Near my children's school, here in Cambridge, Mass., is a short street with a name that, for a long time, irritated me. The street is called Manassas Avenue.
Two things bugged me. In 1861 and 1862 two battles took place at a creek in northern Virginia called Bull Run. The first was the first battle of the Civil War. So, the first thing: we northerners call those battles the first and second battles of Bull Run, since we favored geographic features while southerners favored the nearest town when naming battles. But Manassas, I have to say, seems to be winning out, and I see the battles referred to more often that way than I remember from my youth. I can kind of deal with that, though I always suspect the loyalties of the National Park Service.
But, the stranger thing: we lost. The North got its butt handed to it in both those battles. Can historical knowledge have fallen so low that a street in the heart of the heart of the North, Cambridge, got that awful name? Any Gettysburg Streets in Charleston or New Orleans? Somehow, I doubt it.
Well, come to find out, Manassas Ave. is named after a person, Manasses P. Dougherty. The name was changed in 1907, from Sparks St. Court.
I'm still suspicious. Why the spelling change? A southern sympathiser in the Registry of Deeds? Rewriting history is those people's favorite hobby. You can't take anything for granted.