After brunch at the Silver Diner, Mr Pict and I, along with my Father-In-Law, took our two youngest sons to the battlefield at Manassas. Amazingly the kids managed to sit through the 45 minute introductory film which told the story of the two battles that took place at Manassas. The stylistics were very much borrowed from Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary and the production values were certainly better than the film we watched at the Shiloh battlefield in 2002. Mr Pict was absorbed in all the military history elements, watching the tactics unfold on screen, whereas my only way of engaging in the Civil War is through the social history or the human elements so for me the key parts of the story were the poignant death of Judith Henry and the African-American driver of the gloriously named Fannie Ricketts being taken as contraband and probably sold into slavery.
We walked the battlefield according to the tour along the sites of the first battle of Manassas. It took us past the building rebuilt on the site of the Henry House and the grave of Judith Henry. The family of the elderly Mrs Henry had tried to remove her to a safer position during the battle but she ordered them to return her to her home. Caught in the crossfire, a shell crashed into the house and mortally injured the 85 year old woman.
There were cannon scattered across the field to mark the positions of artillery during the battle. We saw the foundations of the Robinson house which had somehow managed to survive both battles unscathed. Manassas was where Stonewall Jackson earned that sobriquet. The nickname was coined by Barnard Bee whose place of death is marked by a commemorative stone on the battlefield. Adjacent to it is a modern statue of Stonewall Jackson on horseback. The statue is comical in its absurdity as it is of a muscular horse and a disconcertingly curvaceous Jackson who is sitting astride the body-building beast in what my 7 year old astutely described as a “Superman pose”. He is now obsessed with Stonewall Jackson.
Mr Pict enjoyed being a Civil War nerd in the shop with all the old male docents who are Civil War buffs. We bought a National Parks passport for the kids to get stamped as we travel around the US and received the first two stamps at the main visitor centre. We knew we could not pick up the stamp at the Stone House as it is only open at weekends but we then trekked to Brawner’s Farm to get another stamp only to find it too was closed. Despite their tender ages, our two small Picts really got absorbed in the Civil War while wandering around the battlefield. My husband may have found his acolyte in our 7 year old who has decided he is Daddy’s “Battlefield Buddy”.