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Monday, November 16, 2009

While Lulu Conferenced - The Trailing Spouse Toured Manassas


Photos - City Hall is typical of the brick downtown of Manassas - You can still take the train from Manassas to DC - This is the rail junction that a Yankee capture would have shortened the war - Judith Henry house and grave (only civilian that died at battle) - Judith Hill House and memorial the soldiers built in 1865 - Stonewall Jackson statue disobeying the horse feet myth.

After 60 years of traveling and stopping at almost every brown sign I saw - I finally got to spend some time in Manassas - both the battlefield and town. Lulu was busy at the National Board Certification conference - and I was free to roam. Another reason to love Monday mornings is that the crowds that visit museums are low - and the Manassas National Battlefield was empty. All I had was beautiful weather - an expert tour guide - a peaceful silence with only the hint of the sound a breeze makes as it whistles through your hair and past your ears.

The Battle According to Harry -

The big deal about Manassas is that it was the first land battle of the Civil War. Northerners generally call it "The Battle of Manassas" because they were trying to capture the town that is 5 miles away from the battlefield. Southerners call it "the Battle of Bull Run" because they were waiting along Bull Run Creek expecting the Yankees to attack.

Up until this battle - everyone thought the Civil War would be over in a couple weeks. Most of the Northern soldiers had signed up for 90 days - and they were getting near the end of their stint without even firing a bullet. The troops on both sides were green and unorganized. Both sides even had "groupies" following them in wagons - ready to watch the battle like football fans.

Lincoln was being pestered to attack - so he had 36,000 men march out of Washington with a celebration and about 200 carriages of civilians in a caravan behind the troops. Just like Bush expected Iraq to be defeated with his "shock and awe" - Lincoln followed the same doomed plan. He expected the rebels to cut and run.

During the morning of the battle - at first the green rebels panicked and ran. But then Stonewall Jackson arrived with fresh troops held his ground and the fleeing troops rallied around him. After a few Union officers' mistakes - the Yankees retreated - and the "one month war" lasted 5 years.

The Yankees "advanced back" to Washington. The Rebels proved to everyone that they would not just crumble. The Manassas Railroad Junction remained a Rebel strong hold and road block to protect Richmond. Only 900 died at Manassas - compared to 60,000 at Gettysburg. But on July 21, 1861 - everyone was startled by the bloody rebel victory. America went on to lose 600,000 troops to battle and disease - more than any war before or since - even WWII. Lincoln had to resort to a draft because the war proved "unromantic." These soldiers were America's "Greatest Generation" until another one came along - and another one - and another one.

So that is how a retired school teacher gets his "jollies" - while his breadwinner wife makes the donuts. Every day is a new adventure - some better than others. Today's was really nice.

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