Virtual Museum of Art | Virtual Museum of History | Virtual Public Library | Virtual Science Center | Virtual Museum of Natural History | Virtual War Museum
   You are in: Virtual War Museum >> US Civil War Hall >> Battle Of Bullrun





American’s Four United Republics: Discovery-Based Curriculum

For More Information go to America's Four United Republics Curriculum


 


Battle Of Bull Run

July 1861

First Major Battle Of The Civil War

On 29 May, 1861, Irvin McDowell was given command of the Army of the Potomac, which consisted of about 30,000 men, who, with the exception of 700 or 800 regulars, were almost entirely raw recruits. With these troops, in response to the public demand for some immediate action, he was ordered, on 16 July, to march against the Confederate army, posted at Manassas Junction under General Beauregard. His plan of campaign had been carefully studied out, and its principal feature was to turn the enemy's left flank while threatening the front, which was well posted behind Bull Run on an elevation that commanded the entire plateau. A preliminary action, without the authority of General McDowell, took place at Blackburn's Ford on the lath, and developed the fact that the Confederates were strongly entrenched. 

The National troops, unable to carry the masked batteries, fell back to Centreville, where they rested during the two following days. On the morning of the 21st the National army crossed the run and succeeded in throwing the enemy's left into such confusion that the presence of Generals Beauregard and Johnston was necessary to rally their troops, who then re-formed in line on the crest of the hill. A severe struggle for this position ensued, and it was lost and won three times, and about three o'clock in the afternoon it remained in the control of the National forces. But soon after that hour fresh Confederate re-enforcements arrived and completely turned the tide of battle. McDowell's men, who had been on their feet since two o'clock in the morning, who had marched twelve miles to the field and been engaged in heavy fighting since ten o'clock, were now exhausted by fatigue and want of food and water. Unable to withstand the fierce attack of fresh troops, they broke and retired in confusion down the hillside and made a disorderly retreat to Washington. Thus the first great battle of the civil war was fought and lost. 

According to General Sherman, "it was one of the best-planned battles, but one of the worst fought." Heavy losses of artillery and other war-supplies were experienced as the soldiers fell back on the capital. Both armies were fairly defeated, and whichever had stood fast the other would have run. General Johnston says: "The Confederate army was more disorganized by victory than that of the United States by defeat."

Biographies of Participants

Battle of Allatoona

First Battle of Bull Run

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
Jump to: navigation, search
First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas)
Part of the American Civil War

Cub Run in Centreville, Virginia (view with destroyed bridge).
Date July 21, 1861
Location Fairfax County and Prince William County, Virginia
Result Confederate victory
Belligerents
Flag of the United States United States (Union) Flag of Confederate States of America CSA (Confederacy)
Commanders
Irvin McDowell Joseph E. Johnston
P.G.T. Beauregard
Strength
35,000 32,500
Casualties and losses
2,896
(460 killed
 1,124 wounded
 1,312 captured/missing)[1]
1,982
(387 killed
 1,582 wounded
 13 missing)[1]
{{Campaign name=Manassas Campaign raw_name=Campaignbox Manassas Campaign battles=Hoke's Run Blackburn's Ford1st Bull Run

The First Battle of Bull Run, also known as the First Battle of Manassas (the name used by Confederate forces and still often used in the South), was the first major land battle of the American Civil War, fought on July 21, 1861, near Manassas, Virginia. Unseasoned Union Army troops under Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell advanced across Bull Run against the equally unseasoned Confederate Army under Brig. Gens. Joseph E. Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard, and despite the Union's early successes, they were routed and forced to retreat back to Washington, D.C.

