Virginia’s heaven for history lovers

BY RICK ROGERS Published: January 10, 2010
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tside is a fence made of locust timbers that was created to keep animals out, not in.

Two miles to the northwest is the Bristoe Station Battlefield, a 133-acre area that was occupied by the Confederate Army in late 1861. Gen. Robert E. Lee’s last campaign during the Civil War was fought on these grounds. More than 200 Confederate soldiers are buried here, most in unmarked graves.

Virginia’s best surviving collection of Revolutionary War-era buildings can be seen at the 2,300-acre Buckland Farm. The main house was built in 1774, but recent archaeological digs have turned up American Indian relics dating even earlier.

Owner David Blake said Buckland was an industrial town where people of many races lived and worked during the early 19th century. An $800,000 federal grant, which will be matched by Prince William County, will help establish a museum that will feature American Indian and Civil War artifacts.

One of Prince William County’s newest structures is the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Opened in November 2006, the 118,000-square-foot building contains 60,000 artifacts in several interactive exhibits that chronicle the Marines’ celebrated history.

The museum’s most visible feature is a 210-foot exterior stainless steel spire that evokes the iconic image of the raising of the American flag over Iwo Jima. Inside, visitors can start their tour by watching a brief film in the Scuttlebutt Theater. Separate galleries are devoted to the Marines’ participation during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam.

"History walks in here every day,” said Lon Martin, a former Marine who serves as museum docent. "When Marines step into the Leatherneck Gallery, it’s as if they’re walking into a sanctuary. It’s the holy grail of the Marine Corps.” In the Making Marines Gallery, visitors can experience the rigors of boot camp. Next door is the World War II Gallery, which re-creates some of the toughest battles fought in the Pacific Theater: Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester.

The Korean War Gallery, which chronicles battles in Seoul and Inchon, is intentionally cold, a reminder of the difficult weather conditions that existed during much of the three-year war.

In the Vietnam War Gallery, visitors can take a simulated helicopter ride, see an M-40A1 sniper rifle and an M50A1 Ontos Anti-tank Vehicle.

The final stop is a display that lists the names of all Medal of Honor recipients (295 Marines, 23 Navy personnel serving the Marines as corpsmen, surgeons, dentists and chaplains) from 1775 to the present. Visitors leave with a much better understanding of the phrase "No better friend, no worse enemy than a Marine.”

Today, nearly 400,000 residents live in Prince William County, many of whom commute daily to jobs in nearby Washington, D.C. Prince William County is also home to Leesylvania State Park, the ancestral home of the Robert E. Lee family; the U.S. Marine Corps Base in Quantico; and Potomac Mills, the region’s largest outlet mall.

Hotel and travel accommodations for this trip were provided by the Prince William County/

Manassas Convention & Visitor Bureau.

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