Bull Run, small stream, NE Va., c.30 mi (50 km) SW of Washington, D.C. Two important battles of the Civil War were fought there: the first on July 21, 1861, and the second Aug. 29–30, 1862. Both battlefields are included in Manassas National Battlefield Park (est. 1940).
First Battle of Bull Run
The first battle of Bull Run (or first battle of Manassas) was the first major engagement of the Civil War. On July 16, 1861, the Union army under Gen. Irvin McDowell began to move on the Confederate force under Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard at Manassas Junction, Va. Gen. Robert Patterson's force at nearby Martinsburg was to prevent the Confederate army under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston at Winchester from uniting with Beauregard but failed, and by July 20 part of Johnston's army had reached Manassas. On July 21, McDowell, turning Beauregard's left, attacked the Confederates near the stone bridge over Bull Run and drove them back to the Henry House Hill. There Confederate resistance, with Gen. Thomas J. Jackson standing like a "stone wall," checked the Union advance, and the arrival of Gen. E. Kirby Smith's brigade turned the tide against the Union forces. The unseasoned Union volunteers retreated, fleeing along roads jammed by panicked civilians who had turned out in their Sunday finery to watch the battle. The retreat became a rout as the soldiers made for the defenses of Washington, but the equally inexperienced Confederates were in no condition to make an effective pursuit. The South rejoiced at the result, while the North was spurred to greater efforts to win the war.
See R. H. Beatie, Road to Manassas.
Second Battle of Bull Run
The second battle of Bull Run (or second battle of Manassas) was also a victory for the Confederates. In July, 1862, the Union Army of Virginia under Gen. John Pope threatened the town of Gordonsville, a railroad junction between Richmond and the Shenandoah valley. Gen. Robert E. Lee sent Stonewall Jackson to protect the town, and on Aug. 9, 1862, Jackson defeated Nathaniel Banks's corps, the vanguard of Pope's army, in the battle of Cedar Mt. (or Cedar Run). When Gen. George McClellan's army was gradually withdrawn from Harrison's Landing on the James River (where it had remained after the Seven Days battles) to reinforce Pope, Lee concentrated his whole army at Gordonsville. He planned to strike before Pope could be reinforced. Pope withdrew to the north side of the Rappahannock River. Lee followed to the south side and on Aug. 25 boldly divided his army. By Aug. 28, Jackson had marched to the Union right and rear, destroyed Union communications and supplies, and stationed his troops just west of the first Bull Run battlefield, where he awaited the arrival of James Longstreet with the rest of Lee's army. Pope was attacking Jackson when Longstreet came up on Aug. 29. The attack was repulsed, but Pope, mistaking a re-formation of Jackson's lines for a retreat, renewed it the next day. After the Union troops were again driven back, Lee ordered Longstreet to counterattack. Longstreet, supported by Jackson, swept Pope from the field. The Union forces retreated across Bull Run, badly defeated. Lee's pursuit ended at Chantilly, where the Union forces stopped Jackson on Sept. 1, 1862. Pope then withdrew to Washington.
See E. J. Stackpole, From Cedar Mountain to Antietam (1959); A. Nevins, The War for the Union (Vol. II, 1960).
Bull Run, First Battle of
Beauregard deployed his force along a stream called Bull Run; it was crossable only at a number of fords and one stone bridge. Henry Hill commanded the bridge and the fords around it, thus forming the key to the Confederate position. Believing the Federals would attack his right, Beauregard posted most of his force there. Meanwhile, on 18 July, Johnston was ordered to join Beauregard at Manassas; for the first time in the history of warfare, the Confederates used railroads operationally, over the next two days sending Johnston's men sixty miles from the Shenandoah Valley to reach Beauregard's army.
Under intense public pressure to capture Richmond, Union Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell planned to move from Centreville with 30,000 men to turn the Confederate left flank, isolating Beauregard from Johnston and making his strong defensive line along Bull Run untenable.
