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In 1861, the First Battle of Bull Run (also known as the First Battle of Manassas), the first major land battle of the American Civil War, was fought near here. The Second Battle of Bull Run (or Second Manassas) was fought near here on August 28-30, 1862. At that time, Manassas Junction was little more than a railroad crossing, but a strategic one, with rails leading to Richmond, Virginia, Washington, DC, and the Shenandoah Valley. Despite these two Confederate victories, Manassas Junction was in Union hands for most of the war.
The crossroads grew into the town of Manassas following the war, incorporated in 1873. In 1892, it became the county seat of Prince William County, replacing Brentsville. In 1975, Manassas became an independent city.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 25.8 km² (10.0 mi²). 25.7 km² (9.9 mi²) of it is land and 0.1 km² (0.04 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 0.20% water.
As of the census of 2000, there are 35,135 people, 11,757 households, and 8,441 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,366.1/km² (3,537.0/mi²). There are 12,114 housing units at an average density of 471.0/km² (1,219.5/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 72.05% White, 12.91% African American, 0.36% Native American, 3.43% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 7.89% from other races, and 3.26% from two or more races. 15.13% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 11,757 households out of which 42.3% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.8% are married couples living together, 11.3% have a female householder with no husband present, and 28.2% are non-families. 21.1% of all households are made up of individuals and 3.7% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.92 and the average family size is 3.39.
In the city the population is spread out with 29.6% under the age of 18, 9.8% from 18 to 24, 35.8% from 25 to 44, 19.4% from 45 to 64, and 5.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 31 years. For every 100 females there are 103.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 102.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $60,409, and the median income for a family is $70,141. Males have a median income of $43,646 versus $30,678 for females. The per capita income for the city is $24,453. 6.3% of the population and 3.7% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 7.6% are under the age of 18 and 5.4% are 65 or older.