Friday, July 22, 2011

The Fort that Defends Home Depot - A Special Civil War Friday

Today we, and many other people interested in the Civil War, gathered in Manassas, Virginia for the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of First Bull Run, or First Manassas (depending if you are from the North or the South).  (the actual anniversary was yesterday, but the commemoration continues through the weekend.) I will talk more about about this on my normal Civil War Sunday post this Sunday, but today I wanted to talk about a very serious subject:  the preservation of Civil War battlefields.

We are lucky to have a Manassas National Battlefield Park, because a lot of Civil War battlefields have been swallowed up by progress.

Time Magazine recently did an article on the Civil War.  A very important thing that they did (whether or not you agree with their analysis of "if we are still fighting the Civil War") was highlight, with the use of reinactors, various Civil War battle sites which have been swallowed up by urban neighborhoods and shopping centers.

It happens everywhere.  Last year it almost happened in Virginia, and only in January were the plans to build a Wilderness Wal-Mart on 51 acres near the site (but, beyond the boundaries of the Battlefield) of the Battle of the Wilderness.

The Civil War Trust, a preservation group, estimates that 20% of the "hallowed ground" of the Civil War has already been lost.

And with that, I wanted to mention something I experienced today on the Manassas City Tour.

One of the sites I visited today was Mayfield Fort.

The Fort (or the 11 acres that still exist in an undeveloped situation) was built (along with various other fortifications) to defend the railroad junction at Manassas.  The junction's strategic importance to both sides(and its necessity of not falling into Federal hands) triggered the Battle of First Bull Run.  A Stars and Bars  flies over the Fort. (it doesn't look that different from the Union flag of the era if the wind isn't blowing full, which was the case when I took this picture at noon today.)

In the blazing heat, it was hard to walk around, and we stayed in the shade while the reinactors on the left side did an artillery demonstration.  (What you are also seeing are historical plaques, explaining the history of the fort) In fact, while we were there, a person was taken away by ambulance due to being overcome by heat.) What you don't see is what the fort is now defending.  This is on top of a hill, and if you kept walking through the photograph to the edge, you would see beneath it ...housing developments.  And a Home Depot.

This is the other photo I took before we gave up braving the heat, and left the site.  This is a "Quaker gun" i.e. it looks like a cannon and would have been painted black. Various Quaker guns were displayed at the Fort to fool the Federals.  (They were called Quaker guns because Quakers are pacifists, and these guns could never be used to fight a war.)

If you look to the extreme right side of the photo, about 2/3 of the way up, you see one of the apartment houses built around the Fort.

I want to make it clear that I am not against progress and not against development.  What I am against is the trivialization of our history.  Without our history, we lose our identity as a nation.

And I am very glad the remains of the Fort was preserved.

And I am even happier that the Home Depot will never have to fear an attack from the Union Army.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing. Living on the West Coast we don't have much in the way of Civil War history and what little we do have is slowly being preserved. This preservation is so important to the future generations that need to see the history.

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