School-aged children living in Gainesville are served by the Prince William County Public Schools District, which is the Washington metro area's fourth largest school system and the second largest school division within the State of Virginia. With a number of the district's high schools recognized by Newsweek as "America's Top Public High Schools," parents and families will be glad to know that their children's education is in the hands of the state's top educators. High school graduates and adult learners looking to obtain a degree can look to a number of local colleges, universities, and trade/vocational schools to achieve their goals. Nearby higher learning facilities include George Mason University, Northern Virginia Community College, University of Northern Virginia, American Public University, American Military University, Strayer University, and the Aviation Institute of Maintenance-Manassas, among a few others.
The surrounding Gainesville area features numerous historic sites where some of the fiercest battles of the Civil War had taken place. When war broke out in April of 1861, Confederate soldiers were recruited on the Brentsville Courthouse lawn, enticed by the glorious prospects of fighting in a skirmish expected to be over in a matter of months. Although Brentsville, located 10 miles south of Gainesville, was later raided by Union troops for building supplies, at least five original structures survived the war.
The Brentsville Historic Center now consists of the Courthouse, jail, church and a one-room schoolhouse. Several of the buildings are rumored to have had recent ghost sightings. Both Union General Irvin McDowell and Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard recognized the importance of the town's location at the junction of the Alexandria and Orange and Manassas Gap Railroads. By capturing the Manassas railroad junction, the Union would take possession of the best overland route to Richmond, the Confederate capital.
Today, visitors can trace the footsteps of the soldiers who fought in this monumental battle at the Manassas National Battlefield Park where Thomas Jackson earned the nickname "Stonewall." This is also where the Confederate soldiers won their first victory and forced the Union army to retreat to Washington.
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