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2nd Battle of Bull Run: The campaign area

2nd Battle of Bull Run: The campaign area

2nd Battle of Bull Run: The campaign area

2nd Battle of Bull Run: The campaign area

Map taken from Battles and Leaders of the Civil War: II: North to Antietam, p.450


Battle of Second Manassas (Second Bull Run)

The Battle of Groveton or Second Bull Run, looking towards the village of Groveton. The view is from the northern brow of Henry Hill.

After the Union defeat at Manassas in July 1861, Gen. George B. McClellan took command of the Federal forces in and around Washington and organized them into a formidable fighting machine- the Army of the Potomac. In March 1862, leaving a strong force to cover the capital, McClellan shifted his army by water to Fort Monroe on the tip of the York-James peninsular, only 100 miles southeast of Richmond. Early in April he advanced toward the Confederate capital.

Anticipating such a move, the Southerners abandoned the Manassas area and marched to meet the Federals. By the end of May, McClellan's troops were within sight of Richmond. Here Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's Confederate army assailed the Federals in the bloody but inconclusive Battle of Seven Pines. Johnston was wounded, and President Davis placed Gen. Robert E. Lee in command. Seizing the offensive, Lee sent his force (now called the Army of Northern Virginia) across the Chickahominy River and, in a series of savage battles, pushed McClellan back from the edge of Richmond to a position on the James River.

At the same time, the scattered Federal forces in northern Virginia were organized into the Army of Virginia under the command of Gen. John Pope, who arrived with a reputation freshly won in the war's western theater. Gambling that McClellan would cause no further trouble around Richmond, Lee sent Stonewall Jackson's corps northward to "suppress" Pope. Jackson clashed indecisively with part of Pope's troops at Cedar Mountain on August 9. Meanwhile, learning that the Army of the Potomac was withdrawing by water to join Pope, Lee marched with Gen. James Longstreet's corps to bolster Jackson. On the Rapidan, Pope successfully blocked Lee's attempts to gain the tactical advantage, and then withdrew his men north of the Rappahannock River. Lee knew that if he was to defeat Pope he would have to strike before McClellan's army arrived in northern Virginia. On August 25 Lee boldly started Jackson's corps on a march of over 50 miles, around the Union right flank to strike at Pope's rear.

Two days later, Jackson's veterans seized Pope's supply depot at Manassas Junction. After a day of wild feasting, Jackson burned the Federal supplies and moved to a position in the woods at Groveton near the old Manassas battlefield.

Pope, stung by the attack on his supply base, abandoned the line of the Rappahannock and headed towards Manassas to "bag" Jackson. At the same time, Lee was moving northward with Longstreet's corps to reunite his army. On the afternoon of August 28, to prevent the Federal commander's efforts to concentrate at Centreville and bring Pope to battle, Jackson ordered his troops to attack a Union column as it marched past on the Warrenton Turnpike. This savage fight at Brawner's Farm lasted until dark.

Convinced that Jackson was isolated, Pope ordered his columns to converge on Groveton. He was sure that he could destroy Jackson before Lee and Longstreet could intervene. On the 29 th Pope's army found Jackson's men posted along an unfinished railroad grade, north of the turnpike. All afternoon, in a series of uncoordinated attacks, Pope hurled his men against the Confederate position. In several places the northerners momentarily breached Jackson's line, but each time were forced back. During the afternoon, Longstreet's troops arrived on the battlefield and, unknown to Pope, deployed on Jackson's right, overlapping the exposed Union left. Lee urged Longstreet to attack, but "Old Pete" demurred. The time was just not right, he said.

The morning of August 30 passed quietly. Just before noon, erroneously concluding the Confederates were retreating, Pope ordered his army forward in "pursuit". The pursuit, however, was short-lived. Pope found that Lee had gone nowhere. Amazingly, Pope ordered yet another attack against Jackson's line. Fitz-John Porter's corps, along with part of McDowell's, struck Starke's division at the unfinished railroad's "Deep Cut." The southerners held firm, and Porter's column was hurled back in a bloody repulse.

Seeing the Union lines in disarray, Longstreet pushed his massive columns forward and staggered the Union left. Pope's army was faced with annihilation. Only a heroic stand by northern troops, first on Chinn Ridge and then once again on Henry Hill, bought time for Pope's hard-pressed Union forces. Finally, under cover of darkness the defeated Union army withdrew across Bull Run towards the defenses of Washington. Lee's bold and brilliant Second Manassas campaign opened the way for the south's first invasion of the north, and a bid for foreign intervention.


The Battle Of Bull Run Begins

After arriving in the Manassas vicinity on July 18, Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler’s Union division probed Bull Run and engaged in a skirmish at Blackburn’s Ford. After losing about 150 men, Tyler withdrew. With information from additional reconnaissance, McDowell planned to use two columns to attack the Confederates left flank while a third circled to the far right flank and south to provide a distraction, cut the Confederates off from Richmond, and force them farther southeast.

McDowell’s plan counted in part on Union major general Robert Patterson’s troops preventing General Joseph Johnston’s Army of the Shenandoah in Winchester from providing reinforcements to Beauregard, ensuring the Union would outnumber the Confederates at Manassas. Unbeknownst to McDowell, on the morning of July 20, Johnston’s troops had begun boarding the railroad at Piedmont Station in a steady stream to reinforce Beauregard Patterson had waited too long to engage them.

Very early in the morning on July 21, McDowell sent two divisions north toward Sudley Springs, while another division was to create a diversion by attempting to cross Bull Run at Stone Bridge. Confederate colonel Nathan Evans suspected the attack at Stone Bridge was just a diversion to conceal a larger movement and, upon receiving confirmation of this from his signal officer, redirected most of his men to Matthews Hill. They were able to slow down the Union divisions advancing from the north, but by midday they were being driven back toward Henry Hill, across the road behind them.


The Battle of Bull Run: The End of Illusions

Cannon boomed, brass bands serenaded and ladies tossed bouquets as Jefferson Davis arrived in Richmond on May 29, 1861, to make it the capital of the Confederate States of America. He had set out from the original capital at Montgomery, Alabama, soon after Virginia seceded from the Union six days earlier. Along the way, jubilant well-wishers slowed his train and he crossed the James River into Richmond far behind schedule. It was a scene wholly unlike President-elect Abraham Lincoln’s arrival in Washington the previous February, when he sneaked into the city at dawn in a curtained sleeping car because of threats of assassination as he passed through Baltimore. Richmond welcomed Davis as if he personally were going to smite the Yankees and drive them from Virginia soil.

