Matthews Hill Trail Report

Saturday was set aside for my “Quarterly Manassas Trip,” which I’d been looking forward to for a couple of weeks. This weekend’s objective was the northern half of the First Manassas trail. My plot showed it to be around four miles round trip, but who’s counting.

I started out from the parking area at Matthews Hill tour stop and headed south to the Stone House. Ongoing landscape restoration projects have cleared some of the tree lines near the trail.

No mater how many times I visit Manassas, I always pause at the overlook (Buck Hill?) of the Stone House looking at Henry House Hill. With much of the maneuvering of the battle occurring within view, it is easy to gain an orientation up to the point of critical mass near the Henry House.

From the Stone House, I backtracked to Matthews Hill and cut across on the main First Manassas Trail. Along the way I passed the George Stovall Monument:

After about a half mile, I reached the site of Pittsylvania, or the Carter House. A walled enclosure is all that remains of the family cemetery:

Feeling as if I had the time for side trips, I diverted off the main path and followed the horse trail to the north to what I speculated was the site of Poplar Ford. There’s a ford there, but if it is the same site as indicated on the wartime maps, I cannot say for sure:

Returning to the main trail, the next wayside was at Farm Ford where Sherman’s Brigade crossed Bull Run. As somewhat of a devotee of Uncle Billy, this was among my “must see” locations on the battlefield:

From there, the trail lead to the Stone Bridge, where a much dryer, but at the time of the battle, impeded crossing might be made:

The photo was taken from the modern U.S. 29 bridge. The trail from the Stone Bridge to the Van Pelt House site was closed temporarily while the park service repairs the “boardwalk.” So I took advantage of the wide shoulder on the road for about a quarter mile, rejoining the trail where the horse path heads up to the Van Pelt House site. The diversion wasn’t all bad, and allowed a view of the high ground occupied by Evans’ Brigade on the morning of July 21, 1861.

Notice the yellow sign to the left. “Horse crossing – 495 feet.” Why not just back the sign out five more feet and call it an even 500? Just the ever conscious tax payer that I am I guess. But after covering the “495 feet” and easing up the trail, I passed the Van Pelt House site:

From that site, I retraced my steps back along the main First Manassas Trail to the parking lot. Following a short break, I had time for another walk. This time the Sudley Loop Trail on the northern edge of the park. The trail starts along the “unfinished” railroad then edges Bull Run. Where the railroad path crossed the creek, on the far shore, I made out what must be the old bridge abutments:

Another site along the Sudley Loop is the Thornberry House (?), used as a field hospital.

That ended my morning hikes. Opting not to burn myself out, I browsed the Visitor Center and made a short driving loop. A stop along the way included Portici, where J.E. Johnston maintained a headquarters during the First Manassas. The same location overlooks the site of Gens. Buford’s rear guard action at the end of the Second Battle of Manassas. The location of the 1862 clash is now bisected by Interstate 66.

With trails criss-crossing throughout the park, Manassas Battlefield is hike friendly. With the proximity to large suburban populations, the trails see a lot of traffic. The only complaint I can muster is regarding the eight legged pests. I picked off no less than seventeen ticks during the day. None seem to have hitched a ride home. A minor annoyance at least.

My marker queue is rather long, but in a few weeks, I should have the Matthews Hill markers in the database to complement those from Henry House Hill.


5 thoughts on “Matthews Hill Trail Report

  1. Hope you don’t mind, Craig, but I see the photo on hmdb (sorry about the typo before) is not yours, so I lifted your photo from this post – with attribution, of course!

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