Nature at Manassas

More from Manassas – Civil War battlefields are almost always located on places with interesting ecology. Makes sense. They are places that were farms, fields or forests in the 1860s and they still are today. We know more of the history of the land than we otherwise would because of the action there and because of attempts to maintain it as it was.

The area around Manassas was given over to general farming in those days, a variety of crops and dairy. The land had been cleared of forests for more than a century by then. There were fewer trees in 1860 than there are today. The big reason was the need to feed horses needed for farm work and transportation. It takes more than an acre of grass to maintain a horse, so most of the land had to be kept clear of trees. We forget that it was mechanization of agriculture that allowed the return of forest in eastern North America.

The Manassas battlefield park is now managed to keep it looking like it did during the Civil War but also to support wildlife. The Park Service does not maintain livestock, which makes the land significantly different than it would have been back then. Grazing animals alter the land in many ways. Instead of grazing, the Park Service mows the fields. If they did not, forest would quickly take over the open fields.

My first picture shows the Virginia landscape. We have a beautiful state. Next two pictures show early succession. As I wrote, if they stop grazing or mowing, the trees quickly move in. They seem to have stopping mowing in the section shown in the photos. The next picture shows dead ash trees. Showing the ash apocalypse is sad, but the emerald ash borer is doing a job on ash trees all over America, as I have written elsewhere.

The last picture shows a gravel path through the woods. There is something very attractive about a gravel path through the woods. It beckons you on. It has visual auditory and tactile aspect. The visual is portrayed in the photo. The auditory is the rhythmic sound of your own footsteps. You feel progress. The tactile feel of the stones underfoot is satisfying. Something about a gravel path through the woods that is attractive.

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