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We Should Know Our History: The War Between the States

Manassas National Battlefield ParkThese days our country is divided politically, pretty much 50/50 and friends and family with opposing viewpoints cannot seem to have a civil discussion without breaking down into name-calling. I keep hearing people say “it’s never been this bad” and “I’ve never seen our country so divided”.

In the context of our short U.S. history, nothing could be more divergent than the War Between the States, fought from 1861 – 1865.  Keeping it in perspective, the stunning loss of 622,000 lives was almost more than our losses in all other U.S. wars combined.  Based on population percentages, that’s equivalent to 6 million today. It was a war in which family members were often on both sides of the battle and I can see that clearly reflected in my own ancestry research.

Manassas National Battlefield ParkThe battlefields are now national parks, under the management of the National Park Service and while Gettysburg may be the most famous there are many others.  On this trip north, we stopped to visit Manassas National Battlefield Park. Up until this battle, the general population was treating the warlike performance art theater, riding in from cities with picnic baskets packed, to watch. The battle at Manassas ended that trend as the violent, bloody battle and death toll of young soldiers from both sides sent the observers into a fast retreat. The First Manassas Battle is more commonly known as the Battle of Bull Run and it is considered the first major battle of the war, fought in July 1861. A second battle was fought in the same area in August of 1862.

Manassas National Battlefield ParkToday the pastoral setting has been beautifully maintained and buildings restored. There is a nice Visitor’s Center with interesting exhibits and a well-done movie explaining the battle. Rangers lead informative tours and hikes. Located near Gainesville, VA, the park is bisected by US Highway 29.

Some might wonder who won this battle, but from my point of view, no one wins a fight with his brother.