Monthly Archives: August 2012

Lost Graves at Fort Ward

From the Washington Examiner:

Lost Graves Located in Alexandria Park

A two-year archeological investigation of Fort Ward Park in Alexandria yielded a total of 43 previously lost graves, only three of which were marked.

The dig, which began after descendants of those believed to be buried in the park asked city officials to locate the graves of their relatives, revealed artifacts and gravesites of Native Americans, Civil War soldiers and a post-war African-American community.

And although city archeologist Pam Cressey said there are no plans to excavate or immediately identify the newly-discovered graves, she said she’s grateful that the families of those who used to live in the area now have some closure.

“This full-scale study now allows the story of so many to be told,” Cressey said. “The findings further enrich our appreciation for the area and give credit to the many groups that once lived there.”

Alexandria acquired Fort Ward Park just prior to the 100th anniversary of the Civil War. But in the years to follow, many of the park’s cemeteries fell into disrepair until officials sought to celebrate as another major anniversary of the Civil War — this time the 150th — approached.

Those who came to the park for its commemoration told city officials they wanted to “bring to light, preserve and tell the stories” of those who had lived on the grounds of Fort Ward Park, but felt they were unable to because the grave sites of many former inhabitants were lost and even buried, Cressey said

Plans were put in place, and beginning in 2010, a team of archeologists descended upon the park with ground penetrating radars and other tools to find gravesites and artifacts spread across the more than 30 acres that make up the park.

Cressey said the City of Alexandria financed much of the dig and the trails and markers set to be installed to recognize the archeologists’ latest findings, but did not have immediate access to the exact total of the project.

Fencing will be installed to protect the newly-discovered burial areas, and each grave will be marked with a blank signpost. Over time, city archeologists do expect to identify many of the unmarked graves based on their location and those buried around them.

Now that the archaeological surveys are complete, Cressey said the teams are analyzing artifacts and making a Fort Ward Management Plan. (Full story)

A close friend of mine, and long time beltway historian, would add that Fort Ward is certainly not the only place where such graves lay unidentified.

For those unfamiliar with this park – Fort Ward by markers.

150 Years Ago Today: Back where it started at Henry House Hill

As the sun sat 150 years ago today (August 30, 1862), Federals and Confederates fought over familiar terrain just southeast of the intersection of Sudley Road and Warrenton Turnpike.  Henry House Hill, perhaps better known for the fighting there during the First Manassas, was the site of the closing actions of the battle of Second Manassas.

The Federal line held that evening.  Under the cover of darkness, General John Pope, as he had done a couple other times in the month of August, slipped his army out of the trap.

Are there similar terrain features on other battlefields which witnessed as much fighting?  Sure.  Fleetwood Hill is at the top of my list.

Are there any that witnessed action in two major engagements?  Sure.  Perhaps several dozen we could name.

Are there any assaulted twice, in two separate major battles?  A handful.  Pritchard’s Hill at Kernstown comes to mind.  Confederate attackers failed to take the hill in the spring 1862 battle, but captured the position in the summer battle of 1864.

But…. Are there any that witnessed two failed assaults in two separate major battles?  One assault by each side?

Manassas 19 July 029

Henry House Hill proved a tough position to take, for both Federal and Confederate.  I wouldn’t say it was the most formidable defensive position of the war.  But statistically speaking, it was a good place to anchor a line.

Must have been something about the water of Young’s Branch.

The Guns of Second Manassas

Artillery played an important role in the battle of Second Manassas. From the opening shots over Brawner Farm to the closing actions along Dogan and Chinn Ridges and in front of Henry Hill, the artillery was in the thick of the fight. Today at the park, fifteen guns represent over eighty batteries engaged.

As I did last year for the First Manassas side of the battlefield, I’ve setup a Google map sheet with the locations of the artillery displays for Second Manassas:

The arrangement of guns lends itself to interpreting the actions on August 30,1862. I’d argue on that day Confederate artillerists made their greatest contribution to the war in the east.  Confederate massed batteries played a very important role in the repulse of the Federals at Deep Cut.  Those guns prevented reinforcements from moving up to the penetrations along the unfinished railroad.

Cannon hunters may be a bit disappointed at the variety on the Second Manassas battlefield.  Of the guns displayed, eight are commonplace 12-pdr Napoleons.  Two of the rest are converted “false Napoleons.”  But the five iron Confederate guns at the Brawner Farm include some rare examples … have been the basis for several posts on this blog.  Although I enjoy looking at the cannons, the real draw is the view from the guns:

Manassas 11 Aug 12 070

View of Deep Cut from the Confederate batteries

You can just see the Second Bull Run Monument in the distance through the trees.  Easy to see how the Confederate gunners dominated the fields at Groveton that day.

So if you cannot join me today enjoying the fields at Second Manassas, please “stroll” through the battlefield electronically by way of the cannons.  Look for some tweets from the field.