Spectators and reporters competed for a good view of the first major battle between Union and Confederate soldiers at Manassas in July of 1861. Before the battle, most Americans thought the war would be one short skirmish; the deaths of 900 soldiers shocked the nation into realizing otherwise. Soldiers fought a second battle over the same fields at Manassas a year later that helped clear the way for Lee’s first invasion of the North. Today, visitors can take walking tours through the primary battlegrounds. There is also a 13-mile, self-guided driving tour of that stops at various locations, including Stone House Tavern, a structure that was used as a Union field hospital.

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