Day Trip to Virginia

An exploration of Civil War sites and homes of former Presidents.

During our stay in Washington D.C my family and I took a day trip out to Virginia. Across the day we went firstly to Manassas, then Mt Vernon, and lastly Arlington cemetery.

It was quite interesting to see how the language and accent changed going out to Virginia when our car trip was only 1.5 hours from where we were staying. We first stopped in the township of Manassas for a quick snack break before heading out to the National Battlefield Park.

The First Battle of Mannassas, better known as the Battle of Bull Run was the first major battle of the Civil War. In July 1861 the Union and Confederate soldiers clashed in a battle, resulting in a confederate victory. Across the national park there are canons placed according to where the Confederate and Union soldiers fought.

Other attractions at the park include the historic Stone House, which served as a hospital during the first and second Battles of Manassas as well as the reconstructed Henry House, the home of the only civilian killed in the First Battle of Manassas, Judith Carter Henry.

There was also a monument to Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, a confederate solider largely known for his actions in the Second Battle of Bull Run (1962). It was at this location during the first battle that “Stonewall” Jackson received his nickname, owing to his actions on the battlefield.

Our next stop was Mt Vernon, George Washington’s home. Situated next to the Potomac River, Mt Vernon was the plantation and home of President George Washington, first built in the 1730s. It has been expanded more than once and is quite striking to see upon arrival.

Whilst at the home we took a tour of the house and surrounds. Unfortunately on our tour we were assured that National Treasure was quite wrong and there was not in fact a secret tunnel. Nonetheless I am unconvinced there is no secret tunnel somewhere. I just haven’t found it yet. On the tour we were also told that President Washington quite often received gifts such as baby deer in boxes that would be sent to him via the river backing the property. The home is still fully furnished and it was interesting to see how small the beds were. I also fell in love with an intricately detailed chimney piece made of marble that resides in the house.

We then took a tour of the stables, gardens, and former slave quarters. It is intriguing to note that the term slave was not used, they were referred to as “unpaid workers” when I visited. Again, everything is left largely untouched to look as it did when Washington lived there.

Arlington cemetery was our last stop for the day. It is a military cemetery that was created in 1864, residing in Virginia but only across the river from the Capital. It was built during the Civil War on the grounds of Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee’s wife Mary Anna Curtis Lee’s estate. She inherited the grounds for the term of her life after which it was passed to her son.

We had time to take a small walk around some of the cemetery, including President Kennedy’s memorial and the changing of the guard. Upon the end of the changing of the guard the cemetery is closed for the day at which point we left to return to Washington D.C.

Virginia has a lot to offer for a great day trip that suits the whole family. As a history nerd I truly enjoyed how everything is so well looked after, allowing for the history of each site to be maintained and explored beyond the history book.

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