Fresh Interpretations: Manassas Marker Updates

August has been “Second Manassas” month for me.  I’ve tallied all my hikes and find I’ve walked, over the span of five visits, the distance of a day’s march for Jackson’s “Foot Cavalry.”  But Manassas is a “local” battlefield for me, just over a half-hour drive from my front porch.  So I am rather familiar with the fields.  This month has been more an effort of “re-acquainting” and contemplation of events 150 years ago.

One difference that I have seen with the battlefield – a positive change – is the gradual refresh of the wayside markers.  For the most part, these updates are simply an upgrade from the somewhat dated “Manila folder” style markers:

Manassas 4 May 08 151

To waysides with different color themes and sharper graphics:

Manassas 4 Aug 12 094

In some cases, as with the “Shooting Gallery” interpreting the massed Confederate batteries on August 30, 1862, the markers were relocated to more accurate locations.  When the original marker was placed, trees obscured the view of the Deep Cut.  So I figure this relocation is not so much a re-interpretation of the event, but an adjustment based on the new view-shed after the tree-clearing.

Yet, in other cases, the new markers are greatly needed improvements to the interpretive exhibits.  Consider this old marker that once stood at Battery Heights:

Manassas 054

This overview marker had its place, and its day.  But the new Brawner Farm Interpretive center, now providing a wealth of resources for visitors, this marker was superfluous.  Those taking a tour of Second Manassas would start at that facility not at Battery Heights, as was done under the older tour route.  So that opened interpretive space for a marker focused on the actions at Battery Heights:

Manassas 11 Aug 12 041

Although I would point out the marker discusses the actions of Captain Joseph Campbell’s Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery on August 28, 1862, but…. the guns at that location depict the Confederate guns of Captain William Chapman’s Dixie Artillery that fired on the Deep Cut during the repulse of Porter’s attack of August 30.

Manassas 11 Aug 12 043

Well, on a battlefield like Second Manassas, you can’t interpret everything!

And maybe that is the point here.  There are places, on other battlefields, where the site is far over-interpreted.  And I say that as a “marker hunter”, mind you.  Manassas National Battlefield Park’s changes have been modest and respectful, in my opinion.  Good updates where needed.  Graphic technologies have long surpassed the “Manila folder” markers.

Contemplating the continued march of technology – perhaps these are the last “refreshes” of the physical markers we will see?  New technologies are rapidly eclipsing these waysides:

Manassas 1 Sept 12 024

That’s from the Civil War Trust’s new Second Manassas Battle App.  How soon till a smart phone is required gear for a battlefield stomper?

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

One thought on “Fresh Interpretations: Manassas Marker Updates

  1. I have long thought that the MNBP markers were in need of an upgrade (not so much in content as in graphics and mapping) so it’s been interesting to see the final product. I’m not a fan of too much marker “clutter” either – do you know if they are finished with the installations or are more still on the way?

    On another note, I had noticed that we had been at MNBP on the same day photographing the same markers! – so it was great to finally run into you today after all these years.

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