On the morning of 21 July, the Federals attacked the stone bridge. Confederate Capt. Nathan G. “Shanks” Evans perceived that the Federal attack in his front was merely a feint; in the first battlefield use of the wigwag telegraph system, Capt. E. P. Alexander signaled to Evans that his left flank was turned. With his left threatened, Beauregard rushed his forces toward Henry Hill to support Evans.
That afternoon, the Federals launched several piecemeal assaults against Henry House Hill. At one intense moment of fighting Brig. Gen. Barnard E. Bee rallied his Alabamians by declaring, “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall.” His comment gave Brig. Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson his immortal nickname. The attacks on Henry House Hill continued for about two hours, with neither side gaining a decisive advantage.
At around 4:00 P.M., fresh troops from Beauregard's army under Col. Jubal A. Early and Brig. Gen. E. Kirby Smith arrived on the field and began to roll up the Federal right. The Union units withdrew, and some panic ensued—it was impossible to rally the army, which began a retreat all the way back to Washington, D.C. Similar confusion reigned on the Confederate side, allowing the Federals to escape unmolested.
The losses in the largest battle yet fought in North America were considered heavy, though by the following year they would be eclipsed frequently: the Confederates suffered 1,982 casualties, while the Union suffered 2,896. In the humiliation of defeat Northerners realized that blind enthusiasm was not enough to win the war; many felt a renewed sense of purpose in the Union's war effort. The victory reinforced Southern views of their martial superiority.
[See also Civil War: Military and Diplomatic Course.]
Russell H. Beattie, Jr. , Road to Manassas, 1961.
William C. Davis , Battle at Bull Run, 1977.
Jonathan M. Berkey
Bull Run, Second Battle of
The Federal plan put Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in a tough position. If the Federal armies united, he would be outnumbered two to one. With this in mind, he devised one of the most daring campaigns of the war: Leaving a small force to defend Richmond, Lee moved the rest of his army to join Jackson, who had clashed with an isolated Union corps at Cedar Mountain on 9 August. Lee hoped to destroy Pope's army before it could be reinforced.
Once in front of Pope, Lee divided his army. While Maj. Gen. James Longstreet faced Pope across the Rappahannock River, 24,000 men under Jackson would march around Pope's right and cut the Federal supply line along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. Once Jackson accomplished his objective, Longstreet would march to join him. In two days, Jackson marched fifty miles and captured several hundred Federals and massive amounts of supplies at Manassas Junction. As Pope ordered his 66,000 men back and forth to find the Confederates, Jackson moved north of the old Bull Run battlefield and hid his men in an abandoned railroad cut.
On 28 August, Jackson revealed his position by fighting a Federal division to a stalemate at Groveton. The Federals converged on Jackson, determined to destroy his force. The next day, Jackson held his ground with great difficulty against several uncoordinated Federal attacks.
Unbeknownst to Pope, Longstreet had established contact with Jackson on the afternoon of 29 August. The next day Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter launched an unsuccessful attack that featured part of the Confederate line tossing rocks at the Federals after running out of ammunition. At 4:00 P.M., Longstreet began a massive attack on the lightly defended Federal left flank. His successful assault assured Confederate victory; a Federal attack at Chantilly on 1 September ended Jackson's attempt to cut off the Union retreat, but also resulted in the death of Maj. Gen. Philip Kearney.
The Second Bull Run campaign marked the emergence of Lee as an army commander. He inflicted 14,500 casualties on the Federals while suffering about 9,500 of his own. Although the campaign demonstrated Lee's operational brilliance, it did not reflect well on his Union counterpart. Often indecisive, Pope could not envision the campaign from his opponent's perspective. He blamed his failure on Porter, who was court‐martialed for disobeying orders. His cashiering inaugurated a battle of ink—before 1890, probably no battle, including Gettysburg, would receive more attention.
[See also Bull Run, First Battle of; Civil War: Military and Diplomatic Course.]
Otto Eisenschmil , The Celebrated Case of Fitz John Porter, 1950.
John J. Hennessy , Return to Bull Run, 1993.
