Marine instructors visit Manassas battlefield

MANASSAS — The Marines have landed — in Manassas that is.

A contingent of about 30 Marines from the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Development Command at Quantico Marine Corps base spent the day Thursday touring historic battlefield sites and museums in Manassas, getting firsthand views of the historic art of warfare.

“We set up such tours at sites throughout the United States to get on-site observations of past battles,” said Maj. R. A. Baird, future operations officer with the Marine Corps University and the delegation’s leader. “While the type of weapons have changed through the years, warfare is fought in much the same way and we can learn a lot from the past.”

The day began at Manassas National Battlefield Park, where Museum Specialist Jim Burgess ushered the Marines to the Battle of First Manassas sites, Stone Bridge, Stone House, Van Pelt House, Henry Hill and the battlefield’s museum.

The Marines were then bused into Manassas, where they had lunch and toured downtown sites. Most of them ended up at Hero’s American Restaurant.

Following lunch, the Marines toured the museum with Melinda Herzog, the city’s director of historic resources, and a visited the restored Civil War fort site at Battery Heights.

“It was terrific doing something for the men who are defending our country. I enjoyed taking the time to explain to them the impact the Civil War had on civilians at the time and the role the war had in the development and reconstruction of Manassas. They were all very attentive.”

After the museum, it was back to the battlefield to get more insight into the Battle of Second Manassas.

“It was great listening to Burgess explain how the Union and Confederates set up defensive positions to gain control of the Manassas area which, at that time, was so vital to the cause of both sides because of the importance of the railroad,” Baird said.

Lt. Anthony Hernandez agreed.

“The entire day was very educational. Lots of what we observed couldn’t come from a textbook,” Hernandez said. “It was inspirational to be on the site and have the ranger point out how the Civil War soldiers were deployed and sent into battle. You get a full overview of what took place.”

Many of the Marines on the tour were staff members of the Marine Corps University and could use a great deal of what they learned on the tour to take back to their students, Baird said.

Burgess said that he was glad he could be a part of the development of the Marines and their studies into history. “I tried to give them a real feel of the battlefield layout and the tactics used by the two forces.”

Baird noted that quarterly tours for Marines have been held or are planned for such battlefield sites at Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Petersburg and Chancellorsville.

“We will learn a very valuable lesson from each of them, such as to why strategic battles took place there,” Baird said.

Staff writer Bennie Scarton Jr. can be reached at (703) 368*3101, Ext. 125.

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