Lake Accotink: Civil War Hotspot

Research on Lake Accotink Park's Civil War days uncovers more than expected.

<bt>In 1862, the Lake Accotink area was a busy place among Civil War troops on both sides, with a strategic railroad bridge crossing Accotink Creek and its proximity to Washington and the port city of Alexandria. This past summer, local college students researched Accotink's Civil War history. They created a film, an artifact display and literature, which will be the centerpiece of the first "Witness to History Open House," at the park on Sunday, Oct. 12.

The project was spearheaded by Manassas resident Lee Ann Shenefiel and George Mason University graduate Alyson Stokowski. All of the action right around the Springfield area really surprised both women.

"I didn't realize there was so much direct Civil War stuff here in Springfield," Stokowski said. "J.E.B. Stuart burned down the trellis. He set fire to it. We think that Civil War troops encamped in the area, too."

Shenefiel is a senior at The College of William and Mary. She was doing a summer internship at the park, and Stokowski took over at the end of the summer, putting the final touches on the exhibits before the open house. Shenefiel worked from May to August. In the past, she's worked at Manassas Battlefield Park, where she was a historical interpreter at the Stone House, a 19th-century tavern at the park.

"Most of it was new to me because I live in Manassas," she said. "We did have a few people that stopped by the park to share stories."

Matt Lopez, a Virginia Tech film student, produced a documentary film to accompany the artifacts. Axel Boy, a Springfield resident and current employee at the park, helped with the video.

"He spent the whole summer doing that," said Boy, of Lopez's work. "Most of it he did through research at the library."

Julie Tahan, assistant park manager, feels that by knowing the history of the park, Springfield residents will get a sense of identity with the park. Even Tahan learned a few things.

"As a resident of Springfield, it was new to me that there were Confederate sympathizers who conducted raids here," Tahan said.

RELIC HUNTERS through the years took their toll on the artifacts before Lake Accotink became a park. A little-known brick tunnel built by the Confederates remains on the grounds, where the train crossed a smaller creek. One of the bricks was marked "CSA" (Confederate States of America) and another "1862." The CSA brick was taken years ago. The park's staff removed the 1862 brick before relic hunters could find it. The brick is now one of the artifacts the park has on display.

Boy stood at the foot of the tunnel, pointing out where the missing bricks had originally been and where the stonework was done.

"You can see where there's chisel marks on some of the stones," Boy said. "Someone came down and pried the CSA brick out."

Another artifact on display is a clipping from The Alexandria Gazette, dated Dec. 31, 1862, with a story titled "Late Army Movements."

"They burned the railroad bridge in Accotink, some 12 miles from Alexandria on the Orange road. A considerable force of federal troops were in pursuit at last accounts," the story read.

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