The landscape at Bristoe Station Battlefield looked a lot different in 1863 when Union and Confederate forces met there and fought the Battle of Bristoe Station during the Civil War. There were more trees back then.
Historic records confirm that trees once stood where the battle was fought at the battlefield, off Iron Brigade Unit Avenue in Bristow.
"We have historic maps of the farms around Bristoe, and this portion was wooded and cleared for farming in the 20th century," Rob Orrison, Prince William County Historic Preservation Division manager said of the10 acres at the battlefield, where 6,370 trees were recently planted.
The newly planted white oak, sweet gum, eastern cottonwood, black cherry, common hackberry, southern red oak, scarlet oak, redbud, flowering dogwood, black sassafras, pawpaw, swamp white oak, American sycamore, pin oak and box elder trees will mimic the 19th century forest at the battlefield, now called Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park.
"When the forest gets older, as it matures and the trees begin to form a canopy, it will give a better understanding about how the troops would have come onto the property and moved through forest to get to the places where the battles were fought," said Prince William County Arborist Julie Flanagan. "From a historic standpoint, it gives the parks a better ability to provide interpretation of the actual battle conditions."
In addition to restoring the viewshed of the battlefield, the reforestation will help water quality. Prince William County is in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and is required by federal regulations to limit the amount of sediment and nutrients that get into its waterways.
"By the time the water hits the trees, makes it into the soil and into the ground and finally into the streams, it's a whole lot cleaner than if it was to run straight into the stream," Flanagan said.
As the forest grows, it will go through several stages and attract different wildlife at different stages.