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

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

current topic 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 5
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Reenacting the Past

Planning for Interpretation

Wilshin's vision for educating visitors about the Manassas battles derived in part from ideas suggested by his predecessor, James Myers, who remained as superintendent until September 1955. Myers focused on expanded interpretive activities both in the administration-museum building and on the battlefields of First and Second Manassas. Having seen firsthand the phenomenal increase in park visitation following World War II—from 8,200 visitors in 1947 to more than 66,000 in 1951—without a concomitant increase in personnel, Myers devised additional ways to reach the public. [3]

In the museum, Myers pushed for two additional electric maps with an accompanying taped talk to handle the increase in the number of school groups visiting the park. The number of students touring the park had increased from fewer than fifty in 1948 to two thousand in 1951. The existing electric map of the northern Virginia theater provided a good overall picture of then events leading to the two Manassas battles, but the map failed to show the tactical details of the battles themselves due to the map's spatial limitations. To tell the Manassas story, a trained park employee, usually the superintendent, had to manipulate the switches and narrate. An audio program linked to more maps would offer greater opportunities to educate school groups and other visitors without taxing the park's limited personnel. [4]

Beyond the museum, Myers recognized that visitors needed more markers to explore the battlefield terrain on their own. The Henry Hill walking tour contained seven stops, while a separate six-stop driving tour directed visitors to the Stone House, the Sudley Church, the Stone Bridge, and the site of the Chinn House. Many spots on the driving tour did not include historical markings or had markers erected by state agencies. Recognizing the popularity of the Henry Hill tour, Myers recommended adding four stops to it and eventually integrating both the walking and driving tours into one comprehensive course. [5]

Second Manassas remained almost entirely unmarked and undeveloped. The Dogan House had the only narrative marker devoted to the second battle, thanks to a $100 donation by a visitor. A few markers on the First Manassas driving tour provided references to the second battle, but for the most part interpretive efforts for the 1862 battle remained hampered by the fact that the federal government did not own key areas, such as the Deep Cut-Groveton monument area. [6]

Until funding became available to acquire lands associated with the Second Battle of Manassas, Myers focused on developing text for a series of historical markers that would be put in place after acquisition of the lands. With guidance from the regional and Washington offices of the Park Service and assistance from NPS historian Frank B. Sarles, Myers identified nine locations for the proposed self-guided auto tour and composed the historical narratives for the markers. Areas specific to Second Manassas included Buck Hill, Groveton, and sites along the unfinished railroad. [7]

Myers's efforts to expand interpretive activities in the museum and on the self-guided tours could go only so far in accommodating the staggering increases in visitation. Assistance from a permanent historical aide, who joined the park staff in 1948, and a seasonal ranger-historian, who helped for at least two summers in the early 1950s, gave Myers more flexibility than the two previous superintendents. But on Saturdays, Myers remained the sole park employee on duty. [8]

Myers's efforts served as an immediate stopgap to the demands of surging visitation. All national park sites had become overburdened with eager tourists, and long-term planning, including interpretation and preservation, received insufficient focus. To address this worsening situation, the National Park Service adopted the Mission 66 program. This ten-year parks improvement program, slated to end on the Park Service's fiftieth anniversary in 1966, provided funding and direction for each park. At Manassas, Myers's interpretive planning became a foundation for the park's Mission 66 prospectus, which was implemented by Wilshin as the new superintendent.

CONTINUED continued


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