Confederates Withdraw 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.
You are standing in the midst of what was a smoking ruin in March 1962. By mid-February, as the Union threat to Richmond mounted, Confederate President Jefferson Davis had ordered Gen. Joseph E. Johnston to withdraw his forces from northern Virginia to defend the capital. Johnston began the monumentally difficult task on February 23.
For some time, Johnston had begged the Confederate quartermaster office to reduce the volume of supplies shipped here, but they continued to pile up. Huge numbers of boxes and trunks of food, clothing, and personal items jammed the junction's sidings. The Orange and Alexandria Railroad laid a mile-long double track to accommodate all the loaded boxcars and also built several freight storage sheds.
When Johnston began the first large-scale military withdrawal of the war, mud-choked roads and lack of wagons forced him to rely on the railroads. The lack of boxcars, the limited capacity of the lines, and the panicking civilian population made it impossible to remove all the supplies. The last Confederate soldiers withdrew from Manassas Junction on March 9, burning more than a million pounds of provisions, tearing up track, and destroying railroad bridges over the Shenandoah and Rappahannock Rivers.
"A column of smoke indicates that Manassas was on fire. The large machine shops, the station houses, the commissary, and the quartermaster's store houses all in ashes. On the track stood the wreck of a locomotive, and not far down the remains of four freight cars which had been bombed. To the right five-hundred barrels of flour had been stove in, and two hundred barrels of vinegar and molasses had been allowed to try experiments in chemical combination. Some fifty pounds of pork and beef had been scattered around in the mud, and a few hundred yards down the track dense clouds of smoke were rising from the remains of a factory [for] rendering of tallow and boiling bones." —Philadelphia Enquirer
reporter, March 11, 1862