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

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

current topic 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 9
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Seeking Partnerships

Interpretive Improvements

During the early 1980s, Superintendent Swain oversaw the first significant revisions in interpretation at the battlefield park since the closing of the Mission 66 era and the 1969 retirement of Wilshin. In early summer 1980, just before Swain's arrival, facilities at the visitor center underwent a major rehabilitation. An expanded lobby and new information desk were added to improve contacts with the public, ramps made the building accessible to handicapped visitors, and new administrative offices with refinished furniture brought much-needed space for park employees. [2]

As part of the 1980 rehabilitation, display space for the nonprofit Eastern National Park and Monument Association increased threefold, allowing the Manassas battlefield park to become one of the best sources of Civil War literature in the area. The association served as a friends group to various national park sites on the East Coast, using space in visitor centers to sell educational and travel materials related to the specific parks. Sales at the bookstore, which had hovered around $30,000, jumped more than 10 per cent in 1981 and rose steadily thereafter, amounting to more than $120,000 in 1985. According to the contract between the association and the NPS, receipts went to Eastern and then were distributed to the individual participating parks through a competitive grant process. Later, Eastern adopted a method that gave a standard 5 percent of gross sales to the participating park and 1 percent of sales to the regional office for discretionary use. As Manassas was the only park in the National Capital Region with an Eastern agency, Swain convinced the region to forward its percentage automatically to the battlefield park. This 6 percent of sales augmented the park's interpretation budget. [3]

Aside from the money it provided, Swain considered the expanded Eastern sales area in the visitor center an important part of the park's interpretive program. Each piece of quality information carried away by visitors extended their stay, allowing them to "interact with the resource, with the story of Manassas, days later, weeks later, months later." This "portable interpretation" elaborated on the Civil War battles and kept people in touch with the past. To aid in this effort, Swain avoided "rubber tomahawk" items and instead focused on book reprints, histories, and other educational materials. [4]

The improvements to the visitor center helped offset the understaffing of the park's interpretive program in 1980. For five months after the departure of R. Brien Varnado and before the arrival of Swain, chief historian Stuart Vogt assumed the duties of acting superintendent. Two park technicians left before the start of the traditionally busy summer season, leaving the interpretive program further shorthanded. Supervisory park technician David Ruth, who became the acting chief historian, and seasonal Michael Andrus, who coordinated the Volunteers-in-the-Park program and later became a full-time employee, made up the difference admirably, presenting guided tours, living history demonstrations, and Stone House self-directed tours. Further assistance came from James Burgess, who joined the interpretive staff later in the year. [5]

More enhancements to park interpretation followed. In 1982, prompted by the belief that the existing audiovisual program was the "worst interpretive film in the Park Service," the Sons of Confederate Veterans donated $7,000 to the park for a new one. Members of the Confederate organization pointed out to NPS Director Russell E. Dickenson that the old slide program, developed at the end of Wilshin's superintendency, failed to relate the significant events of the two Manassas battles, particularly Second Manassas, and instead gave a general overview of the entire Civil War. They also argued that the multiple causes for the Civil War needed explanation, not just the issue of slavery. [6]

The Park Service's Harpers Ferry exhibit planning center began designing a new audiovisual program, based on input from park and agency historians. Although recognizing the inadequacies of the former program in conveying specifics about the two Manassas battles, Swain stressed that he wanted a ten-to-twelve-minute show that appealed more to the general public than to the Civil War buff, who represented a small portion of the overall visitation at the park. Edwin C. Bearss, a well-known Civil War authority and then NPS chief historian, emphasized the need for augmenting the discussion on Second Manassas, especially making clear that this battle became a high-water mark for the South. [7]

The new slide program opened in the park's auditorium in time for the annual national camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in mid-August 1983. Reconstructing the narrative from diary entries, the show revolved around a Confederate soldier from the Stonewall Brigade and a Union soldier from the Iron Brigade who had fought at both First and Second Manassas. Period photographs, engravings, and Civil War music set the tone for the presentation. Visitors now had the opportunity to learn about the experiences of the men who had fought at Manassas. [8]

