Sunday, September 2, 2012

Civil War Sunday - The Day Two Generals Died in a Thunderstorm

Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of the United States Civil War Battle of Chantilly (Ox Hill), in Northern Virginia.

Fresh from defeat at Second Manassas August 28-30, this was the concluding battle of the Northern Virginia Campaign.  This particular battle is noted in particular for the fact that two Union generals, Philip Kearny and former territorial governor and Congressman Isaac Stevens, died. (How many generals do you find on the front lines of battle today?)

The battle raged in a thunderstorm so loud that it is said it drowned out the noises of battle. The battle lasted about two hours, but resulted in over 1,000. casualties.

Kearny's story was especially sad. He made the mistake of riding into the Confederate lines during the raging thunderstorm, and was killed when he refused to surrender.  It is said that Confederate Major General A.P. Hill (who we will run into again at the Battle of Antietam) exclaimed, upon seeing Kearny's body, "You've killed Phil Kearny, he deserved a better fate than to die in the mud." 

General Robert E. Lee wrote a condolence note which was ironic in a way, as Kearny (eventually) came to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. (The story of how this cemetery came to be should be the subject of a future blog post.)

It was very sobering when I visited the Centreville, Virginia area in July of 2011 to participate in the commemorations for the battle of First Manassas.  A number of Civil War sites have been swallowed up by development, something far too common and not unique to Northern Virginia.  The Chantilly (Ox Hill) battlefield is no exception.

Basically, what remains is a Fairfax County park.  Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to visit it.  I was hopeful of returning for the commemoration of Second Manassas this past August and visiting the park, but that was not meant to be. This small 4.8 acre park sounds fascinating.

A Civil War blogger has posted a wonderful description of his visit to the Ox Hill battlefield area, with lots of pictures.  It is a must read.

Were any Civil War battles fought near where you live?  Was that piece of your local history taught during your schooling?

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