Ox Hill Battlefield Park
Ox Hill Battlefield Park is the site of the only major Civil War engagement in Fairfax County.
More than 1,500 soldiers were killed or wounded during a battle waged in a torrential thunderstorm at a critical point in the four-year conflict.
The Battle of Ox Hill, the Confederate name for what the Union Army called the Battle of Chantilly, took place on the afternoon of September 1, 1862.
The Day of Battle
The fighting at Ox Hill 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 chaotic conflict lasted a little more than two hours and ended at dark as a stalemate.
The events at Ox Hill were triggered by Confederate General Robert E. Lee's attempt to outflank the retreating Union army. After the battle of Second Manassas along Bull Run on August 28-30, 1862, the Federal Army retreated toward the well-protected capital city of Washington.
Two Union divisions under the command of General Isaac Stevens and Major General Philip Kearny engaged Confederate troops at Ox Hill on September 1. Both Stevens and Kearny were killed.
Historians differ in their estimates of the troops involved. 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. The Confederates counted 516 casualties.
Ox Hill marked the end of the Second Manassas Campaign. After the engagement, the Federal Army completed its retreat to the fortifications around Washington. The Confederates turned north and crossed the Potomac River, igniting the Maryland Campaign. Sixteen days after Ox Hill, the armies met at Antietam in the bloodiest single day of the war.
Creating The Park
Ox Hill is one of hundreds of identified Civil War sites in Fairfax County.
The fighting was spread over about 500 acres of farmland and woods on either side of, what is now, West Ox Road between Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway (Rt. 50) and Fair Lakes Parkway, and between Fair Oaks Mall and the Fairfax County Parkway. Much of that area today is covered by housing and commercial business outlets. Civil War preservationists stepped forward in the 1980s to protect the current 4.8 acre park site from the development that encompasses the rest of the battlefield.
About half of the current park land was donated in 1987 by the Centennial Development Corporation. The land was conveyed to the Park Authority in 1991.Thanks to the dogged preservation efforts of the Chantilly Battlefield Association, the county Board of Supervisors acquired an additional two acres in 1994 and conveyed it to the Park Authority three years later. Two small lots were added in 2001.
The park re-opened September 1, 2008, on the 146th anniversary of the battle, after completion of a $700,000 project to construct new trails and add historic interpretive kiosks and signage. Landscape restoration and parking improvements were also part of the project. For details, view the Ox Hill Battlefield Park General Management Plan.
Today, the Fairfax County Park Authority owns and maintains Ox Hill Battlefield Park as part of its mission to protect and enhance historical resources in the county.
Visiting the Park
Ox Hill Battlefield Park today is a calming refuge in the midst of a heavily commercial area. It's a lovely place for a thoughtful stroll. Interpretive kiosks at the park present information about the battle and its significance and offer insights into some of the men who were wounded on this land. They also quickly orient visitors and explain where they stand in relation to the events that occurred on the battlefield. The park also is home to a pair of granite memorials that honor the two Union generals who were killed at Ox Hill.
Reenactment and living history groups occasionally gather at the park to help interpret the Civil War and provide a sense of the past.
The park is located at 4134 West Ox Road in Fairfax, VA, at the intersection of West Ox Road and Monument Drive. Parking is extremely limited. Visitors also may park at the county government's Herrity Building, 12055 Government Center Parkway in Fairfax, about a 15-minute walk from the park.
Ox Hill Battlefield Park is a Cultural Resource park. Cultural Resource parks are designed to protect and preserve archaeological sites and historic properties and places that have significance to Fairfax County.
It is one of more than 400 park sites managed by the Fairfax County Park Authority.