From This Story

Two railroad lines met at Manassas, Virginia, just over 25 miles outside Washington, D.C. Confederate troops were sent to protect the junction, Union troops to take it. On July 18, 1861, the two sides fought a skirmish, which would be greatly exaggerated in reports back to Washington. A full-scale battle followed three days later. (Guilbert Gates) 1) Hunter's division (Porter, Burnside) leads the attack
2) Bee's and Bartow's brigades move to reinforce Evans
3) Heintzelman's division (Franklin, et al.) arrives
4) Sherman's brigade arrives
5) Evans, Bee and Bartow retreat (Guilbert Gates) 6) Jackson arrives and sets up a defensive line
7) Two batteries of Union cannon pound the Confederate flank
8) Stuart, guarding Jackson's flank, and the 33rd Va. regiment demolish the Union batteries
9) Jackson's forces attack and a fierce back-and-forth battle ensues (Guilbert Gates) 10) Two new Rebel brigades (Early, Elzey) arrive from the south
11) The entire Confederate line moves forward in attack
12) Exhausted Union troops scatter in disarray (Guilbert Gates)

Photo Gallery

Video: Music During the American Civil War

A commemorative lithograph of Bull Run, c. 1890. (Library of Congress) Scores of high-spirited civilians carried picnic baskets and champagne to the battlefield to watch what would turn out to be the first major land engagement of the Civil War. Shown here is the battlefield as it appears today. (Elan Fleisher / www.agefotostock.com) Washington hostess Rose Greenhow sent intelligence to Southern commanders. (Library of Congress) P.G.T. Beauregard, a Confederate hero at Fort Sumter, waited with 22,000 troops at Manassas. (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution) The inexperienced Irvin McDowell led 35,000 Northerners. (Mathew Brady / Picture History) Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson led his brigade on a 57-mile journey to Manassas. (Bettmann / Corbis) Jackson would leave the field with the nickname "Stonewall" for rallying the South's defenses. (Bettmann / Corbis) After a march of more than ten miles, Union Col. Ambrose Burnside let his men stop to rest, giving Southern troops time to blunt what was to have been a surprise attack. (Library of Congress) Union Col. Ambrose Burnside. (Library of Congress) After the battle, Manassas bore the scars of war. The railroad station was in ruins. (Medford Historical Society Collection / Corbis) The bridge at Blackburn's Ford was also in ruins after the battle. (Medford Historical Society Collection / Corbis) In all, some 4,900 soldiers were killed, wounded or captured—a sobering total then, but low compared with what was to come. In this photo, boards mark hastily dug graves. (Medford Historical Society Collection / Corbis) Joseph E. Johnston listened in vain for the start of the Confederate attack. (Corbis) "We shall never get such a chance at them again on the field," the Richmond Examiner opined. A second Battle of Manassas was a year off. Shown here is Henry House Hill as it appears today. (Newman Mark / www.agefotostock.com) Two railroad lines met at Manassas, Virginia, just over 25 miles outside Washington, D.C. Confederate troops were sent to protect the junction, Union troops to take it. On July 18, 1861, the two sides fought a skirmish, which would be greatly exaggerated in reports back to Washington. A full-scale battle followed three days later. (Guilbert Gates) 1) Hunter's division (Porter, Burnside) leads the attack
2) Bee's and Bartow's brigades move to reinforce Evans
3) Heintzelman's division (Franklin, et al.) arrives
4) Sherman's brigade arrives
5) Evans, Bee and Bartow retreat (Guilbert Gates) 6) Jackson arrives and sets up a defensive line
7) Two batteries of Union cannon pound the Confederate flank
8) Stuart, guarding Jackson's flank, and the 33rd Va. regiment demolish the Union batteries
9) Jackson's forces attack and a fierce back-and-forth battle ensues (Guilbert Gates) 10) Two new Rebel brigades (Early, Elzey) arrive from the south
11) The entire Confederate line moves forward in attack
12) Exhausted Union troops scatter in disarray (Guilbert Gates)

Photo Gallery

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To a cheering crowd, he said, “I know that there beats in the breasts of Southern sons a determination never to surrender, a determination never to go home but to tell a tale of honor. Give us a fair field and a free fight, and the Southern banner will float in triumph everywhere.”

Unlike Davis’ Mississippi and the other cotton states of the Deep South, Virginia, the most populous state below the Mason-Dixon line, had been reluctant to leave the Union of its fathers. The Richmond convention that debated secession leaned strongly against it a country lawyer and West Point graduate named Jubal Early spoke for the majority when he warned that the convention could decide “the existence and the preservation of the fairest fabric of government that was ever erected. We ought not to act in hot haste, but coolly deliberate in view of the grave consequences.”

But after the first guns at Fort Sumter, when Lincoln called for 75,000 troops to put down the rebellion, the convention reversed itself. Opinion swung so sharply that the result of the May 23 referendum confirming the convention’s decision was a foregone conclusion. More than five months after South Carolina became the first state to depart the Union, Virginia followed. As a result, the proud, conservative Old Dominion would be the bloodiest battleground of the Civil War—and the first and final objective of all that slaughter was the capital, the very symbol of Southern resistance, the city of Richmond.

At first, there had been brave talk in Dixie of making Washington the capital of the Confederacy, surrounded as it was by the slave states of Maryland and Virginia. Federal troops had been attacked by a mob in Baltimore, and Marylanders had cut rail and telegraph lines to the North, forcing regiments headed for Washington to detour by steaming down the Chesapeake Bay. Washington was in a state of nerves officials fortified the Capitol and the Treasury against feared invasion. Richmond was alarmed by rumors that the Union gunboat Pawnee was on its way up the James River to shell the city into flames. Some families panicked, believing an Indian tribe was on the warpath. Militiamen rushed to riverside and aimed cannon downstream. But the Pawnee never came.

North and South, such rumors pursued rumors, but soon the preliminaries, real and imagined, were either resolved or laughed away. The stage was set for war, and both sides were eager for a quick and glorious victory.

The society widow Rose O’Neal Greenhow was well known for her Southern sentiments, but in her home just across Lafayette Square from the White House she entertained Army officers and congressmen regardless of their politics. Indeed, one of her favorites was Henry Wilson, a dedicated abolitionist and future vice president from Massachusetts who had replaced Jefferson Davis as chairman of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs. Greenhow, sophisticated and seductive, listened carefully to everything her admirers said. Soon she would be sending notes across the Potomac encoded in a cipher left with her by Thomas Jordan, who had resigned his Army commission and gone south.

