Academic journal article The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

A Confederate Memorial the "Equal of Gettysburg": Sectionalism and Memory in the Establishment of Manassas National Battlefield Park, 1890-1940

Academic journal article The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

A Confederate Memorial the "Equal of Gettysburg": Sectionalism and Memory in the Establishment of Manassas National Battlefield Park, 1890-1940

Article excerpt

During a congressional hearing on the need to preserve the grounds of Henry Hill, the main area of fighting during the first battle of Manassas or Bull Run, in 1913, Alfred S. Roe, a Union veteran who had missed the two battles of Manassas, expressed his desire for reconciliation through the memorialization of battlefields. He believed, "The time is coming . . . when visitors [to Manassas] will care less about who won on the field commemorated than that they are privileged to stand where their fathers fought, bled, and . .. died for what they deemed duty, irrespective of who won the fight." When discussing the same topic thirteen years later, however, one member of a Confederate heritage group quipped, "Is this park to memorialize Confederate valor and history or not?" By the 1890s, it seemed that the United States had finally reconciled the sectionalism that had divided the country thirty years before. Yet, the comments from Roe and an unnamed Confederate descendent show the continuation of a sectionalist divide in the country. Thus, an examination of the steps to the establishment of Manassas National Battlefield Park (MNBP) in 1940 leads to the question: how did sectionalism influence the efforts of veterans' descendants to preserve battlefields and publically remember the Civil War?1

Similar to a recent article on the early history of ChickamaugaChattanooga National Military Park, this essay examines the steps toward Manassas's creation and focuses on the persistent sectionalism that existed in the public realm of Civil War memory even after reconciliation. Although the creation of the original five national battlefield and military parks- Chickamauga-Chattanooga, Antietam, Gettysburg, Shiloh, and Vicksburg-in the 1890s generally represented postwar reconciliation, Manassas fits into an opposing category. Reconciliation led to many white northerners' acceptance of the Lost Cause-the South's created memory of the conflict that justified secession and the South's role in the war and that overlooked emancipation as a key component of the conflict's aftermath. Although northerners had accepted this line of reasoning, several white southerners perceived a Unionist lean to Civil War interpretation at national Civil War sites. Because the established parks preserved primarily sites of Union victories, numerous members of pro-Confederate organizations, consisting of veterans and their descendants, believed the federal government purposefully overlooked those of Confederate victories for preservation. To counteract the overwhelmingly Unionist stance these southern groups saw at established parks, the members looked to Manassas to maintain Confederate memory.2

For MNBP, the sectionalism that emerged in Civil War memory created a legacy of interpretation based on the Lost Cause. The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) and United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) championed that interpretation from the moment they purchased the land in 1921 until the grounds became part of the National Park Service (NPS) in 1940. Sectionalism and the Lost Cause, therefore, were pivotal to the establishment of MNBP as Confederate heritage organizations challenged the federal government for control over the land and how the Manassas battles would be interpreted.3

The PURPOSE behind veterans' desires for the preservation of the Manassas battlefields was to save the grounds over which two important battles had been fought. The first one, waged on 21 July 1861, was the first major land battle of the Civil War. After approximately she hours of combat, more than 5,000 Americans, both Union and Confederate, were counted as casualties-the largest number in a single batde in American history to date. In addition, Brig. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, whose desperate stand along Henry Hill reversed the tide of battle, emerged as a new Confederate hero. Thirteen months later, the two forces returned to the fields of Manassas. Over three days, 28, 29, and 30 August 1862, Confederate and Union troops once again bloodied the fields near Bull Run. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.