Another correction to the park's interpretive program came in 1985 when temporary historian John Hennessy completed sixteen Second Manassas troop movement maps, accompanied by 380 pages of supporting text. As Bearss later recalled, these maps should have been completed during the 1956-66 Mission 66 parks improvement program, but Wilshin had failed to recognize their usefulness as management and interpretive tools and did not pursue them. Hennessy's maps assisted Swain and the park historians in recognizing the significance of certain tracts of land and in enhancing Second Manassas interpretation. Some battle lines that had been "fogged in conjecture" were now clarified with solid documentation.[9]

Hennessy displayed his avid interest in Second Manassas and his thorough understanding of historical scholarship in his work on the troop movement maps. Swain had hired him as a temporary employee in 1980, and although Swain tried to obtain funding for upgrading the position to full time, Hennessy completed the maps as a temporary park historian. Swain later characterized the arrangement as outright exploitation because temporary employees did not receive full benefits. Swain did convince the Eastern National Park and Monument Association to fund a portion of Hennessy's travel research, which enabled him to conduct background research across the country. With this information in hand, he drew mockups of the maps, which the Denver Service Center then refined and prepared for publication through the Eastern park cooperating association. Bearss called the complete 380-page study a "model of its kind," representing "exceptionally high quality." [10]

Swain also encourage wayside exhibits. These trailside markers, positioned at key stops in the First and Second Manassas walking and auto tours, gave visitors information on the significance of a specific site to the two battles. Using the revised audiovisual program as a model, Woody Harrell, the chief park historian who had replaced Vogt in 1982, promoted the concept of letting "voices from the past . . . speak to the visitor today." As the waysides evolved, they included quotations from soldiers, troop position maps, photographic reproductions, and supporting text. The new exhibit markers, which were not installed until after Swain left in 1988, replaced what had been a hodge-podge of markers installed over the previous thirty years. [11]

More interpretive changes came in 1985 when Edmund Raus transferred from the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park to Manassas to take over Harrell's position of chief historian. With funding from Eastern National Park and Monument Association, Raus initiated bus tours of Second Manassas during summer 1986. This was so successful that it was repeated in subsequent years. Raus broadened the focus of the Stone House exhibits, which had centered on the building as a field hospital, to show the impact of the battles on civilians living on or near the battlefield. He also introduced special outreach programs to enhance the park's image in the community. He organized Saturday lectures and films in the visitor center auditorium, an annual Christmas open house, and five-mile guided hikes through the battlefield each spring and fall. With a $25,000 grant, Raus initiated a new park education program designed to meet state school curriculum standards and the needs of Prince William County school teachers. To encourage older children to learn about Civil War history, the park renewed its student intern program. [12]

Raus also helped organize the park's observances of the 125th anniversaries of the First and Second Battles of Manassas in 1986 and 1987. In keeping with the policy that NPS Director Conrad Wirth had established after the 1961 First Manassas Reenactment, the battlefield park hosted only special artillery firing demonstrations, leaving the large-scale reenactments to private organizations on non-national park lands. Civil War music programs and guided Second Manassas tours by Hennessy, who had since left the park, gave visitors an opportunity to learn about the battles and the time period. Many people from the local community returned several times to participate in the commemorative activities. [13]

William Penn Mott Jr., who followed Dickenson as NPS director in 1985, used the opportunity of the First Manassas anniversary gathering to address a modern-day threat to the integrity of historic sites. He noted that interstate highways, high-rise complexes, housing subdivisions, and other developments threatened to encircle protected national park areas. For a place like the Manassas battlefield, Mott warned that such intrusions could "destroy the historical atmosphere of the parks just as surely as adverse development within their boundaries." Scenic buffers and land acquisition were some avenues the National Park Service could pursue to protect national parks, but the example of the 1980 boundary expansion at Manassas demonstrated the high cost and protracted amount of time needed. [14]

Mott recognized that each national park site relied on the zoning and building permit system established and enforced by local jurisdictions for the effective control of the surrounding land. In an effort to build bridges with these officials and their voting publics, Mott invited his listeners to join in partnership with the Park Service to serve the needs of both the local community and the national parks. He defended this arrangement by pointing to the benefits of having a place like the Manassas battlefield park in Prince William County. Tourist spending helped the local economy while residents could enjoy the attractive open space maintained by the federal government. The national park also enhanced the quality of life in the county by attracting new industry and employers to the area. By considering the relationship as a partnership in which everyone benefited, Mott hoped to address development threats in a nonconfrontational manner. His olive branch offering was ignored by Prince William County officials but accepted by the William Center developer, Hazel/Peterson Companies. [15]

CONTINUED continued


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