As summer began, Jordan was adjutant of the Confederate Army under Brig. Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, a dashing Louisianan. Beauregard, who had become the Confederacy’s premier hero by commanding the bombardment of Fort Sumter in April, was now gathering brigades to protect the vital rail junction at Manassas, little more than 25 miles west-southwest of Washington.

On July 4, Lincoln asked a special session of Congress for 400,000 troops and $400 million, with legal authority “for making this contest a short, and a decisive one.” He expressed not only the hope, but also the expectation of most officials in Washington. Many of the militia outfits rolling in from the North had signed on in April for just 90 days, assuming they could deal with the uppity Rebels in short order. Day after day, a headline in the New York Tribune blared, “Forward to Richmond! Forward to Richmond!” a cry that echoed in all corners of the North.

The most notable voice urging restraint came from the most experienced soldier in the nation, Winfield Scott, general in chief of the U.S. Army, who had served in uniform since the War of 1812. But at 74, Scott was too decrepit to take the field and too weary to resist the eager amateurs of war as they insisted that the public would not tolerate delay. Scott turned over field command to Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell, who was headquartered at Robert E. Lee’s abandoned Arlington mansion. On July 16, the reluctant McDowell left Arlington and started the Union Army of the Potomac westward.

The Confederates knew what was coming, and when. On July 10, a beautiful 16-year-old girl named Betty Duval had arrived at Beauregard’s lines and shaken from her long, dark hair a coded dispatch from Rose Greenhow, saying that McDowell would take the offensive in mid-month. Six days later Greenhow sent another courier with a note reporting that the Union Army was on the march.

Beauregard had grandiose ideas of bringing in reinforcements from west and east to outflank McDowell, attack him from the rear, crush the Yankees and proceed to “the liberation of Maryland, and the capture of Washington.” But as McDowell’s army advanced, Beauregard faced reality. He had to defend Manassas Junction, where the Manassas Gap Railroad from the Shenandoah Valley joined the Orange & Alexandria, which connected to points south, including Richmond. He had 22,000 men, McDowell about 35,000. He would need help.

At the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston commanded about 12,000 Confederates blocking Northern entry into that lush farmland and invasion route. He faced some 18,000 Federals under 69-year-old Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson, another veteran of the War of 1812. Patterson’s assignment was to prevent Johnston from threatening Washington and from moving to help Beauregard. In early July, Beauregard and Johnston, both expecting attack, were urgently seeking reinforcements from each other.

That contest ended on July 17. Beauregard informed President Davis that after skirmishing along his advance lines, he was pulling his troops back behind the little river called Bull Run, about halfway between Centreville and Manassas. That night, Davis ordered Johnston to hurry “if practicable” to aid Beauregard. Since Patterson had unaccountably pulled his Union force away down the valley, Johnston quickly issued marching orders. Screened by Col. Jeb Stuart’s cavalry, Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson led his Virginia brigade out of Winchester at midday on July 18. The imminent battlefield was 57 miles away, and already the first guns had sounded along Bull Run.

Beauregard spread his brigades on a nearly ten-mile front behind the winding stream, from near Stone Bridge on the Warrenton Turnpike down to Union Mills. They concentrated at a series of fords that crossed the 40-foot-wide river. Bull Run has steep banks and is deep in spots, and would have slowed even experienced troops. The soldiers of 1861, and many of their officers, were still novices.

McDowell was 42 years old, a cautious, teetotaling officer who had served in Mexico but spent most of his career on staff duty. With green troops and his first major command, he did not want to attack the Confederates head-on. He intended to swing east and strike Beauregard’s right flank, crossing Bull Run where it was closest to the junction. But after reaching Centreville on July 18, he rode out to inspect the ground and decided against it. Before departing, he ordered Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler, commanding his lead division, to probe the roads ahead—not to start a battle, but to make the Rebels think the army was aiming directly for Manassas. Tyler exceeded his orders: after spotting the enemy across the stream and swapping artillery rounds, he pushed his infantry at Blackburn’s Ford, testing the defenses. The Rebels, commanded there by Brig. Gen. James Longstreet, hid until the Federals were close. Then they let loose a storm of musketry that sent Tyler’s troops fleeing back toward Centreville.

In both directions, this short, sharp clash was vastly exaggerated. Back in Washington, Southern sympathizers crowding the barrooms along Pennsylvania Avenue celebrated what they already called “the Battle of Bull Run.” One Union general told the Times of London correspondent William Howard Russell that the news meant “we are whipped,” while a senator quoted General Scott as announcing “a great success. We ought to be in Richmond by Saturday”—just two days later. Swarms of civilians rushed out from the capital in a party mood, bringing picnic baskets and champagne, expecting to cheer the boys on their way. One of the less cheerful scenes they encountered was the Fourth Pennsylvania Infantry and the Eighth New York Battery walking away on the brink of battle because their 90-day enlistments were up. For the next two days, McDowell stayed put, resupplying and planning. It was a fateful delay.

Soon after Johnston’s troops departed Winchester on July 18, he issued a communiqué to every regiment. Beauregard was being attacked by “overwhelming forces,” he wrote. “Every moment now is precious. for this march is a forced march to save the country.” Out front, Jackson’s brigade forded the Shenandoah River and toiled up the Blue Ridge through Ashby Gap before bedding down that night at the hamlet of Paris. From there it was six-plus miles downhill to the Manassas Gap Railroad station at Piedmont (now Delaplane). Arriving about 8:30 a.m., the troops jammed into freight cars, and overworked locomotives took eight more hours to bring them the last 34 miles to Manassas Junction.

The rest of Johnston’s army straggled in over the next 24 hours. Johnston himself reached Manassas about midday. To head off confusion, he asked President Davis to make clear that he was senior in rank to Beauregard. Later the two officers agreed that since Beauregard was more familiar with the immediate situation, he would retain command at the tactical level while Johnston managed the overall campaign.

That day, July 20, two opposing generals sat writing orders that, if carried through, would send their attacking armies pinwheeling around each other. Beauregard intended to strike McDowell’s left, throwing most of his army toward Centreville to cut the Federals off from Washington. McDowell prepared to cross Bull Run above Stone Bridge and come down on Beauregard’s left. His plan looked good on paper, but did not account for the arrival of Johnston’s reinforcements. Beauregard’s plan was sound in concept, but not in detail: it told which brigades would attack where, but not exactly when. He woke Johnston to endorse it at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, July 21. By then McDowell’s army was already moving.

