2009 Battle Anniversary

15 07 2009

I’ve received some inquiries regarding anniversary programs at Manassas National Battlefield Park.  I got this from the website, though it was tough to find:

148th Anniversary of First Manassas (Bull Run) 

Date:  7/18/2009, 7/19/2009

Time:  10:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Location:  Henry Hill


See Union and Confederate troops portrayed in an encampment representing the raw soldiers of the summer of 1861 on the Henry Hill battlefield.  Demonstrations of musketry and artillery firing will echo over the grassy fields where the combat raged 148 years ago.  Soldier life demonstrations will describe the experience of citizen soldiers, naive amateurs in their baptism of fire, encountering their “first gunpowder christening.”  U.S. Marine Battalion exhibits will illuminate the uniforms and equipment of Civil War Marines.  Replica colors or flags of regiments in the colorful confusion of the battle will be unfurled, and impressions of Union and Confederate uniforms will depict the “fog of war” the muddle of confusion in the reek of smoke on the battlefield.  Park Ranger tours will be conducted over the ground where bravery and sacrifice was witnessed in what the raw troops, “as green as grass” believed would be the “only battle of the war,” only to be sobered by the carnage revealed in the brutal combat.
Fee Free Weekend
Contact Park ranger staff at (703) 361-1339

Ranger Greg Coco

12 02 2009

Ranger Greg Coco

In this post I wrote about a short walking tour I took at Gettysburg this past August, led by Ranger and prolific author Greg Coco.  I noted in that post that Mr. Coco offered an unusually candid and humanistic narrative as he led our group to the Widow Leister house and The Angle, admonishing us all to take time to think of all the good things we have, and not to focus on the negatives.”  Later that day, after the tour, I heard from a friend that Mr. Coco was very sick with cancer.  That news cast the things he said that day in a different light.  I chose not to write about that, because I really didn’t know the man and wouldn’t discuss his health on a public forum.  I find today that Greg Coco passed away early yesterday morning.  I have not been able to track down an obituary online.  A memorial service is scheduled at the Gettysburg NMP Visitor’s Center this coming Saturday at 4 pm.

Roulette Farm

22 09 2008

Mannie has done it again.  Check it out.

Top of the World, Ma!!!

10 09 2008

Bull Runnings and its not so humble host have made the big time with this notice of my upcoming program at Sharpsburg Heritage Days posted on the NPS website for Antietam National Battlefield.  I know it’s not much, but it’s pretty cool to me!  Let’s just hope things turn out better for me than they did for Cody Jarret.

I was going to work up a program based on the Kilpartrick Family Ties series, but now that both the NPS and the festival’s website have advertised that I will be doing my Bull Run Threads presentation I guess I’ll stick to that – an amended version of my last roundtable talk, which may include some stuff I was not able to get to in Columbus.  I think I’ll still work up a program on Kilpatrick, so if any of you are interested in that presentation, contact me through the comments section of this post or the Speaking Dates page to the right.

If you’re in town Saturday, please stop by for the SHAF lecture series, which also features Antietam authorities John Schildt and Tom Clemens.  Their programs are at 1:00 and 2:00 PM respectively, and I go on at 3:00.  All lectures are at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Sharpsburg, and are free to the public.  And be sure to say hi!

Tree Clearing at Manassas Part III

18 08 2008

Here’s another Washington Post article on the tree clearing project at Manassas National Battlefield.  Please read through the comments – there are a ton of them.  While not all well reasoned or well written, they are enlightening.  We who consider ourselves battlefield preservationists need to have a clear understanding of the perspectives of those who do not share our interests.  Their priorities are often different from ours, but no less valid as far as they are concerned.

See earlier articles here and here.

Hat tip to pal Brian Downey.

