By Glynn Wilson –
MANASSAS, Va. – Driving south from Washington, D.C. we ended up exiting Interstate 66 at Centerville, hitting Highway 29 on part of what is also called Lee Highway, named after the Commander of the Confederate Army in the American Civil War — or War Between the States.
The drive takes you right through the Manassas/Bull Run battlefields, now the Manassas National Battlefield Park, scene of the first major battles of the war.
According to lore, on July 21, 1861, the armies of the North and South clashed for the first time on the fields overlooking Bull Run. Heavy fighting swept away any notion of a quick war. In August 1862, Union and Confederate armies converged for a second time on the plains of Manassas. The Confederates won a solid victory bringing them to the height of their power.
It was there a legend sprang up around General Thomas Jonathan Jackson. It is said he held the line of Confederate troops against the confused Yankees of the U.S. Army of the Potamac by standing tall in his horse and ordering a bayonet charge, which routed the Yanks and sent them into retreat back to Washington, D.C.
“He stood there like a stone wall,” it was said, giving him the nickname Stonewall Jackson.
Of course there is some controversy over the state of Brig. Gen. Barnard Elliott Bee, Jr’s. statement and intent for the quote, which could not be clarified because he was mortally wounded almost immediately after saying it and none of his subordinate officers wrote reports of the battle. Major Burnett Rhett, chief of staff to General Johnston, claimed that Bee was angry at Jackson’s failure to come immediately to the relief of Bee’s and Bartow’s brigades while they were under heavy fire.
Those who subscribe to this opinion believe that Bee’s statement was meant to be pejorative: “Look at Jackson standing there like a stone wall!”
So much for myth and legend. He stands there like a stonewall still, literally carved in stone — true and heroic, or not. He was shot three times but died from pneumonia.
The Manassas park has been recognized by the National Audubon Society as an important migratory birding Area. It is home to more than 160 species of birds, half of which are migratory.
© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.