Tyler’s division marched toward Stone Bridge, where it would open a secondary attack to distract the Confederates. Meanwhile Union Brig. Gens. David Hunter and Samuel Heintzelman started their divisions along the Warrenton Turnpike, then made a wide arc north and west toward an undefended ford at Sudley Springs, two miles above the bridge. They were to cross Bull Run there and drive down the opposite side, clearing the way for other commands to cross and join a mass assault on Beauregard’s unsuspecting left flank.

The going was slow, as McDowell’s brigades bungled into each other and troops groped along dark, unscouted roads. McDowell himself was sick from some canned fruit he had eaten the night before. But hopes were high.

In the 11th New York Infantry, known as the Zouaves, Pvt. Lewis Metcalf heard “the latest news, of which the very latest seemed to be that General [Benjamin] Butler had captured Richmond and the Rebels had been surrounded by General Patterson,” he later wrote. “All that we had to do was to give Beauregard a thrashing in order to end all the troubles.” When they slogged past blankets strewn on the roadside by sweltering troops ahead of them, the Zouaves assumed the bedding had been thrown away by fleeing Confederates and “set up a lively shout.”

About 5:30 that morning, the first shell, a massive Federal 30-pounder, whanged through the tent of a Confederate signal station near Stone Bridge without hurting anybody. That round announced Tyler’s advance, but the Confederates would not detect McDowell’s main effort for three more hours—until Capt. Porter Alexander, far back at Beauregard’s command post, spotted through his spyglass a flash of metal far beyond the turnpike. Then he picked out a glitter of bayonets nearing Sudley Springs. He quickly sent a note to Beauregard and flagged a signal to Capt. Nathan Evans, who was posted with 1,100 infantry and two smoothbore cannon at the far end of the Confederate line, watching Stone Bridge. “Look out for your left,” he warned. “You are flanked.”

Without waiting for orders, Evans rushed across the turnpike with two of his regiments and faced north to block the threatening Federals. Union Col. Ambrose Burnside’s brigade, leading Hunter’s division, crossed at Sudley Springs near 9:30 after an approach march of more than ten miles. There Burnside ordered a stop for water and rest, giving Evans time to position his skimpy defenders in a strip of woods along Matthews Hill. When the Yankees came within about 600 yards, Evans gave the order to open fire.

Burnside advanced close behind his skirmishers, followed by Col. Andrew Porter’s brigade. Soon after the first burst of fire, Burnside encountered David Hunter, riding back seriously wounded, who told him to take command of the division. Evans’ men fought doggedly as the much heavier Union force pressed them back toward the turnpike. Confederate Brig. Gen. Barnard Bee, ordered to the left by Beauregard, started setting a defensive line near what is now called the Henry House, on a hill just south of the turnpike. But when Evans pleaded for help, Bee took his brigade forward to join him. Col. Francis Bartow’s Georgia brigade moved up beside them. After an hour’s hard combat, Heintzelman’s Union division arrived. He sent Col. William B. Franklin’s brigade ahead, and the Union attack started to stretch around Evans’ line. Crossing near Stone Bridge, Col. William Tecumseh Sherman’s brigade joined the offensive. Assailed on both sides, Evans, Bee and Bartow’s men broke back for nearly a mile, staggering across Henry House Hill.

During this rising tumult, Johnston and Beauregard were near Mitchell’s Ford, more than four miles away. For two hours, they waited to hear the planned Confederate move against the Union left flank. But it never materialized. The would-be lead brigade hadn’t gotten Beauregard’s order, and others listened in vain for its advance. It was about 10:30 when Beauregard and Johnston finally realized the noise on their far left was the real battle.

Quickly directing more troops that way, they galloped toward the firing. When they reached Henry House, Jackson was bringing his brigade up through the disorganized troops falling back. Unless he held here, the Yankees could sweep down into the Confederates’ rear and collapse their whole army. Jackson threw up a defensive line just behind the crest of the hill, where the Federals could not see it as they gathered to charge. A bullet or shell fragment painfully wounded his left hand as he rode back and forth steadying his men, siting artillery pieces and asking Jeb Stuart to protect the flank with his cavalry. Barnard Bee, trying to revive his shaken brigade, pointed and shouted words that would live long after him:

“There stands Jackson like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians!”

Whether Bee said those exact words or not—they were among his last—there and then Jackson acquired the nickname by which he will always be known. He earned it in the next few hours, as more reinforcements hurried from the rear, sent ahead by Johnston and directed into place by Beauregard. McDowell pushed two batteries of regular U.S. Army cannon far forward to pound Jackson’s left. Stuart, watching that flank, warned Jackson and then charged, his horsemen scattering the infantry protecting the Yankee guns. Suddenly the 33rd Virginia regiment came out of the brush and let loose a volley that swept the cannoneers away. “It seemed as though every man and horse of that battery just laid right down and died right off,” a civilian witness said.

The Confederates grabbed the Federal guns and turned them against the attackers, but in fierce seesaw fighting, the Yankees temporarily took them back. Beauregard’s horse was shot from under him. Heintzelman was wounded as he drove his men ahead. Three times the Federals fought within yards of Jackson’s line and were thrown back by a sheet of fire. When that last effort wavered, Beauregard took the offensive. Jackson threw his troops forward, ordering them to “Yell like furies!”—and they did, thus introducing the Rebel yell as a weapon of war. Francis Bartow was killed and Bee was mortally wounded as the Rebels surged ahead.

The battle had turned, but it would turn again, and yet again.

In the chaos of driving the Federals downhill toward the turnpike, the Confederates exposed both their flanks. McDowell sent more troops at them, and pushed back up the hill. But in doing so, he exposed his own flank. At about 4 o’clock, two new Rebel brigades, under Brig. Gen. Kirby Smith and Col. Jubal Early, suddenly appeared from the rear. Smith, just arrived from the Shenandoah Valley, was seriously wounded almost immediately. Led by Col. Arnold Elzey, his troops kept moving and stretched the Confederate line to the left. Then came Early—in hot haste, now thoroughly committed to Virginia’s cause—swinging his brigade still wider around the Union flank.

