The 5,000-acre tract bordered by Bull Run was the scene of two Confederate victories. The First Battle of Manassas, fought in 1861, was the opening engagement of the Civil War and pitted Union Brigadier General Irvin McDowell's unseasoned troops against ill-trained but spirited Confederates under Joseph E. Johnston and Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard.
The Union attack was repulsed by Confederates inspired by General Thomas J. Jackson and his Virginians, who stood against the enemy like a "stone wall," earning Jackson his famous nickname.
Second Manassas, fought in 1862, cleared the way for General Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the North. Federal forces under General John Pope retreated to Washington, D. C. General Lee led his Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac into Maryland near Frederick; the invasion was thwarted at Antietam.
The First Battle of Manassas can be explored by a one-mile, self-guided walking tour with interactive, interpretive signage. The Second Battle of Manassas has a thirteen-mile, self-guided driving tour (stops at various locations throughout the park).
Additional interpretive loop trails lead to surviving landmarks at Manassas including the Dogan house, once in the line of fire; the Stone House, a Union field hospital during both battles; the unfinished railroad; and the stone bridge, blown up in 1862 but reconstructed in the 1880s.
Longer walking trails (5-6 miles) circle both the First Manassas and Second Manassas battle sites. The Henry Hill Visitor Center provides park brochures, maps, trail guides and a daily schedule of interpretive programs and ranger-lead tours.
The center's Museum displays artifacts and exhibits pertaining to the First Battle of Manassas and a 45-minute film, "Manassas End of Innocence," covers both the First and Second Battles of Manassas (fee).