Jonathan M. Berkey
Bull Run, First Battle of
BULL RUN, FIRST BATTLE OF
BULL RUN, FIRST BATTLE OF (21 July 1861), the first major engagement of the Civil War, known in the Confederacy as the First Battle of Manassas. The principal Union army of some 30,000 men, under General Irvin McDowell, was mobilized around Washington. Union General Robert Patterson, with a smaller army, was sent to hold Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston in the Shenandoah Valley. General Pierre G. T. Beauregard's Southern army occupied the line of Bull Run Creek, a shallow, meandering stream that runs across the main highways south of Washington.
Public opinion compelled President Abraham Lincoln to order McDowell to advance. The Union attack on 17 July forced an advance force under General M. L. Bonham back to Centreville. The next morning, Bonham rejoined the main Southern force, in a line extending about eight miles behind Bull Run. McDowell and Beauregard planned to turn each other's flank. General Richard S. Ewell, on the Confederate right, was to cross Bull Run at day light on 21 July, with the other brigades to follow. But Beauregard's order did not reach Ewell. General James Longstreet, after crossing, waited in vain for word of his attack. By 7 a.m., Union forces were attacking the Confederate left at Stone Bridge. Johnston sent General T. J. Jackson to support the troops at Stone Bridge, and other regiments soon followed. Fierce fighting raged along Bull Run; and it is here that Jackson won the nickname "Stonewall."
The arrival of another portion of Johnston's army turned the tide in favor of the Confederates. The disorderly Union retreat across Bull Run soon became a rout as troops fled back to Washington. Afterward, bitter controversy ensued between Jefferson Davis, Johnston, and Beauregard as to the responsibility for not pursuing the defeated Federal troops into Washington. From some 13,000 men engaged, the Union tallied about 500 killed, 1,000 wounded, and 1,200 missing; the Confederates, with about 11,000 engaged, counted about 400 killed, 1,600 wounded, and 13 missing.
Davis, William C. Battle at Bull Run: A History of the First Major Campaign of the Civil War. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1977.
Johnson, Robert M. Bull Run: Its Strategy and Tactics. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1913.
McDonald, Jo Anna M. We Shall Meet Again: The First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), July 18–21, 1861. Shippensburg, Pa.: White Mane, 1999.
Milledge L.Bonham, Jr./a. r.
See alsoDavis–Johnston Controversy .
Bull Run, Second Battle of
BULL RUN, SECOND BATTLE OF
BULL RUN, SECOND BATTLE OF, also known as the Second Battle of Manassas, was initiated by the decision of General Robert E. Lee, on 24 August 1862 at Jeffersonton, Virginia, to send the 23,000 troops of General T. J. ("Stonewall") Jackson to break the communications of Major General John Pope's Army of Virginia, entrenched along the Rappahannock River in Virginia. Jackson reached Bristoe Station on the twenty-sixth, plundered Pope's base at Manassas Junction the next day, and then proceeded to Groveton Heights, where he attacked a division under General Rufus King on the twenty-eighth. On the twenty-ninth, Pope in turn attacked Jackson, who with difficulty beat off repeated assaults. Lee, meantime, had brought up the remainder of his army, 32,000 men led by General James Longstreet, and formed them on Jackson's right. By nightfall of the twenty-ninth, Lee's line formed an obtuse angle, with Longstreet's troops running from north to south and Jackson's southwest to northeast. Pope, reinforced by a large part of the Army of the Potomac, renewed the attack on Jackson on the thirtieth but failed to confront Long-street with sufficient force. Lee accordingly ordered a general attack, which swept Pope from his positions. Heavy rain on the thirty-first delayed pursuit and made it possible for Pope to retreat behind the Washington defenses.
Pope blamed his defeat on General Fitz John Porter, who Pope believed had failed to carryout orders. Porter was cashiered and was not vindicated until 1886, but Pope himself was not again trusted with field command. Pope's losses, from 16 August to 2 September, were 1,747 killed, 8,452 wounded, and 4,263 missing or captured; those of Lee were 1,553 killed, 7,812 wounded, and 109 missing.
Kelly, Dennis. "Confederates Turn Tables on a Yankee Threat: The Second Battle of Manassas," Civil War Times Illustrated 22, no. 3 (May 1983): 8–44.
Douglas SouthallFreeman/a. r.
Bull Run, First Battle of