Blogging Manassas (Vol. 3): On the Battlefield… Sort Of

If I told you that I enjoyed my first day here in Manassas, I would be lying. Blistering heat reaching 103 degrees, bumper to bumper traffic on main roads, and other roads and sections of the battlefield closed off, are the three glaring aspects of today’s adventure. Putting the heat aside, because we all knew that was a part of the package when we enlisted for this journey (those poor reenactors, especially), I must say that the City of Manassas and whoever runs the battlefield have done an atrocious job of managing the record crowds that are about to engulf the town today, and in the days to come. The main visitor’s center on Henry House Hill has it’s parking lot closed and reserved for only handicapped people. Want to take a guess at how many cars filled the hundred-plus parking area? Oh, about fifteen as of five o’clock. I think it is great that they want to accommodate those who cannot walk long distances, but to close an entire parking lot, in this heat, is nothing short of ridiculous. Instead, you have to drive to another section of the battlefield (two workers gave two different sets of directions for how to get there) and then take a shuttle bus to the visitor’s center. The other thing that irked me were the gimmicky tents and “interactive” history trailers set up, right there on the hill. So, it’s not okay for me to actually park in a parking lot, but these workers can drive those massive multi-ton trucks and trailers onto the grass where men fought and died? Am I overreacting or do I have a right to be angered?

Not being a fan of buses, Jeff and I decided to just try to get around on our own, but that was short-lived, considering that the air conditioning  in his car does not work and the traffic was horrendous. We were able to see only limited portions of the field, including Chinn Ridge, Stone House, and Stone Bridge. We decided to call it quits with the hope of trying it again before we leave on Saturday. We did, however, drive into town thinking we would see something resembling Gettysburg, but once again, no dice. There was not one Civil War store that I noticed, and certain roads and side-streets were closed. The more I stay here, the more I notice that this little town is either not equipped, or not ready, to handle this enormous crowd.

All we have left to do is to look forward to the premiere tomorrow, which is the reason why we are here, after all. We will be trying to head back into town tonight to grab dinner with one of Jeff’s friends, who is a historian that is giving ten lectures this weekend (busy guy!), each on a different subject. I just have one message left, and that is for my reenactor friends and all those who will be doing some living history this weekend: drink plenty of water and [try] to stay cool. It is absolutely brutal out, and I hope to never come to Virginia again in the summer. This is a trip, for the amount of tourists and weather alike, that is best reserved for the late fall or early winter.

UPDATE (10:25 PM): The only store in town selling 150th anniversary souvenirs is a Walgreen’s.

Good thing Warner Brothers did not want to cover my expenses this weekend. All I would have to do is send them a bill for the amount of water bottles I have purchased and they would pretend to not know me…

3 Comments Add yours

  1. David says:

    The Warrenton Turnpike (US Rt. 29) is notorious for being crammed with cars on a normal day, not to mention when thousands of Civil War buffs want to see the battlefield. Same with the Sudley Rd (VA 234). The meet at a crossroads right near the Stone House and the traffic there is monstrous on a good day. However, those who want to preserve the Battlefield put up with the traffic because it means that the historical site itself is not harmed by widening the roads.

    The Battlefield itself is run by the National Park Service, and this week the Civil War Trust announced that an additional 44 acres near the railroad cut that Gen. Jackson’s men occupied at Second Manassas had also been acquired and preserved from development. (It includes what is called Stonewall Memory Garden, which is a cemetery, though not a military cemetery per se).

    The main reenactment is not at the actual battlefield, though there are such things as firing demonstrations and encampments there. The huge reenactment is in Bristow, VA just down the 234 bypass.

    Because of the huge increase in population in the Washington, DC metro area in the past decade, traffic has been exponentially aggravated. Just wait until they open the BRAC-ordained center in Alexandria – more than 5,000 DOD employees moving to a building for which no traffic plan was done.

    Sorry you didn’t get to see much of the battlefield. If you have time, try parking at the 5th New York monument and walking a little of the field. It’s really a memorial to Second Manassas, but it is interesting.

  2. Steven says:

    I might be hitting Manassas in May, if there is time during my planned two-week research trip. We’ll see. Hope you don’t pass out from the heat.

    God bless!

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