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.