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Then and Now

With the 148th anniversary of the battle approaching, I thought I would share these images of the Ox Hill (Chantilly) Battlefield. The first was taken over twenty years ago (1987, I think), when I was taking an undergraduate Civil War course at Northern Virginia Community College with Charles Poland. At the time West Ox Road was transforming from the two lane rural road with large lots on both sides it was when my school bus travelled on it every morning to what it is today with Monument Drive just having been built. The second picture was taken two weekends ago, when I was in the area doing work on the Manassas guide for the This Hallowed Ground series Mark and Brooks edit with Steve Woodworth for the University of Nebraska Press.

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It is sad how little of the battlefield is preserved, but the Fairfax County Park Authority deserves kudos for doing a very good job with what is left in developing the park a few years ago. You certainly get a better understanding of the battle today than you did when all I remember there being was a trail leading to the Kearny and Stevens monuments and Kearny stump. Plus, you can now honor the men who fought there by grabbing a burger, catching a movie, and stocking up at Bed, Bath and Beyond just across the street. I’m pretty sure that’s what Stonewall and Kearny would have wanted.

Comments (7) to “Then and Now”

  1. Yes, truly sad what has become of that area. I was visiting “Mosby’s Confederacy” last weekend, and was struck at how the suburban sprawl–strip malls, fast food restaurant, etc.–hit you as you are driving down Rt. 50 from Aldie Mill and enter the Chantilly area. It’s like a slap in the face. Glad too, that Fairfax has done something, but unfortunate that attitudes towards preservation did not prevail when the are was being developed into a mega-suburb of DC.

    Ron

  2. Thanks for your comments, Ron. When I was a kid, the area around Ox Hill was considered the “boonies” between Fairfax and Greenbrier/Chantilly. Of course, it is very, very, very different now.

    Like your blog!

  3. My pleasure. (Sorry for the typos–a bit bleary-eyed b/w work and new twins.) Crazy how things change. Hopefully, people are becoming a bit smarter about development and preservation these days.

    Glad you like the blog. I enjoy reading yours as well. Good stuff!

  4. Ethan,
    Will the guide cover both battles?

    Drew

  5. The loss of this and other battlegrounds to D.C. sprawl is a pity, but so is the growth of the federal government that produced the sprawl.

  6. Even in just the past two or three years, more of the extant battlefield was developed. The forested high ground just east of West Ox Rd and just north of Monument Dr was cut down to make way for some office complex or whatever. This was the area where the 21st Mass stumbled into a devastating barrage during the rainstorm. As late as 2003 I can recall finding minie bullets in this area.

  7. Drew: The guide will cover both battles and have a long excursion to cover the Second Manassas Campaign as well.

    Dick: As best I can discern, most of the growth in the area has been private sector development. Given, though, that the great majority of this is high tech contractors, defense related services, and their various appendages, which have grown exponentially in the last thirty years, the distinction between “government” and “private sector” is very blurry indeed. Thirty years ago people just worked for the federal government. Now they still do work for the government, but their paychecks carry the label of a “private company” so their well-connected board of directors and shareholders can be better compensated.