Before moving to Spotsylvania, I lived in Northern Virginia, in Fairfax County, for thirty-nine years. Growing up within ten miles of Manassas/Bull Run, enabled me to nurture my early interest in Civil War history, and I visited the battlefield there countless times, both as a child with my parents and even more frequently as a young adult. There has always been something strangely alluring about the Manassas Battlefield for me, something incorporeal. Logically, all the battlefields should manifest these same conditions, but with every return trip I make to the "Plains of Manassas", I am reinforced with these strange emotions.
My Manassas project is heavily built on "then & now" comparrison photographs. Oftentimes in doing this comparrison work, one finds the landscape has changed over a century and half to such an extent that true side by side alignment is difficult to impossible, particularly when the subject matter sits within a wooded area.
Last week (February 2), I took the opportunity to revisit one last time before finishing, an area that normally is obscurred by heavy foliage within trees. My goal there was to use a recent snow fall to provide a better ground contrast against the trees and background sky. I was delighted with the results since prior attempts were at other times of the year, and failed to show the terrain features needed for a true "then & now" match up.
The black and white image below is the original wartime photograph taken in March 1862, showing two boys knealing in front of a row of water logged soldier burials. The site is on a small, flat, bottom area in front of the west face of the ridge that Sudley Church sits on. The church can be seen through the trees at upper left. After the Battle of First Bull Run, in July 1861, this area was used for a field hospital, along with the church building. As is typical in such situations, soldiers who did not survive the ordeal were buried hastily in shallow graves nearby.
Although the church building has been rebuilt since the Civil War, my modern, color photograph demonstrates the surrounding landscape has retained the same characteristics it displayed in 1862, especially the thin trees, albiet now entangled in thorny undergrowth. Fortunately, the property is still owned by the church and one can not anticipate an encroachment to destroy this hallowed ground.
My goal is to have this book in print by July, in time for the 150th Anniversary of First Manassas.