Progress and Change and Preservation
A few Fridays ago I took a short tour of the Chantilly, or Ox Hill, Battlefield. Short, of course, because aside from a five-acre section preserved within a county park, the rest of the battlefield is covered with modern construction. One can drive the area, equipped with a good map depicting the troop movements, and gain some insights. But for the most part, Chantilly is a battlefield we must study with a lot of imagination.
Standing north of the Ox Hill Battlefield Park is the parking lot of Fairfax Towne Center. Federals in General Isaac Stevens' division clashed there with General Alexander Lawton's Confederates. What is today a parking lot was certainly contested ground on September 1, 1862. As I walked through that parking lot, trying to piece together the battlefield as it was, I recalled a photo from Civil War Trust's Hallowed Ground magazine. Taken from a historical marker in the Towne Center complex, the Trust framed it to demonstrate how invasive the shopping center was to the battlefield.
I was struck by a change that took place at site within the last few years. While I don't know the exact date of the Trust's photo, one can estimate based on the prominent logo of a well known electronics retail chain. That chain declared bankruptcy in 2009 and closed their storefronts shortly afterward. Today another nationally known chain occupies the storefront.
Times change and so do the tenants. We often hear a good location is critical in many business pursuits, particularly in retail. Is the location of that particular storefront critical to the succes of the business? I was left to wonder if a location, perhaps a few hundred yards east or north, might be just as properous... or not.
On the other hand, for those studying the war, the battlefield IS the location.
Craig Swain is a consultant from Virginia but is a native Missourian. His background includes a degree in history and service in the Army. Craig's focus is the study of Civil War Artillery, which you can read about on his blog—To the Sound of the Guns.