Friday, September 3, 2010

Pat and Don Report on 2nd Manassas Discoveries

Today (Sunday, 29 August 2010) Don and I went to Manassas. We have only toured the 1st Manassas battlefield in the past. The Park Service has finished an older farm (Brawner Farm) at the beginning of the 2nd Manassas battle site with a really neat fiber optic light map showing how the battle progressed. It was very interesting and helped us understand the battle before we left for the field. We watched it twice! There are a few other info panels in the building including one about our buddy FJP. We began our tour but had some questions so we went back to the main building at Henry Hill. This is where we got the best information yet...
A very knowledgeable and helpful park ranger was there and we told him we were beginning research on Porter and started talking with him. We told him why we were researching and for whom. He spent quite a bit of time with us going over reproduced maps of the battle and showing us on the maps where things happened and why. We were unfortunately too late for a battlefield walk over the area Porter fought. We talked more and told him about the exhibit for next season. He was very interested. I told him we're still early in our research and didn't have any leads yet on any items or artifacts that were Porter's. He then told us that in 1947 Porter's granddaughter donated/gave some items that had belonged to her grandfather to the Park Service at Manassas!!!
The ranger (Hank Elliott) told us the park supervisor was in his office and they have some papers related to Porter's court case (later one), letters from Grant and McClellan, portraits of Porter, his official and original West Point Commissioning papers (commissioning him as a 2ndLT) received when he graduated from the US Military Academy in 1845 and a pair of his field glasses!!! We don't know when Porter used the field glasses but they have them there in the vault. Ranger Elliot asked the supervisor if it would be possible for us to do some research there for our exhibit and we were told yes...and we can most likely go into the vault with the supervisor and see the papers, portraits, glasses, etc. and even hold them!! Ranger Elliot is quite knowledgeable about Porter and has done a great deal of research about him. He helped with the new exhibit at the Brawner Farm and did the Porter panel in there. He told us that when we return to research he would personally take us on a tour of the areas Porter was in when he was there at Manassas. He says a lot of them are gone...lost to development...and some are on private land. But we will certainly take him up on his offer. He said for us to send him an e-mail before we go there so he can schedule it.
Hank also gave us the names of a couple of other men who have researched Porter or 2nd Manassas. One is John Hennessy who is the Chief Historian at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania NMP. He worked at Manassas in the 1980's and is still a ranger. He has done in depth studies of Porter and is currently writing about him to put in a new guidebook Manassas is writing. Another Porter scholar is Brian Burton. He wrote a very good book called "Return to Manassas"...about 2nd Manassas. He is in the process of writing a scholarly biography about Porter.
So...other than that we have had a great time in Gettysburg. We are now...obviously...planning a return trip to Manassas and a trip to Fredericksburg. Not sure how soon...but we'll be doing this.

Pat and Don Reporting

First Battle of Manassas pictured above

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