In his article "County May List Civil War Sites" [Virginia Weekly, July 29], Michael Leahy reports that Fairfax County is considering a request by the Civil War Trust to fund a study that would inventory its Civil War sites. As one who grew up in rural Fairfax during the '50s and '60s, I can tell you that all the important sites are gone.
The two most significant Civil War sites -- the Ox Hill battlefield and the Centreville Fortifications -- are substantially developed, with the last section of the fortifications scheduled to go under the blade. What hasn't already been accounted for or developed are encampments, a few grave sites and skirmish sites scattered throughout the county. Most are not recorded and are known only through oral history or accidental discovery.
In the article, Elliot Gruber of the Civil War Trust states all that remains of the Ox Hill battlefield is a small park near the mall, which includes a cemetery with the graves of two Union generals. This is inaccurate. No graves are there. I conducted an in-depth historical study and archaeological salvage survey of the Battle of Ox Hill (Chantilly) in the late '70s and '80s. The only documented grave was of a South Carolina soldier found on the back side of the ridge where the Confederates were positioned. The remains of Union Gens. Philip Kearny and Isaac Stevens are buried in their respective home states.
The private salvage survey and conservation project are the only systematic efforts I'm aware of that recorded and conserved physical evidence of the Ox Hill battlefield before it was destroyed. An exhibit of the salvaged artifacts was on display until recently at the Fairfax City Museum and also was included in the Civil War Trails program by the Civil War Trust.
Although the Ox Hill battlefield essentially no longer exists, an online virtual reconstruction is available (http://www.espd.com/oxhill/).
I applaud the efforts of the Civil War Trust, but I also think the county is qualified to discover the remaining sites through its own network and perhaps through a call to citizens to come forward with oral history. The county also ought to make a serious effort with sufficient funding not only to protect at least some part of the remaining Centreville fortifications but also to gather existing collections and resources before they too disappear. Our heritage is not a renewable resource.