Contents

[hide]

 

 Background

Northern Virginia Theater in July 1861.      Confederate      Union

Northern Virginia Theater in July 1861.      Confederate      Union

Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln to command the Army of Northeastern Virginia. Once in this capacity, McDowell was harassed by impatient politicians and citizens in Washington, who wished to see a quick battlefield victory over the Confederate Army in northern Virginia. McDowell, however, was concerned about the untried nature of his army. He was reassured by Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott, general-in-chief of the U.S. Army, "You are green, it is true, but they are green also; you are all green alike."[2] Against his better judgment, McDowell commenced campaigning. On July 16, 1861, the general departed Washington with the largest field army yet gathered on the North American continent, about 35,000 men (28,452 effectives).[3] McDowell's plan was to move westward in three columns, make a diversionary attack on the Confederate line at Bull Run with two columns, while the third column moved around the Confederates' right flank to the south, cutting the railroad to Richmond and threatening the rear of the rebel army. He assumed that the Confederates would be forced to abandon Manassas Junction and fall back to the Rappahannock River, the next defensible line in Virginia, which would relieve some of the pressure on the U.S. capital.[4]

The Confederate Army of the Potomac (21,883 effectives[5]) under Beauregard was encamped near Manassas Junction, approximately 25 miles (40 km) from the United States capital. McDowell planned to attack this numerically inferior enemy army, while Union Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson's 18,000 men engaged Johnston's force (the Army of the Shenandoah at 8,884 effectives, augmented by Theophilus H. Holmes's brigade of 1,465[5]) in the Shenandoah Valley, preventing them from reinforcing Beauregard.

Situation July 18.

Situation July 18.

After two days of marching slowly in the sweltering heat, the Union army was allowed to rest in Centreville. McDowell reduced the size of his army to approximately 30,000 by dispatching Brig. Gen. Theodore Runyon with 5,000 troops to protect the army's rear. In the meantime, McDowell searched for a way to outflank Beauregard, who had drawn up his lines along Bull Run. On July 18, the Union commander sent a division under Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler to pass on the Confederate right (southeast) flank. Tyler was drawn into a skirmish at Blackburn's Ford over Bull Run and made no headway.

Becoming more frustrated, McDowell resolved to attack the Confederate left (northwest) flank instead. He planned to attack with Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler's division at the Stone Bridge on the Warrenton Turnpike and send the divisions of Brig. Gens. David Hunter and Samuel P. Heintzelman over Sudley Springs Ford. From here, these divisions could march into the Confederate rear. The brigade of Col. Israel B. Richardson (Tyler's Division) would harass the enemy at Blackburn's Ford, preventing them from thwarting the main attack. Patterson would tie down Johnston in the Shenandoah Valley so that reinforcements could not reach the area. Although McDowell had arrived at a theoretically sound plan, it had a number of flaws: it was one that required synchronized execution of troop movements and attacks, skills that had not been developed in the nascent army; it relied on actions by Patterson that he had already failed to take; finally, McDowell had delayed long enough that Johnston's Valley force was able to board trains at Piedmont Station and rush to Manassas Junction to reinforce Beauregard's men.[6]

On July 19 and July 20, significant reinforcements bolstered the Confederate lines behind Bull Run. Johnston arrived with all of his army, except for the troops of Brig. Gen. Kirby Smith, who were still in transit. Most of the new arrivals were posted in the vicinity of Blackburn's Ford and Beauregard's plan was to attack from there to the north toward Centreville. Johnston, the senior officer, approved the plan. If both of the armies had been able to execute their plans simultaneously, it would have resulted in a mutual counterclockwise movement as they attacked each other's left flank.[7]

McDowell was getting contradictory information from his intelligence agents, and so he called for the balloon Enterprise, which was being demonstrated by Prof. Thaddeus S. C. Lowe in Washington, to perform aerial reconnaissance.

 

 Battle

Situation morning, July 21.

Situation morning, July 21.

On the morning of July 21, McDowell sent the divisions of Hunter and Heintzelman (about 12,000 men) from Centreville at 2:30 a.m., marching southwest on the Warrenton Turnpike and then turning northwest towards Sudley Springs. Tyler's division (about 8,000) marched directly towards the Stone Bridge. The inexperienced units immediately developed logistical problems. Tyler's division blocked the advance of the main flanking column on the turnpike. The latter units found the approach roads to Sudley Springs were inadequate, little more than a cart path in some places, and did not begin fording Bull Run until 9:30 a.m. Tyler's men reached the Stone Bridge around 6 a.m.[8]

At 5:15 a.m., Richardson's brigade fired a few artillery rounds across Mitchell's Ford on the Confederate right, some of which hit Beauregard's headquarters in the Wilmer McLean house as he was eating breakfast, alerting him to the fact that his offensive battle plan had been preempted. Nevertheless, he ordered demonstration attacks north toward the Union left at Centreville. Bungled orders and poor communications prevented their execution. Although he intended for Brig. Gen. Richard S. Ewell to lead the attack, Ewell, at Union Mills Ford, was simply ordered to "hold ... in readiness to advance at a moment's notice." Brig. Gen. D.R. Jones was supposed to attack in support of Ewell, but found himself moving forward alone. Holmes was also supposed to support, but received no orders at all.[9]

Federal cavalry at Sudley Spring Ford.

