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Events at Manassas National Battlefield Park to mark 160th anniversary of First Battle of Manassas

Manassas National Battlefield Park will mark the 160th anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas (also known as Bull Run) with events and programs on July 17, 18 and 21. 

The Battle of First Manassas, fought on July 21, 1861, was the first major battle of the American Civil War. Many expected a short afternoon of fighting to decide the war. Instead, it was a brutal all-day battle that left nearly 900 dead and thousands wounded or missing. American hopes for a short war were shattered and four years of conflict followed. This year’s commemoration will take place on the weekend of July 17-18, and on the anniversary date of the battle itself on Wednesday, July 21. A full schedule of events is available at 

Daily highlights include:

Saturday, July 17: At 10 a.m., the park will unveil and dedicate two recently acquired original cannons, known as “boat howitzers.” These howitzers are a rare type of naval cannon that the US Navy loaned to the 71st New York State Militia and which they deployed on Matthews Hill. Forty years later, a pair of matching guns were installed at a memorial at the Fairfax County, Virginia courthouse. Upon their removal in 2020, the National Park Service worked with the Manassas Battlefield Trust to acquire and restore these two rare guns. At 10 a.m., the two howitzers will take their place on Matthews Hill like the two guns loaned to the New Yorkers one hundred sixty years ago. Superintendent Brandon Bies and Joseph Eaves, president of the Manassas Battlefield Trust,. will give keynote remarks. A musical processions and accompaniment from the Fort McHenry Fifes and Drums begins at 9:30 a.m. at the Henry Hill Visitor Center.

At 5 p.m., the park will host Family on the Front Lines: One African American Family’s Experience with the Civil War at the Henry Hill Visitor Center. This guided ranger tour explores the experience of the Robinsons, a free black family whose quiet farm became part of the front lines. The day concludes at the Henry House with more fife and drum music at 6:30 p.m, followed by a performance of the Quantico Marine Corps Brass Band Quintet at 7 p.m. 

Sunday, July 18: Join us in the Henry Hill Visitor Center theater for lectures on how the First Battle of Manassas was remembered by the veterans who fought there, and the push to preserve the battlefield itself. At 12 p.m., author Dr. Joan Zenzen presents Annie Snyder: Powerhouse Preservationist for Manassas Battlefield Park, about one woman who made it her mission to preserve the battlefield from encroaching development. At 2 p.m., Dr. Caroline Janney from the University of Virginia presents “A National Disgrace”: The Battle to Protect Bull Run’s Monuments. She explores how both United States and Confederate veterans memorialized the battle from the closing days of the war and into the twentieth century. 

Wednesday, July 21: At 11 a.m., the park will dedicate the recently restored historic viewshed from Matthews Hill to Henry Hill. A demonstration of artillery fire will show how maintaining an original sight line is crucial to understanding the battle 160 years later. 

All three days will feature battlefield tours, uniform displays, historic weapons demonstrations, ancestor research and children’s activities. 

Consistent with CDC recommendations, people who are not yet fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces.

All programs and activities are free and may be changed due to unsafe weather conditions. Full details and program times can be found at  

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