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Civil War shots echo again at Manassas

Park rangers and visitors take photos of an encampment at the First Battle of Manassas 150th anniversary commemorative ceremony at Manassas National Battlefield Park on Thursday.

Associated Press

Park rangers and visitors take photos of an encampment at the First Battle of Manassas 150th anniversary commemorative ceremony at Manassas National Battlefield Park on Thursday.

It was Manassas, Va., where the greatest army ever assembled in North America first gave battle 150 years ago.

It was Manassas where a Confederate colonel earned one of the most enduring nicknames in American history.

And it was Manassas where Americans in both the North and the South grimly realized that their conflict was destined to be a long, bloody Civil War.

On Thursday, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and others commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Civil War's first major land battle, gathering on the hill on Manassas National Battlefield Park where the battle was fought.

"The nation got its first real look at civil war," said Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, which maintains the battlefield. "It dispelled the notion that this war would be a quiet affair."

Union forces held an early advantage in the battle, but the Confederates turned the tide in part due to the unyielding stance of Col. Thomas Jonathan Jackson, who earned the name "Stonewall" in the battle.

After the fighting in Manassas, Abraham Lincoln put out a new call for volunteers — this time asking for three years of service rather than three months — setting the stage for the roll call of bloody battles to follow over the next four years from Antietam, to Gettysburg, to Chancellorsville to Appomattox with hundreds of other battles in between.

Thursday's events kick off a weekend of activity, including a battle re-enactment.

Waging war

The 35,000 Union troops at Manassas under Gen. Irvin McDowell were the largest army ever assembled on the continent at that time, taking on a Confederate force that swelled to about 32,000 by the time the battle was fully engaged. As massive as those armies were, they were dwarfed by the numbers of forces at later battles. Gettysburg had a combined 165,000 soldiers and roughly 50,000 casualties, compared to 67,000 soldiers and 5,000 casualties at Manassas.

Civil War shots echo again at Manassas 07/21/11 [Last modified: Thursday, July 21, 2011 9:26pm]

    

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