Federal cavalry at Sudley Spring Ford.

All that stood in the path of the 20,000 Union soldiers converging on the Confederate left flank were Col. Nathan "Shanks" Evans and his reduced brigade of 1,100 men.[10] Evans had moved some of his men to intercept the direct threat from Tyler at the bridge, but he began to suspect that the weak attacks from the Union brigade of Brig. Gen. Robert C. Schenck were merely feints. He was informed of the main Union flanking movement through Sudley Springs by Captain Edward Porter Alexander, Beauregard's signal officer, observing from 8 miles southwest on Signal Hill. In the first use of wig-wag semaphore signaling in combat, Alexander sent the message "Look out for your left, your position is turned."[11] Shanks hastily led 900 of his men from their position fronting the Stone Bridge to a new location on the slopes of Matthews Hill, a low rise to the northwest of his previous position.[10]

Evans soon received reinforcement from two other brigades under Brig. Gen. Barnard Bee and Col. Francis S. Bartow, bringing the force on the flank to 2,800 men.[10] They successfully slowed Hunter's lead brigade (Brig. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside) in its attempts to ford Bull Run and advance across Young's Branch, at the northern end of Henry House Hill. One of Tyler's brigade commanders, Col. William T. Sherman, crossed at an unguarded ford and struck the right flank of the Confederate defenders. This surprise attack, coupled with pressure from Burnside and Maj. George Sykes, collapsed the Confederate line shortly after 11:30 a.m., sending them in a disorderly retreat to Henry House Hill.[12]

As they retreated from their Matthews Hill position, the remainder of Evans's, Bee's, and Bartow's commands received some cover from Capt. John D. Imboden and his battery of four 6-pounder guns, who held off the Union advance while the Confederates attempted to regroup on Henry House Hill. They were met by Gens. Johnston and Beauregard, who had just arrived from Johnston's headquarters at the M. Lewis Farm, "Portici".[13] Fortunately for the Confederates, McDowell did not press his advantage and attempt to seize the strategic ground immediately, choosing to bombard the hill with the batteries of Capts. James B. Ricketts (Battery I, 1st U.S. Artillery) and Charles Griffin (Battery D, 5th U.S.) from Dogan's Ridge.[14]

Col. Thomas J. Jackson's Virginia brigade came up in support of the disorganized Confederates around noon, accompanied by Col. Wade Hampton and his Hampton's Legion, and Col. J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry. Jackson posted his five regiments on the reverse slope of the hill, where they were shielded from direct fire, and was able to assemble 13 guns for the defensive line, which he posted on the crest of the hill; as the guns fired, their recoil moved them down the reverse slope, where they could be safely reloaded.[15] Meanwhile, McDowell ordered the batteries of Ricketts and Griffin to move from Dogan's Ridge to the hill for close infantry support. Their 11 guns engaged in a fierce artillery duel across 300 yards against Jackson's 13. Unlike many engagements in the Civil War, here the Confederate artillery had an advantage. The Union pieces were now within range of the Confederate smoothbores and the predominantly rifled pieces on the Union side were not effective weapons at such close ranges, with many shots fired over the head of their targets.[16]

Ruins of Judith Henry's house, "Spring Hill", after the battle.

Ruins of Judith Henry's house, "Spring Hill", after the battle.

