Thursday, October 31, 2013

Those Places Thursday: Ghosts of Manassas Battlefield

View of Stone House from Henry Hill
Photo by C.G.Lynn
Manassas National Battlefield Park is located at 6511 Sudley Road (Rte. 234) in Manassas, Virginia.  The Visitor Center is open daily from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., excluding Thanksgiving and Christmas.

As noted on the Battlefield's website, "On July 21, 1861, two armies clashed for the first time on the fields overlooking Bull Run.  Heavy fighting swept away any notion of a quick war.  In August 1862, Union and Confederate armies converged for a second time on the plains of Manassas.  The Confederates won a solid victory bringing them to the height of their power."

Two original buildings, the Stone House and the Brawner Farm are open to the public.  Henry House, on the hill named for the family, is a reconstruction of the home where 85-year old Judith Henry was killed by gunfire.  The family cemetery still stands behind the house site.  It was on Henry Hill that Brig. Gen. Barnard Elliott Bee Jr. is quoted as saying "There is [Thomas Johnathan Stonewall] Jackson standing like a stone wall.  Let us determine to die here, and we ill conquer.  Rally behind the Virginians!"

The Battlefield, twice the scene of bloody turmoil, is now a pastoral setting in the midst of urban Manassas.

Is Manassas/Bull Run Battlefield haunted?

Seriously -- do you need to ask?  Search any popular internet book site and you will find dozens of books on ghosts of Civil War battlefields.  Like Gettysburg, Manassas appears in just about all of them.

One book in particular is devoted to a Manassas Battlefield ghost, "A Yankee Roams at Dusk," by Paula Ann Kirby [ISBN 978-1-61364-194-1].  In 1862, the 5th New York [Zouaves] lost 123 men, "the greatest loss of life in any single infantry regiment in any battle of the Civil War."  The book's author was first introduced to the story of a phantom Zouave soldier on New York Avenue Field in an October 1978 Journal Messenger Halloween article, which claimed, "An indistinct figure wearing a colorful Zouave uniform was claimed to have been seen about two years ago and has been reported by others in later times."  Kirby's book chronicles her search for eyewitnesses that ultimate leads her to a paranormal investigation in search of the spectral Zouave.

Not far from the New York Avenue Field, the old Stone House is also rumored to be haunted.  Originally a tavern on the old Warrenton Turnpike, the house served as a field hospital during both battles.  The October 31, 1990 Weekly Messenger notes that "folk have reported seeing house lights where there is no house and sometimes strange noises come from the Stone House that sits on the corner of Routes 28 and 29."  The October 2011 edition of Prince William Living notes, "There is one story about a seasonal worker who was sitting in Stone House, waiting for any visitors who might have questions.  The employee was reading, and soon fell asleep on what seemed like a quiet day.  Upon waking, the individual's glasses were lung across the room, landing at the opposite end of the hallway."

It should be noted that, sightings and visitor experiences aside, the Park Service does not officially endorse ghosts.  (Which doesn't seem to bother the ghosts.)

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