Bull Run, First Battle of

views updated May 14 2018

Bull Run, First Battle of (1861).The first major land battle of the Civil War occurred at Bull Run Creek (near the town of Manassas, Virginia) Virginia, on 21 July 1861. Brig. Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard, the hero of Fort Sumter, commanded the Confederate army. His force of 20,000 protected a rail link that led to Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's army in the lower Shenandoah Valley. Johnston's 12,000 men faced a Federal force of 18,000 commanded by the aged Robert Patterson, a veteran of the War of 1812.

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

views updated Jun 27 2018

Bull Run, Second Battle of (1862).On 26 June 1862, Civil War Union Maj. Gen. John Pope assumed command of the Army of Virginia, a collection of three formerly independent armies that had recently suffered humiliating defeats at the hands of Maj. Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley. Pope brashly assured his troops that they would no longer be concerned with lines of retreat. He planned to attack Richmond from the north after receiving reinforcements from the Army of the Potomac, which was still on the Virginia Peninsula following an unsuccessful campaign.

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

views updated Jun 27 2018


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

views updated May 11 2018


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.


Hennessy, John J. Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

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

views updated May 18 2018

Bull Run, First Battle of (July 21, 1861) American Civil War conflict, fought near Manassas, Virginia. Under-trained Union troops led by General Irvin McDowell, at first successful, were eventually routed by Confederate troops under General P. G. T. Beauregard, reinforced by General Thomas J. Jackson, who earned his nickname ‘Stonewall’ at the battle.


Bull Run, Second Battle of

views updated May 23 2018

Bull Run, Second Battle of (August 28, 1862) American Civil War battle. On the old battleground of 1861, 48,000 Confederates under General Robert E. Lee defeated 75,000 Union soldiers under General John Pope, and once more, Lee threatened Washington, D.C. Union losses were 16,000 to the Confederates' 9000. Pope was dismissed as commander of the Union army, and General George McClellan, the former commander, reassumed control.