"On to Richmond!"
(During the Civil War, two railroads—the Manassas Gap and the Orange and Alexandria—intersected here. Manassas Junction was strategically important to both the Union and the Confederacy as a supply depot and for military transportation. Two of the war's great battles were fought nearby. Diaries, letters, and newspaper articles documented the war's effects on civilians as well as the thousand of soldiers who passed through the junction.)
On July 16, 1861, Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard received a coded message here from the famous Confederate spy, Mrs. Rose O'Neal Greenhow, in Washington. She warned him that she had copies of orders for Union Gen. Irving McDowell to march 35,000 troops to capture Manassas and then move on to Richmond. Beauregard wired Confederate President Jefferson Davis to request reinforcements. Davis confirmed McDowell's advance, then ordered Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's army from the Shenandoah Valley to Manassas Junction.
Early on July 18, just as Union Gen. Robert Patterson telegraphed Washington that he had "succeeded in keeping General Johnston's force at Winchester," Johnston slipped his command out of town. Johnston did not tell his men where they were going, and their forced march did not end until 2 a.m. on July 19, at Paris, Virginia. As the soldiers rested, Johnston rode ahead to Piedmont Station (present-day Delaplane) to arrange for trains to transport them there. When he learned of the fight at Blackburn's Ford earlier that day, he sent word to Beauregard that he was on his way. About 6 a.m., Johnston's first brigade, under Gen. Thomas J. Jackson, marched into view and soon boarded railroad cars for the eight-hour ride. The brigade arrived here in time to help defend the junction at the First Battle of Manassas. Within 28 hours, the men had covered 60 miles and made history as the first soldiers ever to move from one theatre of war to another by train.