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Cemetery tours offer a step into history


Bernie McConnell of Manassas (left), Carla Christiano of Woodbridge and Lisa Sievel-Otten of Manassas guide a tour of the historic Manassas City and Confederate cemeteries on Center Street.

In the glow of lanterns, as dusk falls, “Stories in Stone” are recounted at two historic, local cemeteries.

More than two dozen visitors recently met at 9317 Center Street for a guided tour of the Manassas City Cemetery and the adjacent Confederate Cemetery, led by Lisa Sievel-Otten, who has been historic interpreter at the Manassas Museum for more than five years.

“It is a sacred place here,” she said as she reminded participants to stay on the paths.

About 2,400 people are buried at the Manassas City Cemetery. “Walking through is like a local history lesson,” she continued. “You see all the names of the city’s founders, merchants and those who contributed in significant ways. It’s like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the people who built Manassas.” That includes Confederate and Union Civil War veterans.

“We have to remember, Manassas was devastated after the Civil War,” Sievel-Otten said. She said the federal government established cemeteries for Union soldiers; Confederate soldiers’ remains were often ignored. Ladies’ associations in the South tended to take up the cause.

Thus, the Confederate Cemetery, established in 1867 by the Ladies Memorial Association of Manassas. It is now owned and maintained by the Manassas chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
The Cemetery’s acre of land, which was donated by Col. William S. Fewell, holds about 30 marked graves. There are also the remains of about 250 unidentified soldiers re-interred beneath a brownstone memorial, dedicated in 1889, capped with a statue dedicated in 1911.

“There is no particular soldier represented on top of the monument,” explained Dutch Schneider of Manassas, who is marking 20 years as a volunteer at the Manassas Museum and also led tours of the Cemetery during the Civil War Sesquicentennial commemoration. “And there was some controversy when the statue was put up whether the soldier should face north or south. He faces east.”

The Confederate Cemetery also holds the only Congressional Medal of Honor recipient buried in Prince William County, according to Sievel-Otten. The Union soldier turned the tables on his Confederate captors and led them into Union lines. “It does seem ironic that Solomon Hottenstein is surrounded in death by his former adversaries,” Sievel-Otten noted.

Read the full story in the Observer newspapers.

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