New signage at Ox Hill Battlefield Park in the Chantilly area will provide interpretive services for Korean- and Spanish-speaking visitors, a first for Civil War Trails signage.
The new interpretive signs are a collaborative effort between Civil War Trails Inc., the Fairfax County Park Authority, Old Baldy Civil War Round Table and several supporting groups. It is the first park among the 1,350 Civil War Trails locations in six states with signage in multiple languages.
“We are delighted that Ox Hill Battlefield will be home to the first bilingual Civil War Trails marker in the country,” said Barry Biggar, president and CEO of Visit Fairfax. “It is a fitting location, as Fairfax County is an incredibly diverse and welcoming community. We are proud to be able to tell the story of the only major Civil War battle in Fairfax County in a truly accessible and equitable way, creating a new segment of tourism ambassadors here in the county and encouraging visitation from non-English-speaking travelers who wish to soak up our diverse stories.”
Local consultants Jeremy Suh and Baker-Cruz Services completed initial language translations, which were reviewed to ensure linguistic accuracy and a conversant tone. The Bull Run Civil War Round Table ensured an accurate narrative of the battle, and the Fairfax County Park Authority approved the final content and location of the pedestal to capture visitors as they enter the park.
“The stories and cast of the Civil War were as varied and diverse as our communities are today,” said Drew Gruber, executive director of Civil War Trails. “By presenting this fuller, more complete history of the Civil War, we hope to inspire everyone to find their own stories in this complex national narrative.”
Historians estimate that more than 1,500 soldiers were killed or wounded during the Battle of Ox Hill on Sept. 1, 1862. (“Ox Hill” was the name of the battle from the Confederate perspective; the Union leadership termed it the Battle of Chantilly.) The battle occurred just days after the Battle of Second Manassas, as Union forces were retreating toward the nation’s capital. Forces under command of Gen. Robert E. Lee attempted to outflank the Union Army before it could reach safety.
According to the Fairfax County Park Authority, the fighting occurred during a fierce storm that field reports described as so thunderous it drowned out the cries and clamor of the battle.
“Dry ammunition became scarce, and the fighting degenerated into a brawl of bayonets and musket clubs,” the agency notes. “The chaotic conflict lasted a little more than two hours and ended at dark as a stalemate.”
Historians differ in their estimates of the troops involved, according to the Park Authority. Some 4,000 to 6,000 Union troops were in the area, and about 15,000 to 17,000 Confederate troops were nearby. Historians think at least 1,000 Union troops died or were injured, among them the two Union commanders, Gen. Isaac Stevens and Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny. Confederates counted 516 casualties.
Union forces may have borne the brunt of the casualties, but those who survived were able to get back to the safety of the immediate Washington area. Confederate troops opted to turn north into Maryland and, 16 days later, would meet Union forces at the Battle of Antietam, the single bloodiest day of the Civil War and the bloodiest day in American history, with more than 22,000 casualties.
The effort to expand public awareness of the Battle of Ox Hill won praise from Esther McCullough, who chairs the ethnic and oral-history committee of the Fairfax County History Commission.
“We are honored that in our jurisdiction the Battle of Ox Hill signage will now be so displayed,” she said. “Inclusiveness and accuracy are essential in recording and relaying true history to all. Signage in citizen-friendly familiar languages allows history to be more accessible and better understood.”
Each Civil War Trails site around the country has a sustaining sponsor that provides for the maintenance of the interpretive and directional signs and helps market the sites to travelers from around the world. The Old Baldy Civil War Round Table in New Jersey is sponsoring this new sign in Fairfax.
Richard Jankowski, president of the organization, said its members “are honored to support this historic effort to bring understanding of the American Civil War to the local community and to Spanish- and Korean-speaking travelers.”
For information on the Ox Hill Battlefield Park, see the Website at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/ox-hill. For information on Civil War Trails, see the Website at www.civilwartrails.org.