Convenient to our house in Virginia (which we house-swapped into, prior to Airstream travel) were two National Parks. The first was Prince William Forest, and the second was Manassas National Battlefield. Our visit here required a wait, as the 2013 government shutdown placed it just out of reach. We visited the first day the National Parks reopened.
When We Visited: October 2013
Ages of Kids: 8, 6, 3
Though the day was cloudy, the visit was wonderful. We explored the battlefields, and enjoyed the wonderful outdoor exhibits as the kids worked on their Junior Ranger booklets. We also brought our FRS radios to the joy of our kids, who ran around playing with the radios most of the time outside.
Manassas was the location of the first Civil War battle, and it didn’t go at all as expected. Prior the battle, rifling had been discovered, and the spiral grooves in gun barrels made firearms much more accurate than muskets. As a result, the casualties were extremely high on both sides. Mix in a heavy dose of confusion on account of the hundred or so uniforms present, and the entire thing was a disaster. The present spectators (!) were thrown into confusion. They had expected this battle to solve the present issues once and for all, and the disaster that unfolded caused most to scatter.
I’ve had moments in our travels that had a deep connecting impact upon my soul. One of those moments happened on the Manassas Battlefield. As I stood in the row of artillery on the north side of the field reading about the confederate soldiers, I read about Stonewall Jackson.
Stonewall Jackson was one of those famous people mentioned in grade school that was significant for some reason, but I couldn’t tell you much about him. As I read the signs present, and considered the close placement of the opposing artillery lines, I came to understand how Jackson became ‘Stonewall’ Jackson.
Throughout the confusing and pandemonious battle, Jackson and his men held their line. History credits Brigadier General Bernard Bee with saying “Look! There stands Jackson like a Stone Wall!”
Standing there, on that very hill, helped me understand this bit of history just a bit more clearly. Stonewall Jackson is no longer just someone who’s name I vaguely remember, but a major participant in the early history of this country. This experience has motivated me to seek out these moments that connect me with the land, and with the past.