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 Posted: Wed Apr 4th, 2007 07:07 pm
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Widow
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Joined: Tue Sep 19th, 2006
Location: Oakton, Fairfax County, VA
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On pages 14-15 of the May 2007 issue of Civil War Times, there's a short article in the "Preservation Spotlight" feature about the Ox Hill Battlefield Park in Fairfax County, Virginia.  Two photos accompany the article.  The magazine's website is http://www.historynet.com/magazines/civil_war_times but as of April 4, the latest issue is March 2007.

My Bull Run Civil War Round Table in Centreville has been deeply involved in the protection and interpretation of the Ox Hill Battlefield Park since it was established.

The Confederates called it the Battle of Ox Hill, while the Federals called it the Battle of Chantilly.  It was on September 1, 1862, just two days after 2nd Manassas, and was a holding action to protect the Army of the Potomac as it retreated eastward from Manassas to Washington.  The Federals were outnumbered and whipped by Jackson's wing, but they accomplished their mission.  The Army of Northern Virginia then moved north into Maryland, little place called Sharpsburg on Antietam Creek.

The original battlefield was about 500 acres, most of which is now townhouses, parking lots, a shopping center, office park, and the paved roads themselves.  In 1985, the property developer had already started excavating the vacant lot at the corner of Monument Drive and West Ox Road, when some human bones were discovered, along with musket caps and the buttons of a South Carolina soldier.

The Unknown Soldier, possiblya private, possibly from General Maxcy Gregg's Brigade, was returned to Columbia and buried with full state and military honors.  The flag-draped coffin was buried in a re-creation of a Civil War funeral.  A drum and fife corps played a dirge as it led the procession.  Bruce C. Elrod, a spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, noted:  "We feel good.  We're putting a lot of minds at ease.  Tell our Yankee brethren up there that we love them."  [I guess he thinks that Virginia is in Yankeelandia.]

The discovery finally convinced people that it really was hallowed ground, the only battlefield in Fairfax Growth-and-Development County.  Now it belongs to the Fairfax County Park Authority.

That was 20 years ago.  Today's Board of Supervisors are coming around to the idea that green space, controlled and smart growth, and historic preservation can all go together.

Several veterans of the battle commented about the violent thunderstorm which drenched everybody that late afternoon.  Paper cartridges got wet, it was a miserable time to be fighting, you couldn't see anything.

Oh, yes, I've been caught in those thunderbusters.  They always start around quitting time, after you've left for your car.  Usually they move on through and it's stopped raining by the time you're home, but sometimes they're so heavy that all you can do is pull over and stop because your wipers can't keep up.  And the low places usually fill quickly with runoff.

After the war, John Ballard, a Confederate captain who'd lost a leg and had served under Mosby, bought the farmland encompassing most of the battlefield.  He and his wife knew where Union Major Generals Philip Kearny and Isaac Stevens had been killed, and marked the sites with white quartz stones.

Mr. and Mrs. Ballard believed it was important to commemorate the generals.  In 1915 they donated a 50x100' piece of land to the New Jersey Society so that members of Kearny's 1st New Jersey Brigade could place granite markers on the battlefield.  Two are placed side by side, one for each general.  There was a dedication ceremony, MC'd by the mayor of the town of Fairfax, who was the Ballards' son.

That scrap of land with the granite monuments, surrounded by a low fence made of pipes, has never been in private ownership, although the developer of the surrounding land had wanted to move the monuments to another location (meaning less profitable).  Three men formed the Chantilly Battlefield Association: Brian Pohanka, Ed Wenzel, and Gus Hall.  Brian died in 2005; Ed and Gus are members of my Bull Run RT.  They lobbied the County Board of Supervisors to buy an additional 2.6 acres, so now the little park is 4.8 acres in the midst of suburban sprawl.

A couple of minor errors in the magazine article:  (1) the park is at the corner of Monument Drive and West Ox Road, not "Old Ox Road," which was a Bing Crosby tune.  (2)  The park is not "in danger of being swallowed whole."

Patty

Last edited on Wed Apr 4th, 2007 07:30 pm by Widow

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