Struck by this fresh wave of Rebels, McDowell’s exhausted troops on that side started falling back. Seeing them, Beauregard raised a cheer and waved his whole line forward. The Confederates charged again, sending the Federals reeling back toward Bull Run. McDowell and Burnside tried and failed to halt them. At first the retreat was deliberate, as if the men were simply tired of fighting—as the historian John C. Ropes wrote, they “quietly but definitively broke ranks and started on their homeward way.” But Stuart’s cavalry harried them, and as they recrossed beyond Stone Bridge, Rebel cannon zeroed in on the turnpike. Then, according to Capt. James C. Fry of McDowell’s staff, “the panic began. utter confusion set in: pleasure-carriages, gun-carriages, and ambulances. were abandoned and blocked the way, and stragglers broke and threw aside their muskets and cut horses from their harness and rode off on them.” Congressman Alfred Ely of New York, among the civilians who had come out to enjoy the show, was captured in the stampede and barely escaped execution by a raging South Carolina colonel, who was restrained by Captain Alexander.

As Rebel artillery harassed McDowell’s army, men “screamed with rage and fright when their way was blocked up,” wrote Russell, the British correspondent. “Faces black and dusty, tongues out in the heat, eyes staring. Drivers flogged, lashed, spurred and beat their horses. At every shot a convulsion. seized upon the morbid mass.”

McDowell himself was just as frank, if not as descriptive. After trying to organize a stand at Centreville, he was swept along by his fleeing army. Pausing at Fairfax that night, he fell asleep in the midst of reporting that his men were without food and artillery ammunition, and most of them were “entirely demoralized.” He and his officers, he wrote, agreed that “no stand could be made this side of the Potomac.”

The dark, stormy morning of July 22 found thousands of McDowell’s men stumbling into Washington, soaked and famished, collapsing in doorways. The sight was “like a hideous dream,” Mary Henry, daughter of the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, wrote in her diary. News of the rout inspired a panic: Rebels about to march into Washington! But the Rebels were nowhere near. Beauregard followed the retreat into positions he had held a week earlier, but his army was too disorganized to make a serious effort against the capital itself.

Thus ended the “Forward to Richmond!” campaign of 1861.

Bull Run—or Manassas, as Southerners call it, preferring to name Civil War battles for towns instead of watercourses—was a fierce battle, but not huge compared with those to come later. Counts vary, but the Union lost about 460 men killed, 1,125 wounded and 1,310 missing, most of those captured. The Confederates suffered about 390 killed, 1,580 wounded—and only 13 missing, because they occupied the field. Altogether, both sides lost about 4,900—fewer than a fifth of the casualties counted when they fought on the same ground a year later, and fewer than a tenth of those at Gettysburg in 1863. Regardless of numbers, the psychological effect on both sides was profound.

Jefferson Davis arrived at Manassas after the contest was decided and set off celebrations in Richmond with a message saying, “We have won a glorious though dear-bought victory. Night closed on the enemy in full flight and closely pursued.” His speeches en route back, plus rumors from the front, made it sound as if he had gotten there just in time to turn the tide of battle. “We have broken the back bone of invasion and utterly broken the spirit of the North,” the Richmond Examiner exulted. “Henceforward we will have hectoring, bluster and threat but we shall never get such a chance at them again on the field.” Some of Beauregard’s soldiers, feeling the same way, headed home.

A more realistic South Carolina official said the triumph was exciting “a fool’s paradise of conceit” about how one Rebel could lick any number of Yankees. Among Union troops, he told diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut, the rout would “wake every inch of their manhood. It was the very fillip they needed.”

Most of the North woke up Monday morning to read that the Union had won: news dispatches filed when McDowell’s troops were driving the Confederates back had gone out from Washington, and War Department censors temporarily blocked later accounts. Lincoln, first buoyed and then struck hard by reports from the front, had stayed awake all Sunday night. When the truth came, his cabinet met in emergency session. Secretary of War Simon Cameron put Baltimore on alert and ordered all organized militia regiments to Washington. Generals and politicians competed in finger-pointing. Although McDowell with his green troops had very nearly won at Bull Run, after such a disaster he clearly had to go. To replace him, Lincoln summoned a 34-year-old Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, who had won a series of minor clashes in western Virginia.

After days of alarm among citizens and public drunkenness among many of the Union’s disheartened soldiers, calm returned and the North looked ahead. Few there could agree at first with the anonymous Atlantic Monthly correspondent who wrote that “Bull Run was in no sense a disaster. we not only deserved it, but needed it. Far from being disheartened by it, it should give us new confidence in our cause.” But no one could doubt the gravity of the situation, that “God has given us work to do not only for ourselves, but for coming generations of men.” Thus all the North could join in vowing that “to gain that end, no sacrifice can be too precious or too costly.” Not until the following spring would McClellan take the rebuilt Army of the Potomac again into Virginia, and not for another three springs would the immensity of that sacrifice be realized.

Ernest B. Furgurson has written four books on the Civil War, most recently Freedom Rising. He lives in Washington, D.C.

About Ernest B. Furgurson

Ernest B. Furgurson is the author of Freedom Rising: Washington in the Civil War and Ashes of Glory: Richmond at War, plus other books about war and politics.


Bull Run

Bull Run was the first full-scale battle of the Civil War. The fierce fight there forced both the North and South to face the sobering reality that the war would be long and bloody.

How it ended

Confederate victory. After this stinging defeat for the Union, Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell, the commander of the Union Army of Northeastern Virginia, was relieved and replaced by Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, who set about reorganizing and training what would become the Army of the Potomac.

In context

Although the Civil War officially began when Confederate troops shelled Fort Sumpter on April 12, 1861, the fighting didn’t commence in earnest until the Battle of Bull Run, fought months later in Virginia, just 25 miles from Washington D.C. Under public pressure to end the war in 90 days, President Lincoln had pushed the cautious Gen. McDowell to embark on a campaign to capture the Confederate capital in Richmond, but McDowell’s troops were stopped at Bull Run by Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard’s Rebel forces. The Federals retreated to Washington, where the Lincoln administration retooled for a war that would be waged at great human and financial cost

On July 16, the Union 90-day volunteer army under McDowell—around 35,000 troops with great enthusiasm and little training—sets out from Washington, D.C. The Confederates under Beauregard, equally green, are positioned behind Bull Run Creek west of Centreville. They aim to block the Union army advance on the Confederate capital by defending the railroad junction at Manassas, just west of the creek. The railroads there connect the strategically important Shenandoah Valley with the Virginia interior. Another Confederate army under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston operates in the Valley and is poised to reinforce Beauregard. McDowell’s plan is to make quick work of Beauregard’s force before Johnston can join him.

On July 17, both sides skirmish along Bull Run at Blackburn’s Ford near the center of Beauregard’s line. The inconclusive fight causes McDowell to revise his attack plan, which requires three more days to implement. Meanwhile, Johnston’s men in the Valley manage to elude the Federals and board trains headed for Bull Run. They arrive at the scene on July 20.

