There is the teenager's gray jacket, with a ragged gunshot hole in the left shoulder.
Nearby, lies a woman's fan and Bible.
Then there is the red glass bowl used by a wife tending her injured husband.
They are part of a new exhibit on the First Battle of Manassas housed in a remodeled visitors center that opens today at Manassas National Battlefield Park.
Robert K. Sutton, the battlefield superintendent, said the 5,000-acre preserve, under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, draws more than a million visitors a year. He said the $1.6 million renovation gave him an opportunity to introduce some themes not previously explored in visitors center exhibits such as slavery as a cause of the war, the plight of civilians caught between the opposing armies and the contribution of women to the effort.
"In the past, we have done an absolutely superb job talking about tactics and commanders, and that is what most of our visitors come to hear," he said. "Now we want to be more inclusive, not because we want to draw more people but because I think it's very important for all the public to know the first casualty at First Manassas was Mrs. [Judith Carter] Henry, an elderly white woman."
The exhibit's fan and Bible belonged to Henry, whose house was on the Confederate line; too frail to flee, she stayed in her bed, where a bullet struck her on July 21, 1861. Teenager Charles Norris was wearing a gray Virginia Military Institute jacket and leading a company against the Union when a bullet shattered his shoulder, killing him on the spot. The bowl belonged to Fanny Ricketts, who nursed her badly wounded husband, Union Capt. James B. Ricketts, back to health in a Confederate prison.
Sutton's decision to expand the exhibit beyond the usual military themes reflects a growing interest in subjects other than the actual fighting. A seminar om Women and the Civil War was held last month in Winchester, and battle reenactments--more than 300 this year--are drawing men and women who portray civilians. Diaries, kept by bored soldiers and anxious wives, are being published, as are books that deal with the economic devastation caused by the war.
The new exhibit also includes a panel on slavery, inspired by Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) who came to see the battlefield about a year ago. Sutton said Jackson was well informed and presented some solid arguments for adding context to the information presented to visitors.
Jackson said this week that he has developed an obsession with the Civil War since arriving in Washington in 1995 because he has discovered that Congress is not so much divided between Democrats and Republicans as between Northerners and Southerners. He set off to visit more than 20 southern battlefields to better understand his colleagues. However, he found few of the exhibits put the war in context.
"They didn't answer the question of why the battle was fought," he said.
At Manassas, he found Sutton was willing to listen to his concerns and act on them. Jackson and Park Service Director Robert Stanton have been invited to take part in the 3 p.m. ceremony that officially opens the center, Sutton said.
As part of the day-long celebration, Park Service rangers will conduct battlefield tours, and reenactors representing the 14th Brooklyn Regiment and 4th Virginia Cavalry will present programs of military tactics. Visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic dinner and listen to a concert by the Wildcat Regiment Band at 6 p.m. The event will conclude with a candlelight tour of the historic Stone House at 8 p.m.
Although the Park Service is marking the anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas this weekend and the new exhibits are devoted to that event, they have not ignored the Second Battle of Manassas, which took place on the same ground in 1862. Sutton said exhibits of that particular battle are housed in another building.
Sutton calls the new exhibits "artifact-rich," pointing to an 1861 oil portrait of Confederate Gen. P.T.G. Beauregard, who commanded 20,000 troops at Manassas, and several uniforms--representative of both sides--that have survived 138 years in almost perfect condition.
A special section is devoted to the Ricketts. The Union captain was shot four times during the battle and assumed dead; his comrades cut his tasseled, red-silk sash from his waist with the intention that it be sent to his wife. However, he survived, and the sash, cut in half, is part of the display.
Fanny Ricketts heard her husband had been killed, and after checking bodies on the battlefield and not finding him, she was given permission to enter a Confederate hospital where prisoners of war were being held.
In her diary, she wrote: "No words can describe the horrors around me. . . . On a table in the open hall, a man was undergoing the amputation of his leg. At the foot of the stairs, two bloody legs lay."
She found her husband and nursed him for several weeks, even following him to Libby Prison when he was transferred about a month later. She tended to him until he was freed in a prisoner exchange the following year. The red glass bowl that she used for soap and water is now part of the display.
Sutton said there is much more to learn about the civilian response to the battle. A diary written by a local woman, known only as Florence, tells her impressions of the battle as she watched it from the Confederate side. The next day she attended the funeral of Henry, the 85-year-old woman who was killed in her bed during the battle.
"We'd love to know who Florence was," Sutton said. "There are still so many mysteries, so much more to learn."