Preservation: How to Do It Right

Centex Homes of Texas gets kudos for its willingness to work with local preservation groups so as to save a battlefield but still get to develop the land surrounding the battlefield. In an unprecedented partnership that should serve as the template for all such efforts, Centex agreed to carve out the Bristoe Station battlefield site in Virginia, and the preservationists agreed not to dispute Centex’s development of the neighboring parcels. It was, as the movie Casablanca ended, the making of a beautiful friendship.

The battlefield park is now open. Here’s the newspaper article about it:

Bristoe Station Park Opens
By Jaclyn Pitts, Staff Writer

Manassas Journal Messenger (VA)

Tucked behind rows of new single-family homes and town houses are approximately 134 historic acres now open to the public as Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park in Bristow.

Historians and residents celebrated the park’s grand opening this weekend with tactical demonstrations, tours and living history exhibits.

Park visitors got to see what a Civil War field hospital would have looked like, complete with a field surgical chest, various medical tonics, a body cleaning area and other items.

Washington, D.C., podiatrist and living history demonstrator Dr. Charles Raugh said the replica hospital camp on display Sunday was positioned as a front line hospital in the center of the battlefield during the war.

Raugh said Civil War field hospitals typically consisted of two surgeons, two tables and “hordes of wounded” in the front.

Historical re-enactor James Owens of Silver Spring, Md., and his fellow members of Company D 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry demonstrated various Union Army formations for visitors Sunday.

As the 1st Minnesota re-enactors demonstrated “capping off,” or clearing their muskets before battle, Owens explained that the first thing soldiers learned when they enlisted during the Civil War was the school of the soldiers.

The school served as uniform rules about formation and techniques for battle.

Owens explained how the troops were formed into two lines of battle with officers at the back. As casualties occurred, the gaps would be filled by other soldiers, he said.

During the skirmish demonstration, Owens explained that the main idea behind the formation of firing in pairs was to keep the loaded musket closest to the opponents.

After one soldier fired, another would move up to cover him, Owens said.

Sunday marked the 144th anniversary of the Battle of Bristoe Station.

On Oct. 14, 1863, Confederate Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill’s corps stumbled upon two corps of the retreating Union army at Bristoe Station and attacked without proper reconnaissance.

Union soldiers of the 2nd Corps, posted behind the Orange and Alexandria Railroad embankment, mauled two brigades of Henry Heth’s division and captured a battery of artillery.

Hill reinforced his line but could make little headway against the determined defenders.

After this victory, the Federals continued their withdrawal to Centreville.

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Bristoe offensive sputtered to a premature halt.

After minor skirmishing near Manassas and Centreville, the Confederates retired slowly to Rappahannock River destroying the Orange and Alexandria Railroad as they went.

Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park is located off Bristow Road (Va. 619 West) near the intersection of Va. 619 and Va. 28 South.

For more information, call 703-257-5243.

As I said, this should be the formula for all such efforts. This is how to do it right.

Eric Wittenberg





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