Above photo of tree clearing from washingtonpost.com

More on the Gettysburg VC

11 08 2008

Blogger Kevin Levin has asked me to expand a little on my impressions of the new Gettysburg Visitor’s Center.  Well, you can read all about the layout and design of the VC on any number of blogs and websites, so I assume what Kevin wants to know is what I think of the place in light of what others have had to say.  I’ll just quickly address some of the criticisms I’ve seen, and also list what I viewed as positives.  Keep in mind that I did not visit the theater or the food court.

There is an awful lot of empty space in the building, particularly wall space.  This is true, but I don’t know what the future plans are for these expanses.  At 9:00 AM the space was conspicuous, but by noon it was obvious that the extra room was a good thing, particularly when one remembers how stifling and close the old VC was when it got crowded.  But the place is awfully big: ostentatious, even.

There is not enough of the park’s artifacts collection on display.  I can understand this complaint probably better than any other because of the emphasis placed on preserving and exhibiting the artifacts when the rationale for the new VC was laid out.  I think a good many items could be added with a more judicious employment of wall space.

There is more touristy junk and fewer book titles in the bookstore than previously.  Probably true, but I think many of the regulars who made purchases at the VC bookstore did so out of a sense of obligation, to help out, as it were.  Pretty much all the inventory could be had at a fraction of the cost from other stores in town or online.  Most of the other folks patronizing the store were looking for general books on the war and the battle, or touristy junk.  And nowhere else in town could I find this swell Lincoln-on-a-Stick.

The museum focuses too much on the history of the war in general and not enough on the battle specifically.  I think this may be the unkindest criticism of all.  The museum’s exhibits help put the battle into context, and at the highest level that should be the goal of interpretation.  After all, the other 5,000+ acres of the park are exclusively devoted to the interpretation of the battle.

Most of the criticisms I’ve seen come from fairly hard core students of the war and, more specifically, of Gettysburg.  Let’s face it, most of these guys (myself included) hardly spent any time in the old VC, and when we did go in it was to use the bathroom, meet up with friends, or go to the bookstore.  Frankly, I think this visitor’s center does not and should not cater to the frequent visitor, because the overwhelming majority of those entering its doors do not and will not do so frequently.  Gettysburg is what it is – the equivalent of the baseball and football halls of fame, both of which attempt to tell a whole story.  And Gettysburg is more often than not the only Civil War attraction (for lack of a better term) that most of these folks will visit.  The NPS owes its patrons the most comprehensive experience it can provide, and I think the new GNMP Visitor’s Center represents a big step in that direction.

Gettysburg Fix

10 08 2008

This past Thursday I decided, on the spur of the moment, to make a quick trip to Gettysburg.  The wife and son would be out of town for the weekend, things are a little slow work-wise, so I figured what the heck.  Wifey reserved a room for me at the Hampton Inn on York Street for Friday night, I wrapped up a few things that needed wrapped up, and I hit the road for Gettysburg Friday afternoon.  I got into town a around 6:30 and made a B-line for the the parking lot behind the Travel Lodge.  The Horse Soldier was closed, of course.  I guess the Visitor’s Center relocation has not affected their business to the point where they will stay open past 5:00 pm on a Friday night during the busiest season for the town.

And busy the town was!  After talking a bit with Licensed Battlefield Guide Andy Ward (I ran into him in the parking lot when he was on his way to take more of his fine battlefield pictures), I took a walk down Steinwehr Ave, past all the T-Shirt shops, ghost tour booths, and throngs of tourists.  At The Farnsworth House book store I picked up a copy of the new biography of Francis T. Meagher.  Later that night I stopped into the Reliance Mine Saloon for a couple or three Yuenglings.

