Cannons, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia, USA

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Manassas National Battlefield Park

Northern Virginia

The site of two major Confederate victories early in the Civil War, Manassas National Battlefield Park today is a curving green hillscape, sectioned into fuzzy fields of tall grass and wildflowers by split-rail wood fences. Start your tour at the Henry Hill Visitor Center to watch the orientation film and pick up park and trail maps. Guided tours are offered daily in summer; check the park website for times (which vary seasonally).

The history? On July 21, 1861, Union and Confederate soldiers clashed in the first major land battle of the Civil War. Expecting a quick victory, DC residents flocked here to picnic and watch the First Battle of Bull Run (known in the South as First Manassas). The surprise Southern victory erased any hopes of a quick end to the war. Union and Confederate soldiers again met on the same ground for the larger Second Battle of Manassas in August 1862; again the South was victorious.

Daily Amtrak ( and Virginia Railway Express ( trains make the 50- to 70-minute journey between DC's Union Station and the historic Old Town Manassas Railroad Station (9451 West St); from there it's a 6-mile taxi ride to the park. There are several restaurants and bars around the Manassas train station, but the rest of the city is a mess of strip malls and suburban sprawl.

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