July 21. McDowell’s early morning advance up Bull Run Creek to cross behind Beauregard’s left is hampered by an ambitious plan that requires complex synchronization. Constant delays on the march by the green officers and their troops, as well as effective scouting by the Confederates, give McDowell’s movements away. Later that morning, McDowell’s artillery shells the Confederates across Bull Run near a stone bridge. Two divisions finally cross at Sudley Ford and make their way south behind the Confederate left flank. Beauregard sends three brigades to handle what he thinks is only a distraction, while planning his own flanking movement of the Union left.

The Federals have the upper hand throughout the morning as they drive Confederate forces back from Matthews Hill. The retreating Confederates rally on an open hilltop near the home of the widow Judith Henry, where a brigade of Virginia regiments led by Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson assembles. Jackson forms the scattered Confederate artillery into a formidable line on the eastern slope of the hill with his infantry hidden in the tall grass behind the guns.

As the Confederates reinforce their lines, McDowell pauses his attack. Consolidating his own forces, he moves more divisions across Bull Run and occupies Chinn Ridge, west of Henry Hill. Then McDowell blunders. He places two rifled artillery batteries on the western side of Henry Hill within 300 yards of Jackson’s guns. Union infantry regiments soon become targets of Jackson’s nearby artillery. A contest between infantry and artillery erupts, causing havoc and accidentally killing Judith Henry in the crossfire as she hides in her home.

Jackson’s men hold firm. Sometime during the fighting, Confederate Brig. Gen. Bernard Bee calls encourages his own brigade to rally with Jackson, who, he declares, is standing like a “stone wall.” Although he is killed in action, Bee's statement lives on, and from that moment Jackson is known as “Stonewall.”

Late in the afternoon, Confederate reinforcements under Col. Jubal Early extend the Confederate line and attack the Union right flank on Chinn Ridge. Jackson’s men advance across the top of Henry Hill and push back the Federal infantry, capturing some of the guns. The withdrawal of the Union center quickly spreads to the flanks. Virginia cavalry under Col. James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart arrive on the field and charge into a confused mass of Union regiments. The Federals retreat.


Stonewall Jackson And The Battle Of Bull Run

The Union referred the battle as the Battle of Bull Run, while the Confederates named it the Battle of Manassas. It was during this battle that Thomas Jackson got his nickname, Stonewall. The Battle of Bull Run was fought between the Union and Confederate soldiers on 21st July 1861. It was one of the first serious fights between the two sides during the American Civil War.

Union were under the leadership of General Irwin McDowell, while the Confederates were under the leadership of Pierre Beauregard. When the northern states wanted to end the rebellion started by the Southern states, General McDowell marched the Union army towards Richmond in Virginia. This was the capital of the Confederates. However, the Confederate army was based at Manassas Junction, which was around twenty-five miles from Washington, and was planning to fight the Union forces. However, the Confederates did not expect McDowell’s forces and were reassigned to repel this attack.

Right from the very beginning, the Confederates were on the back foot. However, there was one Confederate brigade led by General Thomas Jackson that was not retreating and fighting the Union onslaught. Jackson’s stubborn and his ability to be calm in such a stressful situation made him seem like a stone wall and thus earning him the nickname Stonewall Jackson.

Jackson held his ground till reinforcements in the shape of 9,000 soldiers led by General Johnson arrived. This arrival of reinforcements changed the far of the battle and now the Union army was at the receiving end. The Union soldiers began running away from the battlefield.

The Union army and its supporters were certain that during the Battle of Bull Run, the Union army would be victorious and quickly overpower the Confederate army. However, this was not to be. The Union was miserably defeated during this battle and only because the Confederate army was too disorganized, Beauregard could pursue the fleeing soldiers. However, this victory motivated the Confederates and the Union army and its supporters had to eat humble pie.

Due to the Battle of Bull Run, Stonewall Jackson turned into a legend. Had it not been for his stand, the Confederates would have lost the battle and soon Richmond would have been taken over by the Northern states. Instead, many more battles were still to be fought in Shiloh, Gettysburg and Wilderness before the Southern states were routed by the Northern states and calls for secession were put to an end.

ThinkQuest: The Battle Of Bull Run
http://library.thinkquest.org/3055/netscape/battles/bullrun.html

Stonewall Jackson was born Thomas Jonathan on 21st January 1824. His birth took place in the city of Clarksburg in modern-day West Virginia. When young Thomas was just 2 years old, his father passed away. His mother was left handling debts and no money. To support her 3 children, Mrs. Jackson began taking orders to sew and also teach. However, she was forced to sell her home and property due to shortage of money. And, then after 4 years, Mrs. Jackson got married again and the family relocated to another county. More..


The Wilderness

Battle of the Wilderness by Kurz and Allison.

In May of 1864, more than 100,000 Union troops went head to head with only 60,000 Confederates. With Ulysses Grant newly in charge of the entire Union army, he planned to attack Robert E. Lee in what was to become a historically tragic battle. The Union lost about 17,666 men and the Confederacy lost about 11,000 for a total of more than 28,000 casualties. Worse yet, one night, with many of the dead and dying lying about the battlefield and camps, a fire broke out over the landscape, killing those who could not escape. The resulting scene of the Battle of the Wilderness has been depicted as one of the most horrific of the war.


20 Historical Facts about the First Battle of Bull Run

The First Battle of Bull Run was the first major clash of the American Civil war, which took place between the Confederate and Union armies on July 21, 1861. The battle started when Abraham Lincoln ordered General Irvin McDowell to attack the Confederate forces located in the city of Manassas, Virginia.

With the offensive strike, the Union government wanted to show Confederates that they were playing with fire. However, Confederates won that battle and made the Union forces to retreat to Washington DC. Concisely, the First Battle of Bull Run showed both sides that the war will be long, bloody, and costly.

To explain the history of the First Battle of Bull Run in a more readable and clear fashion, we provided 25 facts about the battle. Each fact includes informative statements so you will have broader knowledge about the subject.

Confederates called it the First Battle of Manassas because the battle took place near the city of Manassas in Virginia.

The Union Army called it Battle of Bull Run because when General Irving McDowell marched out of Washington DC, he was aimed at crushing the confederate forces located near the Bull Run creek.

  1. People of the Union believed the Union forces would gain an easy victory in a short time, so people set up a picnic on nearby hills to watch the First Battle of Bull Run.

However, the battle destroyed the illusions of the northerners. The confederate forces not only showed them that the war will be long and costly, but they also won the battle, which dissipated the hopes of northerners.

