On-line Book
Cover book to Battling for Manassas: The Fifty-Year Preservation Struggle at Manassas National Battlefield Park. [Image of cannon in the battlefield]
Battling for Manassas: The Fifty-Year Preservation Struggle at Manassas National Battlefield Park


Table of Contents




Chapter 1

current topic Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11


Appendix I

Appendix II

Appendix III

Appendix IV

Appendix V (omitted from on-line edition)

Appendix VI

Appendix VII

Appendix VIII

Chapter 2
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Establishing a Park

Confederate Achievement

E. W. R. Ewing, the historian-in-chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, took up the cause that Round had initiated and rallied support from the various Confederate organizations to establish a Confederate park at Henry Hill. In 1920 he called a mass meeting of the Washington Camp of the SCV, along with members of the public and representatives from several southern states. Around the same time, Mrs. Westwood Hutchinson, president of the Manassas chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), obtained an option for the purchase of the Henry farm, totaling 130 acres, for $25,000. With this option in hand, Ewing and his supporters wrote a charter that the Virginia State Corporation Commission granted under its nonstock laws in May 1921. The resulting corporation provided a vehicle for accepting contributions and raising funds toward the acquisition of land and maintenance and development of the park. [2]

Controlled by a board of three directors, for which Ewing served as president, the Manassas Battlefield Corporation promoted memorial, educational, and historical activities. Its mission was to seek cooperation and fairness between North and South. The corporation, however, also wanted to give voice to the South's "distinct, wonderful, equally thrilling, all-important story." In the opinion of the corporate directors, recent historical treatments of the Civil War had depicted their "Confederate ancestors as enemies of [their] country," arguing that the perpetuation of slavery, not states' rights, had prompted the Southern states to secede. In response, the corporation saw the Confederate park as a way to "offer the full truth," in the hopes that the " 'truth shall make' our children free." [3]

Education was a primary focus of the Confederate park, and planned developments reflected this mission. The Henry House, which the Henry family had turned into an informal museum prior to the establishment of the Confederate park, continued to serve as a museum for war relics. To facilitate the educational benefits of this collection, the corporation began seeking donations to build a larger, fireproof museum at the park. To assist visitors as they toured the battlefield, a caretaker living on the grounds provided directions and answered some questions. The corporation hoped to have a full-time guide on the premises at some future date. Eventually, the corporate directors also planned to publish "an impartial and full history" of the Manassas battles and of the Civil War and its causes. These educational efforts served the stated mission of giving more sympathetic treatment to the South's understanding of the history of the Civil War than had so far existed. [4]

Paired with education, the corporate directors intended the Manassas Battlefield Confederate Park to serve as the "supreme battlefield memorial" to all Confederate soldiers. Ewing lobbied individual state legislatures to appropriate money for the erection of memorials and markers to recall Southern, as well as Northern, strategies and displays of courage in the battles. The Virginia State Highway Commission had already placed markers along Lee Highway, providing directions to the Confederate park. A landscape architect, detailed from the U.S. government, had begun landscaping the acquired lands. Ultimately, the corporate directors wanted to create "the most beautiful memorial Park in all the land." The resident caretaker maintained the grounds until further financial assistance could pay for more extensive changes. [5]

To show their support for the educational and memorial mission of the Confederate park, a range of interests became involved during the first years of the park's creation. In 1923 the Virginia state legislature authorized payment of $10,000 toward purchase of the Henry farm, under the condition that the Manassas Battlefield Corporation provide the remaining $15,000. Representatives from the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Southern Confederated Memorial Association, the Confederate Veterans, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and each southern state served on the corporation's audit board and thus directly contributed to the organization and planning for the park. Officials, ranging from the governor of Maryland to a past commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, expressed their enthusiasm for the Confederate park, while individuals throughout the South sent contributions. [6]

Despite the early optimism, the Manassas Battlefield Confederate Park had difficulty meeting its financial obligations, which slowed its momentum. Although the corporation had received $10,000 in individual contributions and another $10,000 from Virginia during its first fund-raising efforts, the last $5,000 remained elusive. Under the threat of losing the battlefield lands, the SCV renewed its support and convinced each of its divisions to donate between $500 and $1,000 toward the final payment, made in June 1927. The battlefield corporation also needed finances to cover litigation costs when, in 1924, the board of directors fought off an attempt by a subgroup within the organization to acquire the lands. Maintenance of the property continued to tax the remaining limited resources, leaving the corporation without the funds to accomplish its primary goals: erecting memorials on the battlefields, building a fireproof museum to house its collection of artifacts, and writing a history of the Manassas battles. [7]

The financial condition of the Confederate park continued to worsen into the 1930s, prompting the corporation to consider alternatives to its administration of the Manassas battlefields. Ewing, the park's chief proponent, had died in late 1927, leaving a vacuum that few could fill with the same enthusiasm and dedication. Financially, by 1935 the corporation had spent more than $50,000 toward the park, and yet it encountered difficulties in raising the $30 required each month to pay the caretaker's salary. Recognizing this situation, Edmond Wiles, the chairman of the Manassas Battlefield Committee, which the SCV formed to erect markers and other memorials at the park, began corresponding with the National Park Service in 1933. Wiles asked NPS Director Horace Albright for aid in building a museum at Manassas, to which Albright responded that Congress had not authorized the Park Service to assist the private organization. Recognizing the opportunity presented, Albright instead asked Wiles if the Manassas Battlefield Committee would be "disposed to turn over to the Government" the battlefield for designation as a national monument. Wiles thought Albright's idea possible, in light of the current financial difficulties and past discussions held on this topic at SCV conventions. Following one more detour through the New Deal's recreational demonstration area program, these first communications eventually led to incorporation of the Henry Hill tract into the Manassas National Battlefield Park. [8]

CONTINUED continued


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