(Chantilly, Va.) — Any discussion of the modern battlefield preservation movement begins in the same place: Chantilly, Va. After watching the development pressures spreading across Northern Virginia consume much of this battlefield, a group of historians formed the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites in 1987. The need for action was real, and that small group has now grown to become the American Battlefield Trust — the nation’s top historic land preservation organization, having protected 52,000 acres in 24 states, at sites associated with the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. The Trust also leads the way in bringing digital technology to historic interpretation, and today announces its 21st mobile app designed to let users explore past events on-site or from the comfort of home.
The Ox Hill (Chantilly) Battlefield Tour Guide app helps users explore the history contained within Fairfax County’s Ox Hill Battlefield Park, but also see how the fighting on September 1, 1862, extended well beyond the boundaries of the park into areas that have now become enmeshed in the surrounding community. More than just telling the story of that one battle, the app shares the controversies involved in the loss of 99 percent of the battlefield to development and how preservationists rallied to secure, save, and commemorate the 4.9 acres that remain.
“A digital product is the ideal way to tell the story of the Battle of Chantilly,” said Trust President Jim Lighthizer. “Technology lets you peel away the years and visualize what this landscape looked like when mighty armies clashed amid a late-summer thunderstorm.”
The Ox Hill Battlefield Tour Guide app includes 16 total stops along Ox Hill Battlefield Park’s existing trail, adding multimedia depth to the static interpretation, and at other nearby historical points of interest. An interactive tour map allows users to seamlessly navigate between stops, and brings the user to nearby off-park battlefield locations that were lost to development. The Trust’s renowned battle maps, completely updated for this app, reflect the multiple phases of the fighting and immerse the user in the battle. Annotated period photographs of the Park and surrounding area add layers of knowledge.
This project was produced in partnership with the Bull Run Civil War Round Table (BRCWRT), one of the leading such organizations in the nation, and with the support of local historian and BRCWRT member Ed Wenzel, one of the initial activists who launched the modern battlefield preservation movement.
“There are many prominent and active Civil War round tables like ours across the nation,” said Blake Myers, BRCWRT’s preservation committee chair. “We are extremely fortunate to have incredible historic sites such as this in close proximity. We believe it is our responsibility to take an active role in their protection, preservation, and interpretation, making a partnership with the Trust on this exciting project a natural fit.”
Wenzel concurred, adding that the study of and advocacy for the battlefield has been a decades long journey for him. “I never could have imagined that the difficulty we endured here could unite so many people and grow into such a nationwide effort,” he said. “I hope that as more people learn the story of this battle and this battlefield, they are inspired to embrace and protect the historic places in their own communities.”
Significant assistance was also provided by the Fairfax County Park Authority, which owns and manages Ox Hill Battlefield Park. For more go to: www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/ox-hill.
More than just troop movements, the app provides interesting context for the battle, including accounts of the gale force winds and violent thunder that confronted troops, making Chantilly a fight like no other. Additional onboard resources include Federal and Confederate orders of battle, first-person accounts, quick facts, and more. Beyond being a useful on-site resource, the app functions away from the battlefield, offering a rich array of resources accessible from the home, the classroom, or anywhere.
The Trust is no stranger to digital battlefield interpretation, having launched its first Battle App® guide in 2010. The 21 titles that have been introduced to date feature both Civil War and Revolutionary War battles and campaigns. Learn more about the entire suite of Trust mobile apps at www.battlefields.org/mobileapps.
The Battle of Chantilly, or Ox Hill, was fought in the late afternoon on September 1, 1862, during a severe thunderstorm. It occurred just two days after the Second Battle of Manassas and foreshadowed the Confederate invasion of Maryland, culminating at the Battle of Antietam on September 17. In just a few hours at Chantilly, the Confederate and Federal forces suffered a combined total of approximately 1,500 casualties, including two noted Union Generals — Isaac Stevens and Philip Kearny — both of whom were killed in action.
The American Battlefield Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has protected more than 50,000 acres associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War. Learn more at www.battlefields.org.