Civil War on Campus: Living History at George Mason

by Rachel Luckenbaugh

Civil War on Campus: Living History at George Mason

On November 7th, a group of George Mason University students and their professors took a trip to an important historic site, right here on the Mason campus. Led by Brian McEnany, Blake Myers and Jim Lewis, members of the Bull Run Civil War Round Table, the group ventured into the woods behind the western edge of Parking Lot K. After a few minutes they came to what is known as a redoubt, a circular earthen fortification constructed and used during the Civil War. Though covered with underbrush, the structure remains intact and is clearly visible—a valuable historic structure, right under our noses, tucked behind a parking lot on the Mason campus.

The redoubt, which stands on a raised site called Farr’s Crossroads, was first constructed by the 5th Alabama Volunteer Infantry under the command of Col. Robert Rodes in June 1861. A number of different Union and Confederate military forces occupied the fort over the next few years, including a brigade led by Stonewall Jackson. The site once contained scores of artifacts, but most had been removed by collectors before Fairfax County officially identified the site in 1979. In the decades since, a handful of local researchers, including those in the Bull Run Civil War Roundtable, have conducted research on the site.

The leaders of the tour taught the Mason students about how the site fit within the larger context of the Civil War in Northern Virginia. They discussed the nearby transportation routes used by the soldiers, showing them a part of the “corduroy road” route constructed just before the war and traveled by both Union and Confederate forces on the way to Gettysburg. One highlight of the tour was the reading of first-hand accounts of soldiers who had occupied the site. The tour was a memorable experience for students and professors alike, a reminder of the historic roots of the area on which the campus stands—and of the importance of studying and preserving those roots as their visible traces fade.

For a fuller description of the tour and the historical context for the site and the surrounding area, go to pp. 9-10 of the Bull Run Civil War Roundtable’s latest newsletter.