Out in Prince William County, Va., where I spent my boyhood and early manhood, the lands over which history was made are threatened by "development."
Had there not been a diligent and lengthy effort - nay, efforts - to make a permanent park of the main area where the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run, the Yankees call it, with emphasis on Run ), the historic site would not have been preserved.
A year later, in 1862, the Confederate and Union armies fought there again, mostly adjacently, the main positions reversed. Now that adjacent area creates another turmoil - between preservationists and development-minded exploiters.
Second Manassas was fought by armies more seasoned than those of First Manassas. The lay of the land and the strategic movements of the opposing forces were studied, and still are, by military people and Civil War buffs.
I am reminded of Col. John Singleton Mosby, the Gray Raider. I often saw him when he would come from his Warrenton home to Manassas by train and have long visits with Lt. George Carr Round, USA.
There came about an annual reunion of Mosby's Men. Each year the numbers attending would swell until at length Col. Mosby resigned, saying that if he had had that many men during the late war the South would have won.
When I was a child of nine, I saw survivors of the Confederate and Union forces, which had fought each other on July 1, 1861, form lines on pastures about the Henry House. In less than seven months the remarkable George Carr Round, who as a young lawyer after the war had settled in Manassas, organized the Manassas National Peace Jubilee. He was to bring President Taft out-by steamer automobile, driven by the handsome presidential aide, Col. Archibald Butt, later of ill-fated Titanic fame-to cap the observance.
While my father and mother and my two sisters drove the seven or so miles to the battlefield, by surrey with picnic lunch, there were terrific thundering clashes to be heard coming from the north-east. I had had some doubts about the peaceful role of the peace jubilee and I envisioned-and perhaps hoped for-outbreaks of conflict. It proved to be a sharp thunderstorm, which flooded Little Rock Ford in Fairfax and impeded road (not yet highway) traffic.
On the battlefield were two lines, Gray and Blue. They marched toward each other, shook hands and then formed mixed twosomes, three-somes or other small groups. There would be conversation, then pointings hither and yon, laughter and smiles, and backslapping. Then they sat down, as well they might, the better to partake of the Virginia fried chicken, ham, home-baked breads, cakes, lemonade and so on, served by the ladies of Prince William.
One Union veteran had advised Lt. Round (whose children still live in Manassas) that if there was to be a peace jubilee, Manassas was not the place to jubilate. But jubilate the veterans of both sides did.
There was more to George Carr Round than the Manassas National Peace Jubilee. He was the right-hand man to William Ruffner in bringing public education to Virginia. He had the streets of Manassas named after both Confederate and Union heroes. Grant and Lee Avenues intersect at the Prince William County Courthouse, where the final ceremony of the jubilee was staged. And most likely the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee would not have been placed in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol but for his influence.
When the 100th anniversary of the Battle of First Manassas was approaching, some of my contemporaries asked me if I had any ideas to enhance the celebration. I suggested a sporting event. But they vetoed it as a possible reflection on the men in Blue-and on the ladies who had driven out from Washington to see the fun.
I mentioned that from the Stone Bridge over Bull Run to Washington was the exact distance of the Marathon. I continue thinking that, with the popularity of distance running today, it might be a popular event.
In utmost sincerity I support the movement for the enlargement of the Manassas Battlefield National Park to include the territory of the Second Manassas. Lt. Round would have supported it. And I hope that when Virginia's Sens. Harry F. Byrd Jr. and John Warner pass, and probably salute, the statue of Gen. Lee under the Capitol's dome, they will rededicate their efforts to win the battle of Second Manassas.