Bright and early Saturday I made my way to the new Gettysburg Visitor’s Center, which I had not had the opportunity to visit.  It’s big.  Really big.  Lots and lots of space in this sucker.  The museum is nice, and the whole story of the war is laid out for what is undoubtedly the overwhelmingly typical visitor.  And it is the visitor’s center, after all.  The bookstore offers a nice selection for that same typical visitor, though there are also a few obscure titles (the reprint of Phisterer’s New York in the War of the Rebellion was a bit too pricey for the quality, though I thought about it).  I also took a walking tour from the VC to Cemetery Ridge, designed again for the typical visitor.  In this case, lucky typical visitors because it was led by Ranger and author Gregory Coco.  Ranger Coco offered an unusually candid and humanistic narrative as he led our group to the Widow Leister house and The Angle, admonishing us all to take time to think of all the good things we have, and not to focus on the negatives.  It was a beautiful day, so after the tour I wandered about a bit.  The 20th Mass. “Pudding Stone” monument (the last photo) is one of my all-time favorites.


As I headed back to my car, I passed this kiosk.  Yep, that face peering at you is non-other than Francis Brownell of the 11th New York Fire Zouaves, profiled here.

I returned to my favorite parking lot and, after a quick bite at O’Rorke’s Pub (named for the fellow whose account of his experience at Bull Run can be read here), set off for a long walk around town.  I was pleasantly surprised to run into old friends Jim and Kathy Semler and we had a nice chat.  Before heading home I returned to The Horse Soldier and purchased a print of Don Troiani’s New York’s Bravest, which depicts the 11th NY and the 69th NYSM at Bull Run.  I’m not a big fan of Troiani, but the subject appealed to me.  Now to get it framed and find a place to hang it.

Monocacy National Battlefield Visitor’s Center

6 08 2008

Fellow blogger and historical marker hunter Craig Swain chastised me for having no photos of Monocacy National Battlefield in this post about some of the sites I visited in Frederick, Md, in June.  I shot plenty, and decided to present them here in this separate post.

The new visitor’s center at the park is very airy and modern, but I gotta tell ya, the old VC had a lot more charm.  I find the new one a little, umm…, sterile?  Austere?  The first floor houses what you might call a book store, but really it’s all one big room featuring the ranger desk.  The second floor has artifacts and placards arranged in a circular pattern, with an observation deck at the end opposite the entrance.  I don’t know, it just didn’t appeal to me.  I may have been expecting too much after having seen the new Corinth Interpretive Center.  Anyway, here are some photos I took that hot, hot Saturday morning.  Click the thumbs for larger images, click those images for even larger ones.


The entrance sign and the new, barnlike VC – the old VC was in a real barn


The second floor displays, including a room encircling time-line and the frock coat of a New Jersey officer (I think)


A tactile display and Jubal Early’s campaign desk


A cavalry display and an appropriately larger artillery display


Time-line detail and battle map with bells and whistles


General Lew Wallace’s uniform coat and vest and the observation deck


A small closet which the visitor opens to reveal the battleflag of Co F, 17th VA Cavalry, Nighthawk Rangers

Anniversary Events

15 07 2008

The Friends of Manassas National Battlefield Park have posted the NPS flyer for events at the park this coming weekend.  Check it out.

Matthews Hill Trail and a Bonus

15 07 2008

Craig over at To the Sound of the Guns has posted a great photo tour of the Matthews Hill Trail at Manassas Battlefield Park.  Check it out.  Thanks, Craig, for all the fine work you do.  But as often happens with thread pulling, this three sentence post has turned into something different.  (Follow the links please; this ain’t yer gandpa’s blog.)

Craig’s photo essay includes a shot of the George T. Stovall monument (see below, courtesy of Craig – notice that WordPress has prettied up our photos, but they’ve added some glitches to the image posting process).  I found this interesting tidbit, which sheds some light on how life continued on for those left behind.  George’s sister Louisa petitioned the court to appoint her husband trustee of railroad stock and four slaves in the wake of the death of the former trustee (George) and of her father who had originally bequeathed the duty to George.  It’s most interesting I think in light of the fact that the petition was granted on May 4, 1865!  Remember that Jefferson Davis was not captured until six days later, on May 10, near Irwinville, GA.  At least until then, it appears to have been business as usual in the courts of Georgia.

George T. Stovall Marker Detail

George T. Stovall Marker Detail




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 849 other followers