Nestled in a tiny wooded area off West Ox Road in Fairfax,
across the street from a busy shopping plaza, is a small
park. The shoppers packing the TJ Maxx across the street and
cars whizzing by at all hours give no indication that more
than 1,500 soldiers were killed or wounded in a bloody
follow-up to the battle of Second Manassas, Sept. 1, 1862.
The Battle of Chantilly, as the Union army called it, or
Battle of Ox Hill as it was known to the Confederates, was
spread out over more than 500 acres of farmland and woods,
but today just 4.8 acres are preserved at Ox Hill Battlefield
Park. Like many sites of Civil War action in Northern
Virginia, much of it was paved or built over to make way for
new homes, businesses and roads. For those willing to take a
little closer look at their own backyard, traces of the Civil
War can still be found, 150 years after the fighting came to
After Second Manassas, Union troops in the exhausted and
defeated Army of Virginia, attempted to retreat to
Washington. Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson, hoping to
make the most of the opportunity, attempted to cut off the
retreat by sending his divisions to engage the troops. But
Union divisions led by Generals Isaac Stevens and Philip
Kearny attacked first.
In the midst of a heavy thunderstorm, Stevens' troops moved
in three lines up a slope toward a thick wood, where the
Confederate troops were waiting. Stevens' own son, Captain
Hazard Stevens, was shot in the hip and arm as the
southerners opened fire. Confederate fire intensified - but
Stevens was undeterred. He seized the flag of his old
regiment, the 79th New York "Highlanders," and led the charge
up the hill himself, calling "Highlanders! My Highlanders!
Follow your general!"
His dramatic death was followed quickly by another major blow
to the Union forces. General Kearny, warned that a nearby
cornfield was filled with rebel forces, impetuously rode out
alone to scout out the situation. He realized his mistake too
late, and was quickly shot down.
Today, a small granite stump within the park marks the spot
where Kearny is believed to have been killed. Two large
monuments are dedicated to the memory of Kearny and Stevens.
The Fairfax County
Park Authority website offers a 25-minute audio tour for
Battlefield Heritage Park
A tour of Ox Hill isn't likely to take longer than an hour
for even the most dedicated Civil War buff, so those planning
a day trip will probably want to add another destination to
their itinerary. Hop on I-66 and continue past the Manassas
exit, leaving the more famous national park for another day.
Instead, take a walk through the 133-acre Bristoe Station
Battlefield Heritage Park, where on Aug. 27, 1862, Union and
Confederate armies set the stage for Second Manassas at the
Battle of Kettle Run. The fight started after Jackson's
troops raided Union supplies and ended after the federal
troops withdrew. The park also includes the site of the Oct.
14, 1863, Battle of Bristoe Station.
Though the park is listed as a registered historical site
within the county, it encompasses only about 20 percent of
the battlefield. In 2014, Preservation Virginia included the
battlefield on its 2014 Most Endangered Sites List due to
Ben Lomond Historic
Just a 15-minute drive from Bristoe Station is the Ben Lomond
Historic Site, which provides a different Civil War
experience. The two-story home, converted to a field hospital
after First Manassas, was built by Benjamin Tasker Chinn in
the 1830s. Slaves harvested corn and wheat, and looked after
about 500 sheep. Specialized slavery tours are offered
periodically at the site, in part because Ben Lomond has the
only existing quarters of its kind in the county, according
to the Prince William
County website. It's a poignant reminder of some of the
causes that led to the fighting in the first place.
Stachyra Lopez is the author ofImages
of America: Centreville and Chantilly (Arcadia Publishing,
2014).She can be reached at