One of the casualties of the artillery fire was Judith Carter Henry, an 85-year-old widow and invalid, who was unable to leave her bedroom in the Henry House. As Ricketts began receiving rifle fire, he concluded that it was coming from the Henry House and turned his guns on the building. A shell that crashed through the bedroom wall tore off one of the widow's feet and inflicted multiple injuries, from which she died later that day.[17]

"The Enemy are driving us," Bee exclaimed to Jackson. Jackson, a former U.S. Army officer and professor at the Virginia Military Institute, is said to have replied, "Then, Sir, we will give them the bayonet."[18] Bee exhorted his own troops to re-form by shouting, "There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Follow me."[19] There is some controversy over Bee's statement and intent, which could not be clarified because he was mortally wounded almost immediately after speaking and none of his subordinate officers wrote reports of the battle. Major Burnett Rhett, chief of staff to General Johnston, claimed that Bee was angry at Jackson's failure to come immediately to the relief of Bee's and Bartow's brigades while they were under heavy pressure. Those who subscribe to this opinion believe that Bee's statement was meant to be pejorative: "Look at Jackson standing there like a stone wall!"[20]

Attacks on Henry House Hill, noon–2 p.m.

Attacks on Henry House Hill, noon–2 p.m.

Artillery commander Griffin decided to move two of his guns to the southern end of his line, hoping to provide enfilade fire against the Confederates. At approximately 3 p.m., these guns were overrun by the 33rd Virginia, whose men were outfitted in blue uniforms, causing Griffin's commander, Maj. William F. Barry, to mistake them for Union troops and to order Griffin not to fire on them. Close range volleys from the 33rd Virginia and Stuart's cavalry attack against the flank of the 11th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment (Ellsworth's Fire Zouaves), which was supporting the battery, killed many of the gunners and scattered the infantry. Capitalizing on this success, Jackson ordered two regiments to charge Ricketts's guns and they were captured as well. As additional Federal infantry engaged, the guns changed hands several times.[21]

The capture of the Union guns turned the tide of battle. Although McDowell had brought 15 regiments into the fight on the hill, outnumbering the Confederates two to one, no more than two were ever engaged simultaneously. Jackson continued to press his attacks, telling soldiers of the 4th Virginia Infantry, "Reserve your fire until they come within 50 yards! Then fire and give them the bayonet! And when you charge, yell like furies!" For the first time, Union troops heard the disturbing sound of the Rebel yell. At about 4 p.m., the last Union troops were pushed off Henry House Hill by a charge of two regiments from Col. Philip St. George Cocke's brigade.[22]

Union retreat, after 4 p.m.

Union retreat, after 4 p.m.

To the west, Chinn Ridge had been occupied by Col. Oliver O. Howard's brigade from Heintzelman's division. Also at 4 p.m., two Confederate brigades that had just arrived from the Shenandoah Valley—Col. Jubal A. Early's and Brig. Gen. Kirby Smith's (commanded by Col. Arnold Elzey after Smith was wounded)—crushed Howard's brigade. Beauregard ordered his entire line forward. McDowell's force crumbled and began to retreat.[23]

The retreat was relatively orderly up to the Bull Run crossings, but it was poorly managed by the Union officers. A Union wagon was overturned by artillery fire on a bridge spanning Cub Run Creek and incited panic in McDowell's force. As the soldiers streamed uncontrollably toward Centreville, discarding their arms and equipment, McDowell ordered Col. Dixon S. Miles's division to act as a rear guard, but it was impossible to rally the army short of Washington. In the disorder that followed, hundreds of Union troops were taken prisoner. The wealthy elite of nearby Washington, including congressmen and their families, expecting an easy Union victory, had come to picnic and watch the battle. When the Union army was driven back in a running disorder, the roads back to Washington were blocked by panicked civilians attempting to flee in their carriages.[24]

Beauregard and Johnston did not fully press their advantage, despite urging from Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who had arrived on the battlefield to see the Union soldiers retreat

Start your search on Battle Of Bullrun.


America's Four United Republics Exhibit - Click Here


Unauthorized Site: This site and its contents are not affiliated, connected, associated with or authorized by the individual, family, friends, or trademarked entities utilizing any part or the subject's entire name. Any official or affiliated sites that are related to this subject will be hyper linked below upon submission and Evisum, Inc. review.

