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

A New Deal for Manassas

Reflecting a renewed interest in commemorating the actions of American soldiers in World War I and previous conflicts, Congress reconsidered the idea of establishing battlefield parks at Manassas and elsewhere between the end of World War I and the onset of the Great Depression. By 1926 the Manassas battlefields competed in the House Military Affairs Committee with twenty-eight other bills that proposed creating national military parks. Rejecting the idea of a military park commission study, Congress turned instead to a 1925 memorandum, written by Lt. Col. C. A. Bach of the Army War College and approved by the secretary of war, which provided a comprehensive battlefield classification system. Congress passed and in June 1926 President Calvin Coolidge signed legislation authorizing the War Department to survey identified battlefields using Bach's classification system, the first time the federal government had authorized a broad historic sites study. [9]

Bach's classification scheme relied on past congressional legislation and thus incorporated the ideas presented by such influential individuals as Brig. Gen. George B. Davis, originator of the Antietam Plan. Bach ranked various battlegrounds based on his determination of what level of commemorative action would appropriately memorialize the events that took place at each site, ranging from national military parks to the placement of historic markers. Class 1 battlefields, according to Bach's organization, represented battles of "exceptional" political and military significance with "far-reaching" effects that justified designation as national military parks. Bach identified Yorktown and Saratoga, from the American Revolution, as the only sites that met this criterion and were not yet incorporated into parks. Bach subdivided Class 2 battlefields, which overall warranted designation as national monuments, into two groups. Class 2a, in which Bach placed Manassas, justified marking of the battle lines of the engaged forces with markers but not necessarily memorials, while Class 2b battles required only a tablet or monument to indicate the location of the battleground. Bach's scheme reconfirmed the historic significance of the Manassas battlefields. [10]

Under the congressionally sanctioned War Department surveys conducted between 1926 and 1932, Manassas received attention but still failed to reach national park status. In 1928 district engineers performed a preliminary field investigation of the two battlefields at Manassas and noted that $2,600 would be needed to complete a detailed survey. Congress finally authorized this sum in 1931, but because of worsening national economic conditions, the War Department excluded Manassas in its fiscal year 1933 budget estimates as a cost savings measure. Fourteen other areas became federal parks between 1926 and 1933, including Virginia's Petersburg National Military Park (1926) and Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park (1927), but Manassas remained without the coveted designation, perhaps again due to its connection to two stunning Confederate victories. [11]

Support for the Manassas surveys, and thus a park, evaporated in Congress in the late 1920s, and it was not until the Roosevelt administration that the idea of a national battlefield park was revived. First, in 1933 President Roosevelt reorganized the National Park Service and transferred the previously established military parks to the agency. Although not included in the transfer, Manassas did inspire Roosevelt to pursue this step. In early April 1933 Horace Albright had the fortunate opportunity of riding in a touring car along Lee Highway from Shenandoah National Park to Washington with the president. Referring to the lands where initial fighting had occurred during the Second Battle of Manassas, Director Albright suggested that the Park Service obtain administrative control over the War Department's historic parks and monuments. Roosevelt readily agreed and urged Albright to "do something about this tomorrow," resulting soon afterwards in the transfer. [12]

Second, Roosevelt's New Deal recreational demonstration projects provided the funding and human resources for acquiring land, planning development, and ultimately preparing Manassas for transfer to the Park Service. Originated in 1933 under the authority of the National Industrial Recovery Act, recreational demonstration projects served a long-identified need for providing more recreational facilities to lower-income families. In 1935 Roosevelt incorporated the recreational projects into the newly established Resettlement Administration, which served to demonstrate the proper use of land by buying inferior and unprofitable farmland and using it for other, more beneficial purposes. [13]

From the start, the National Park Service supervised the planning for the forty-six recreational demonstration project areas located in twenty five states. Using funding available from other New Deal programs, including the Public Works Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Emergency Relief Administration, and the Works Progress Administration, the Park Service converted old farms and woodland into recreation areas with cabins, picnic areas, and trails. On reclaimed lands, the government built playgrounds for low-income urban populations. Farm families struggling on submarginal lands were transferred to more productive lands. In each case, the recreational demonstration program served the larger mission of the Resettlement Administration to better the lives of both rural and urban dwellers. [14]

By 1935 the Roosevelt administration had designated 1,476 acres of the Manassas battlefields as the Bull Run Recreational Demonstration Area. Howard W. Smith, recently elected representative for northern Virginia, assisted the government in identifying tracts for the project area and obtaining competitive prices for the land. Smith considered the Manassas battlefield park one of his pet projects. He justified the program to Conrad Wirth, then assistant director of the Park Service, pointing to three beneficial aspects: preservation of a significant historic site, provision of recreational facilities for area residents, and availability of submarginal land that could be put to more productive use as a military park. Interestingly, Smith had opposed some of the New Deal programs that had made the recreational demonstration project possible, such as the $4.8 billion work relief program contained in the emergency relief appropriation bill of 1935. However, Smith recognized the value of the Bull Run Recreational Demonstration Area to his voting public and remained a longtime advocate of the battlefield park. [15]

The reasons why the Roosevelt administration included Manassas in the recreational demonstration program are complex. Certainly the many unsuccessful attempts to obtain park status through Congress may have convinced some enterprising and farsighted individuals, including Smith, to use the vehicle of the recreational demonstration areas, which bypassed the legislative branch almost entirely. Albright had gone on motoring trips through the historic and scenic areas of Virginia with both President Roosevelt and Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes, providing the historic preservation-minded Albright with ample opportunity to plant the idea. The battlefields' proximity to Washington also presented an exemplary chance to display the virtues of the recreational demonstration program to a sometimes critical Congress. For a combination of reasons, the National Park Service embraced the Manassas project. [16]

CONTINUED continued


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