  1. At first, the Union forces started with successful offensive attacks, however, confederates could stop their advances at the Henry House Hill.

The battle at the Henry House Hill is considered the most important part of the First Battle of Bull Run. Because, under the command of Colonel Thomas Jackson, the confederates could hold the Union army from further advancing.

According to some stories, colonel Thomas Jackson held that area as a stonewall, and that brave action has earned him a nickname “Stonewall”. In the civil war history, you will hear more about this famous Confederate colonel, but under the name “Stonewall” Jackson.

  1. Both the Union and Confederate forces were inexperienced during the First Battle of Bull Run.

For example, the Union side had so many volunteer soldiers who neither got proper training nor experience. Plus, the hopes and expectations of the Union Generals were too complex and hard for the inexperienced Union soldiers to handle. On the other hand, the confederate army encountered communication issues which resulted in poor coordination.

  1. A day after the battle on July 22, 1861, retreated confederate forces get back to Washington DC.

When the northern army got back, the government understood that they underestimated the Confederate forces. They understood that they need more precise strategies and more soldiers to gain victory over the Confederate troops

  1. After the First Battle of Bull Run, President Abraham Lincoln authorized the enlistment of new soldiers to suppress the southern rebellion.

Soon after the battle, Abraham Lincoln authorized the enlistment of 500,000 new soldiers. Also, the Union government allowed African Americans to join the military. By the end of the Civil War, 10% of the Union army consisted of Black men.

  1. Abraham Lincoln was the President of the Constitutional government of the United States during the First Battle of Bull Run.

Lincoln was an opponent of slavery and he wanted to abolish it from American territory. Therefore, he took military action against Southern states with great determination. Although he did so much for the success of the Civil war, he could not see the victory of his army.

When the Union army was approaching its victorious days, he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, who was a Confederate sympathizer.

Because of his contributions to the Civil war, Americans considered him a martyr of liberty. Therefore, many remember him as one of the greatest presidents of the United States.

Davis was a Mexican war hero. Although he could unite Confederate forces against the northern states, he struggled to manage the new nation and its economy effectively.

According to some historians, due to his contentious personality, Davis was at the conflict with his military and political personals.

  1. Due to the high number of injured, nearby schools and homes were turned temporary hospitals after the First Battle of Bull Run.

When there is a war, there are also human casualties. To save the lives and relieve pains of wounded, temporary hospitals were created inside nearby schools and homes treated.

After the battle, first-hand witnesses described the battlefield as a “horrifying site” where many soldiers laying injured begging for help.

  1. During the first Battle of Bull Run, 35,000 Union troops attacked 20,000 confederates.

Despite being outnumbered and well-equipped with weapons, the Union army failed to secure its victory over the Confederates. Instead, they faced a defeat which caused a political controversy back in Washington DC.

  1. The victory in the First Battle of Bull Run gave confidence to the Confederate forces so they continued to pursue their goals.

The First Battle of Bull Run helped the Confederate government to gain confidence. Their confidence was based on the idea that if they continue to show resistance to the Union forces, they may be victorious at the end. However, they did not know that they will lose the civil war after 4 years of bloody battles.

  1. Generals Joseph E. Johnston commanded the Confederate army during the First Battle of Bull Run

General Joseph Johnston (1807-1891) was the highest-ranking military official to join the Confederate forces during the civil war. However, he was replaced by Robert E. Lee in 1862 after the Battle of Seven Pines, where he was severely wounded.

After the civil war, Johnston worked in the railroad commission and served a term in the U.S. Congress. He died at the age of 84.

  1. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard (1818-1893) was another General who commanded the Confederate army during the First Battle of Bull Run.

He commanded the First Battle of Bull Run and several other battles. Since he had a pretty long name, he was known with the name P.G.T Beauregard. Overall, he was a good commander. However, his outspoken personality prevented him to have a warm relationship with Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

As a result of a poor relationship, Davis removed him from his post in 1863 and appointed him a commander to defend Charleston, South Carolina. After the civil war, he worked as a railroad director and managed the Louisiana lottery. He died at the age of 74.

  1. Although the Union government knew that their militia was ill-repapered, they sent the soldiers to the First Battle of Bull Run anyways.

Abraham Lincoln reasoned that Confederate soldiers were also ill-prepared. Therefore, he thought that his army poorly trained army could crash another amateur army.

  1. Joseph E. Johnston came as reinforcement to Beauregard’s troops during the First Battle of Bull Run.

Reinforcement troops under the commanded of Johnston contributed to the victory of the First Battle of Bull Run. 11,000 reinforcement troops could march towards Manassas to join Beauregard’s troops, avoiding resistance from the Union forces.

  1. Confederates screamed as they make their advances towards the Union army, which was later known as “Rebel Yell” for the Union troops .

The Confederates organized a soundly offensive during the afternoon hours when confederate forces gained their position. That sound became the infamous “Rebel Yell” for the northerners. The term was used during the rest of the civil war.

  1. The Union army suffered around 3000 casualties, while the Confederates won the First Battle of Bull Run with 1,750 casualties.

Both sides suffered great losses in the battle. However, neither sides were too far from quitting the war. The First Battle of Bull Run brought to the serious of other civil war battles. In other words, the battle led to the full-scale civil war.

  1. The Union and Confederate armies used different strategies during the First Battle of Bull Run.

The battle strategies of the Union were to conduct a series of offensive strikes to destroy the rebellion before it could grow to an uncontrollable force. Concisely, the Union army wanted to prevent confederates from gaining strength.

The Confederate strategy was to win the battle by withstanding or not losing the battle and by striking whenever there is a chance. That is what exactly happened during the First Battle of Bull Run. The Confederate forces first fought at the defensive end. And when the Union army could no longer make offensive moves, they counter strike and made them retreat.

  1. People can read the first-hand description of the First Battle of Bull Run from the letters written by the Civil War soldiers.

One of those letters was written by James Keen Munnerlyn Jr. He described his experience in the First Battle of Bull Run in the letter addressed to her sister. You may read his complete paper here.

There are many other letters written by first hand witness. You may find them and read them here.


Battle at Bull Run: A History of the First Major Campaign of the Civil War

This new and revised edition of Battle at Bull Run: A History of the First Major Campaign of the Civil War (first published in 1977) offers the reader a splendid narrative of the first major battle of the American Civil War. On the 21st of July 1861, 60,000 American soldiers from the North and South met along the banks of Bull Run. In the fighting that followed the Union forces lost 2,900 out of the 20,000 men engaged while the Confederates lost 2,000 out of about 17,000 engaged.

