Saturday, July 23, 2011

Manassas 150 - Pomp and Circumstance

Thursday morning the day started, for me, with a 6:00 a.m arrival at the park.  First light revealed a parking lot filled with vehicles from parks all over the region. 

Events such as this provide a great opportunity to make the acquaintance of Rangers from many different parks, which is  one of my favorite things about helping out at off-site events.

The morning briefing was held  at the maintainence building, and all hands were there to get "the word".

Always on the lookout for personal comfort, I found a pile of folding chairs and propped my old feet up on my pizza and Gatorade-filled cooler.  "Hurry up and wait" ain't all bad if you're prepared (four years in the Navy taught me that).

After the briefing we made our way across the highway and up the trail to the park entrance.

 The shimmering sun was already heating the place up, but the building excitement was growing palpable.

"Stonewall" wasn't the only mounted presence on the field that morning...

The opening ceremony was scheduled to begin a 9:15 a.m. and everywhere I looked I found preparations under way.




The fourth estate was well represented with journalists being escorted everywhere.

Shortly after the flag went up for the morning...

an escorted motorcade roared in and the dignitaries began arriving, in this instance it was...

the Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell (in red "power tie".

Also in attendance was the Director of the National Park Service, John Jarvis (who seems like a really nice guy by-the-way).

Even "Confederates in the Attic" coverboy Robert Lee Hodge was there. 

 Hodge is a huge supporter of the parks and an ardent preservationist.

I was a greeter at the bus drop off, handing out brochures, where I met many facebook friends, fellow bloggers, and other old pals.

With a large audience in attendance...

and cameras rolling...

the proceedings got underway which much pomp and circumstance including...

 the Marine Corps band,

the U.S. Army's Third Division "Silent Drill Team"...

(hit "play" to watch them pleasing the crowd)

and color guard.

All of the speakers, including the governor...

 where emphatic in asserting "slavery" as the foundation of the war, and civil rights as the result.  A message I found both uplifting and inspirational.

And with that the Manassass 150th was officially underway.

And I got to be a small part of it all.

More tomorrow!

Ranger Mannie

Manassas 150 - Departure and Arrival

If I learned anything from working the Inauguration it was to pack for survival; be as self-contained as possible.  Just because you're told there will be lodging doesn't necessarially mean lodging will be there or exactly adequate.  Bug spray, sun block, extra uniform, big cooler, small cooler food, Gatorade, and charged camera batteries.  I'm ready to roll.

John Hoptak swung by with extra time to have a slice of cake with my wife and me and then we hit the road for the 150th.

An early start meant minimal traffic, and an hour and forty five minutes from my house we were turning into the main entrance of Manassas.

With an hour to spare prior to the 6:00 briefing John and I braved the building heat to check out Henry House Hill.

A small village of tents and canopies had been erected adjacent to the Visitor Center.  The very large one to the right is the Youth Activities tent.  That was my unoffical base camp where i stashed my small cooler and extra Gatorade.

That tent was also the location of some graphic art work that I did for the event:

which depicted the market value of an enslaved person over the course of his or her life.

Porta-johns have a distinctive "rumble" as they are trucked into position.

Six o'clock came and the pig briefing began. The young man in the yellow shirt was one of a small and enthusiastic cadre of social media whiz-kids that were documenting everything.  They've done some really fantastic work which you can view here.

Ranger Keith is deep in supervisory thoughts as Ranger Brian catches a glimpse of my camera.

Briefing over, it was time to head to the hotel...

and jump up and down on the bed for awhile.

More soon!

Ranger Mannie

Friday, July 22, 2011

Manassas 150 - Uniforms

This is the first of several installments of what I saw at Manassass National Battlefield this week.


I've just returned from two and a half days of Rangering at Manassas for their sesquicentennial observance.

"Hot" was the most often heard word.  103 actual degrees and a heat index of 112-115!  It was really sapping to work in such heat for such an extended period of time.

Despite the exhaustion, I'm very happy to have been able to participate in this personal and professional milestone.

I was expecting to have the opportunity to photograph a wide variety of uniforms at this observance of that very early battle.  I wasn't disappointed.  What a range of color and cut among those earliest volunteer regiments.

There were Zouaves a'plenty

Here and there appeared a dandy.

Workaday rebels in a variety of homemade finery...

and United States Marines positively resplendent in pipeclay crossbelts and white trousers.

and, here and there, a Confederate harkening back, through his uniform, to earlier American ideals.

It was quite a show, and the effort on the part of these living history folks to portray the troops of '61 was much appreciated by all.

More soon after a much needed good night's sleep.

Ranger Mannie

Fifty year spread

Me, at Gettysburg during the Centennial.

Yesterday at Manassas, for the sesquicentennial.

The cannons seem much smaller these days.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Not to make too fine a point about this Sesquicentennial...

Pardon the repetition, but I'm of a mood to reprise this blog post of June 27, 2006. At that writing I had been a seasonal Park Ranger exactly one month and I was flying high. Tomorrow, as a permanent Park Ranger, I'm heading to Manassas to work the 150th anniversary observance of that battle. Add to that a milestone event from last November and you'll understand why I feel I'm flying even higher.

Look me up at Manassas.


When I was nine a watershed event occurred for me. My mother suggested that she and I start a "Civil War scrapbook", whatever that was. Although I had no clue as to what either the Civil War or a scrapbook was, I'm pretty sure that my response was an enthusiastic "Keen!". I was always up for doing stuff with my mom. She had a real knack for making things fun.

What prompted her idea was a recurring pictorial installment in LIFE magazine celebrating the centennial of the Civil War.

She and I spent many evenings with scissors and glue designing this fabulous one-of-a-kind manuscript; my Civil War scrapbook (like, doesn't everybody have one?) which I still have.

One winter night around that same time, my dad stuck his head in the bedroom (shared by my older brother and me) and announced "If you guys keep your room clean, pay attention to your mother, and behave yourselves, I'll take you to Gettysburg this summer." I was dumbstruck! Fortunately our father didn't hold us to our end of that bargan- and that summer, he, my brother, and I were packed in the Corvair and heading toward Gettysburg and my future.(that's me...future Ranger Mannie)

That trip had a major influence on me, as did a timely response to a piece of my juvenile fanmail to Civil War historian, Bruce Catton, as well as the release of the John Wayne movie "The Horse Soldiers" and the manufacture of plastic Civil War playsets by the Louis Marx Company. This was the harmonic convergence of getting a kid, me, interested in American history in general and the Civil War in particular.

So now I find myself with a dream job at Antietam National Battlefield, our nation's most significant Civil War related national park. I give two presentations daily, always hoping to spark the imagination of the nine-year-olds in my audience. I couldn't have hoped to be in a better place with a better job. I only wish that my mother, my father, and Bruce Catton were sill around to accept my thanks.

Kids are never know what'll spark their imagination.