union victory, although Union forces ultimately withdrew and the Confederates destroyed the Orange and Alexandria Railroad.

Bristoe Station was a stop on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, an important rail line running north-south from Alexandria, Virginia to Gordonsville. It formed the northern half of the only rail link between the Union and Confederate capitals at Washington, D.C. and Richmond. During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate armies sought to either control this railroad for themselves or deny its use to the enemy.

In October 1863, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee tried to catch Union Maj. Gen. George G. Meade’s Army of the Potomac off guard and get around his flank. If successful, he potentially could have destroyed a large portion of the Union army and prolonged the war. Meade smartly withdrew, and Lee’s pursuit resulted in the culminating Battle of Bristoe Station, after which the little-remembered Bristoe Campaign was named.

Categories
Historic America

A Trip to Battlefield Heritage Park in Bristow, Virginia

Two battles, thirteen months apart, were fought at or near Bristoe Station during the American Civil War: Kettle Run on August 27, 1862 during the Northern Virginia Campaign and Bristoe Station on October 14, 1863 during the Bristoe Campaign. Bristoe Station was a stop on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, an important rail line running north-south from Alexandria, Virginia to Gordonsville. It formed the northern half of the only rail link between the Union and Confederate capitals at Washington, D.C. and Richmond. Bristoe Battlefield was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.

Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park is the result of a compromise between development and historical preservation. As part of Centex Homes’ application to rezone agricultural land and develop New Bristow Village near the historic site, it promised to dedicate 127 acres as a Heritage Park to the Civil War Preservation Trust and identify and preserve mass graves of Confederate and Union soldiers. The Prince William County Board of Supervisors approved their application in 2002.

Today, you can walk 2.7 miles of trails through woods, wetlands, and wind-swept hills where armies marched, camped, and fought over 150 years ago.

Categories
Historic America

First Bull Run Battlefield

The First Bull Run battlefield is part of Manassas National Battlefield Park, located north of Manassas in Prince William County, Virginia. Fought July 21, 1861, the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas) pitted Confederate Brig. Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard’s Army of the Potomac and Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s Army of the Shenandoah, against Union Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell’s Army of Northeastern Virginia in the American Civil War. The battle resulted in approximately 4,700 total casualties.

The Battle of Bull Run was almost a minor skirmish compared to later engagements, but it was the first major battle of the war. Both sides believed they would achieve an easy victory.  In the end, the Union army was routed from the field.

Categories
Historic America

Second Manassas Battlefield

The Second Manassas battlefield is part of Manassas National Battlefield Park, located north of Manassas in Prince William County, Virginia. Fought between August 28–30, 1862, the Battle of Second Manassas (Second Battle of Bull Run) pitted Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia against Union Maj. Gen. John Pope’s Army of Virginia in the American Civil War. The battle resulted in approximately 21,700 total casualties.

The Brawner Farm Interpretive Center is where fighting began on August 28, when Confederate artillery opened up on the Union army’s Iron Brigade as it marched east along the Warrenton Turnpike. Nearby, on Battery Heights, Confederate artillery swept the field on August 30, devastating Union infantry attacking Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps in an unfinished railroad cut.