Copyright© 2000 by Evisum Inc.TM. All rights reserved.
Evisum Inc.TM Privacy Policy

Search:

About Us

 

 

Image Use

Please join us in our mission to incorporate America's Four United Republics discovery-based curriculum into the classroom of every primary and secondary school in the United States of America by July 2, 2026, the nation’s 250th birthday. , the United States of America: We The People Click Here

 

Childhood & Family

Click Here

 

Historic Documents

Articles of Association

Articles of Confederation 1775

Articles of Confederation

Article the First

Coin Act

Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence

Emancipation Proclamation

Gettysburg Address

Monroe Doctrine

Northwest Ordinance

No Taxation Without Representation

Thanksgiving Proclamations

Mayflower Compact

Treaty of Paris 1763

Treaty of Paris 1783

Treaty of Versailles

United Nations Charter

United States In Congress Assembled

US Bill of Rights

United States Constitution

US Continental Congress

US Constitution of 1777

US Constitution of 1787

Virginia Declaration of Rights

 

Historic Events

Battle of New Orleans

Battle of Yorktown

Cabinet Room

Civil Rights Movement

Federalist Papers

Fort Duquesne

Fort Necessity

Fort Pitt

French and Indian War

Jumonville Glen

Manhattan Project

Stamp Act Congress

Underground Railroad

US Hospitality

US Presidency

Vietnam War

War of 1812

West Virginia Statehood

Woman Suffrage

World War I

World War II

 

Is it Real?



Declaration of
Independence

Digital Authentication
Click Here

 

America’s Four Republics
The More or Less United States

 
Continental Congress
U.C. Presidents

Peyton Randolph

Henry Middleton

Peyton Randolph

John Hancock

  

Continental Congress
U.S. Presidents

John Hancock

Henry Laurens

John Jay

Samuel Huntington

  

Constitution of 1777
U.S. Presidents

Samuel Huntington

Samuel Johnston
Elected but declined the office

Thomas McKean

John Hanson

Elias Boudinot

Thomas Mifflin

Richard Henry Lee

John Hancock
[
Chairman David Ramsay]

Nathaniel Gorham

Arthur St. Clair

Cyrus Griffin

  

Constitution of 1787
U.S. Presidents

George Washington 

John Adams
Federalist Party


Thomas Jefferson
Republican* Party

James Madison 
Republican* Party

James Monroe
Republican* Party

John Quincy Adams
Republican* Party
Whig Party

Andrew Jackson
Republican* Party
Democratic Party


Martin Van Buren
Democratic Party

William H. Harrison
Whig Party

John Tyler
Whig Party

James K. Polk
Democratic Party

David Atchison**
Democratic Party

Zachary Taylor
Whig Party

Millard Fillmore
Whig Party

Franklin Pierce
Democratic Party

James Buchanan
Democratic Party


Abraham Lincoln 
Republican Party

Jefferson Davis***
Democratic Party

Andrew Johnson
Republican Party

Ulysses S. Grant 
Republican Party

Rutherford B. Hayes
Republican Party

James A. Garfield
Republican Party

Chester Arthur 
Republican Party

Grover Cleveland
Democratic Party

Benjamin Harrison
Republican Party

Grover Cleveland 
Democratic Party

William McKinley
Republican Party

Theodore Roosevelt
Republican Party

William H. Taft 
Republican Party

Woodrow Wilson
Democratic Party

Warren G. Harding 
Republican Party

Calvin Coolidge
Republican Party

Herbert C. Hoover
Republican Party

Franklin D. Roosevelt
Democratic Party

Harry S. Truman
Democratic Party

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Republican Party

John F. Kennedy
Democratic Party

Lyndon B. Johnson 
Democratic Party 

Richard M. Nixon 
Republican Party

Gerald R. Ford 
Republican Party

James Earl Carter, Jr. 
Democratic Party

Ronald Wilson Reagan 
Republican Party

George H. W. Bush
Republican Party 

William Jefferson Clinton
Democratic Party

George W. Bush 
Republican Party

Barack H. Obama
Democratic Party

Please Visit

Forgotten Founders
Norwich, CT

Annapolis Continental
Congress Society


U.S. Presidency
& Hospitality

© Stan Klos

 

 

 

 


Virtual Museum of Art | Virtual Museum of History | Virtual Public Library | Virtual Science Center | Virtual Museum of Natural History | Virtual War Museum