This new and revised edition of Battle at Bull Run: A History of the First Major Campaign of the Civil War (first published in 1977) offers the reader a splendid narrative of the first major battle of the American Civil War. On the 21st of July 1861, 60,000 American soldiers from the North and South met along the banks of Bull Run. In the fighting that followed the Union forces lost 2,900 out of the 20,000 men engaged while the Confederates lost 2,000 out of about 17,000 engaged.

The first half of the book describes the Union and Confederate forces as they muster their men into the first armies of the Civil War. It continues with an outline of the events' leading up to the battle and gives you a feeling for, and an understanding of, the main characters involved. Future heroes and leaders of the Civil War come to the fore, such men as `Stonewall' Jackson, Jeb Stuart, A.P. Hill, Jubal Early and Joseph E. Johnston for the Confederacy and men like William T. Sherman, Ambrose Burnside and Irvin McDowell for the Union.

The final chapters describe the fighting from Blackburn's Ford to the final rout of the Union Forces on the evening of the 21st. The author's description of the intense fighting is gripping and written in such a fluent style that it holds you to the narrative. Although the casualties for this engagement were not significant when compared to those bloody battles that followed you still feel for the individual soldiers who were caught up in this terrible War.

This book is an enjoyable and easy to read story and is well presented by a number of photographs taken at the time of the battle or shortly after. The author has included 8 small, but easy to read maps that help you follow the outline of events during the battle. This book is recommended to any body who has a love for this period of history or to the general reader who likes a good story.
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The First Battle of Bull Run

The First Battle of Bull Run was fought on July 21 st 1861. Bull Run was the first major battle of the American Civil War and the area also saw the Second Battle of Bull Run in 1862. Union forces referred to the battle as Bull Run whereas the Confederacy called the battle the Battle of Manassas.

The American Civil War broke out in April 1861 with the attack on Fort Sumter. There was a general desire in the North for the Union army to advance south to Richmond and engage the Confederacy in combat. A Union victory was expected by those in the North as a matter of course. The North also held the belief that the war would not last long and that the South would crumble after its first major military defeat.

Abraham Lincoln ordered Brigadier General Irwin McDowell, commander of the Army of Northeastern Virginia, to march south and engage the Confederate force, commanded by Brigadier General Beauregard. McDowell was cautious of his commander-in-chief’s order, as he was aware that his army was inexperienced in combat. Many had volunteered for the cause by few had battle experience. He was also aware that his subordinate officers were also untried in a major battle.

Beauregard also had the same issues.

McDowell gathered together the largest military force seen in America up to that time. 35,000 inexperienced men marched towards Richmond.

Beauregard had an army of nearly 22,000 that gathered at Manassas Junction.

McDowell’s plan was to use two-thirds of his men to make a diversionary frontal attack on Beauregard’s men at Bull Run while at the same time launching a surprise attack with a third of his army against and behind his right flank. McDowell planned to get behind Beauregard’s men and ensure that they could not retreat back to Richmond.

However, his plan had one weakness. It had to be carried out accurately if it was to be successful. Each part of his army had a specific task to complete. For experienced combat officers, moving men around on the battlefield may have been a reasonably simple task. His inexperienced officers found it all too much. McDowell did not help his cause by delaying giving out his orders. This gave Beauregard time to establish his lines and consolidate his positions.

McDowell started his attack at 02.30 and it went wrong from the start. The attack was by 12,000 men commanded by Brigadier Generals David Hunter and Samuel Heintzelman. In the darkness they marched into a large Union force of 8,000 men who blocked their advance. It took the 12,000 men seven hours to reach their target just miles away.

McDowell’s army then ‘announced’ that their attack had started at 05.15 when they fired some artillery rounds at the Confederate positions.

Beauregard ordered a counter-attack by three units of men commanded by Richard Ewell, D R Jones and Theophilus Holmes. In a breakdown of communication, Ewell interpreted the order differently – he believed that he had been ordered to hold his line in readiness to attack. Holmes never received any orders. Jones advanced his men as ordered but found that he was by himself and not supported by Ewell and Holmes.

The only obvious success in the early hours of the battle was by Colonel William Tecumseh Sherman who had managed to find an unguarded ford at Bull Run, which he crossed and then engaged the right flank of Beauregard’s army. Sherman’s assault was completely unexpected and caused the Confederate defenders facing them to retreat. However, McDowell did not exploit this success and put his faith in his artillery bombarding Confederate positions as opposed to building on Sherman’s success.

The Confederate army at Bull Run may have retreated in disarray at this point but it did not. What stemmed their retreat was the example set by Colonel Thomas Jackson whose men from Virginia refused to retreat from their positions. This example seemed to inspire the Confederates and led to the legend developing that Jackson’s Virginians refused to retreat. It also led to Jackson himself receiving the nickname ‘Stonewall’ – as it is stated that he and his men stood as solid as a stone wall and refused to surrender or withdraw.

The shape of the battle changed when in mid-afternoon, Jackson captured some Union artillery guns. These had been used to fire on the Confederate flanks. Now at the very least, Jackson had neutralised them in terms of their use against Confederate forces. At around the same time, two Confederate brigades arrived at Bull Run from the Shenandoah Valley and joined the battle. Union forces fell back in disarray, as their inexperienced officers did not know how to control the situation. As they withdrew Confederate artillery fired on them and created panic in places. The Union’s one saving grace was that the Confederate force was equally disorganised and failed to take advantage of the situation. Jefferson Davis had arrived at the battle and urged Beauregard to press home the attack but senior Confederate officers argued about how this could be done and could not agree on a strategy. As a result nothing was done and McDowell’s force was allowed to withdraw towards Washington free from attack.

Many in Washington expected a Confederate attack on the capital but this never occurred.

McDowell was blamed for the defeat and was replaced by George McClellan. Beauregard was promoted to full general.

The Battle of Bull Run was an indicator of what was to come. Both sides clearly needed more experienced officers but this experience could only be won in battle and more battles obviously meant more casualties. At the time, the Battle of Bull Run led to more casualties than any battle yet experienced in America.

The North lost 2,896 men: 460 killed (16%), 1,124 wounded (39%) and 1,312 (45%) missing or held prisoner.

The South lost 1,982 men: 387 killed (19.5%), 1,582 wounded (80.5%) and 13 missing (0%).

However, these figures were to be eclipsed in later battles such as Gettysburg.


Watch the video: Second Battle of Bull Run, Full Video. Animated Battle Map (December 2021).