My wife and I recently went on a tour of US Civil War Battle Sights as arranged by All-In-One-Tours. Entitled 'The Early Years' we visited Leesburg, Manassas, Harper's Ferry, Antietam and Gettysburg. It was an absolutely marvelous tour giving us a great understanding of the years leading up to war, a graphic understanding of the sheer carnage and sacrifice made by so many everyday Americans pitted against fellow US citizens and a feeling of the effect of this civil strife on today's United States.
Not being American and therefore not having a grounding and good understand of US history, we did a little homework before our tour and watched the excellent 12 hour Ken Burns Civil War CD box set, highly recommendable, and also saw the Killing of Lincoln as screened on National Geographic. We then finished our trip with a visit to the Ford Theatre and Petersen House in Washington DC where Lincoln was shot and died.
Manassas, of all visitor centres that we visited we appreciated the Manassas centre a little more than we did the somewhat larger centres at other sites. The LED assisted audio description of the way the first battle started, as shown on the relief map was an excellent introduction to the 40 minute film that runs on the hour.
Following our visit to the visitor centre we were given a detailed description of the two battles at Manassas by volunteer guide Bryant Kincaid who was absolutely excellent in his description of how the various battles came about and the consequences of decisions taken during battle and the significance of the outcomes of the various military manoeuvres.
The weather was not too kind to us as it snowed for most of the previous night and much of the morning of the tour but this didn't deter us or Bryant and we walked all the battles and were shown the key geographical features of the terrain that were so beneficial to those defending and so deadly to those attacking.
A really moving description of some of the early skirmishes of such a deadly war.