The first major battle of the American Civil War occurred on July 21, 1861 about 30 miles east of Washington D.C. in the farm fields of Manassas, close to what’s now Washington Dulles airport. It was a battle of the inexperienced, both armies filled with young recruits who had never fought before. While it seemed at first the Federal troops would prevail, they were eventually defeated by the Confederates. Civilian picnickers from Washington D.C. watched the battle from nearby hills, cheering the Union Army and expecting this would be the first and last battle of the War Between the States. The battle, which lasted the better part of a day, saw nearly 1,000 young men lose their lives and the Union Army (and its spectators) were sent running back to Washington. It became clear that day that victory would not be easy nor the war short.
You can visit this and other civil war battlefields throughout the eastern and southern states. Reminders of a bloody war that almost ripped a nation apart. Their setting has been well preserved by the Park Service and Manassas definitely retains its Civil War character. The above image could have been captured 150 years ago by Matthew Brady, famous Civil War photographer.