Battle of Bull Run Virtual Field Trip to Manassas National Battlefield Park
“You are green, it is true, but they are green also; you are all green alike.” President Abraham Lincoln
First Battle of Bull Run The First Battle of Bull Run, also known as the First Battle of Manassas, took place on July 21, 1861. It was the first battle of the Civil War. General McDowell lead the Northern Troops and General Beauregard lead the Southern Troops. The Southern Troops beat the Northern Troops who had to retreat back to Washington, D.C.
The people were so sure the battle would be short, that they often packed a picnic lunch to eat on the nearby hilltop. This poster Illustrates such a picnic, as well as, the flags of the North and South.
On a warm July day in 1861, two armies of a divided nation clashed for the first time on the fields overlooking the Bull Run River. Their ranks were filled with enthusiastic young volunteers in colorful new uniforms, gathered together from every part of the country. Confident that their foes would run at the first shot, the raw recruits were thankful that they would not miss the only battle of what surely would be a short war. As the battle raged on, soldiers on both sides were stunned by the violence and destruction they encountered. At day’s end nearly 900 young men lay lifeless on the fields of Matthews Hill, Matthews Hill, Henry Hill, Henry Hill, and Chinn Ridge. 10 hours of heavy fighting swept away any idea the war would be over quickly.
Let’s Get Started!!! What do you think happened to this structure?
Setting the Stage The Confederate States of America (the South) was formed when 11 Southern states seceded (left) from the United States. After the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and the attack on Fort Sumter, the nation seemed headed to war. Most Northerners & Southerners believed the conflict would consist of one winner-take-all battle. Federal troops were enlisted for only 90 days, believing that would be more than enough time.
Map 1: Central & Eastern Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware, 1861
Map 3 : Manassas Battlefield Today Locate: The Henry House The Stone House Bull Run Monument Bull Run River Chinn Ridge Matthews Hill Buck Hill
First Manassas: Morning of July 21, 1861 On this morning, McDowell,the North, sent his attack columns in a long march north toward Sudley Springs Ford. This route took the North around the South left. To distract the Southerners, McDowell ordered a diversionary attack where the Warrenton Turnpike crossed Bull Run at the Stone Bridge. At 5:30 a.m. the deep- throated roar of a 30-pounder Parrott rifle shattered the morning calm, and signaled the start of battle.
McDowell’s new plan depended on speed & surprise. Valuable time was lost as the men stumbled through the darkness along narrow roads. Southern Col. Nathan Evans, soon realized that the attack on his front was only a diversion. Leaving a small force to hold the bridge, Evans rushed the remainder of his command to Matthews Hill in time to check McDowell’s lead unit. But Evans’ force was too small to hold back the South for long.
Soon the Southern brigades under Barnard Bee and Francis Bartow marched to Evans’ assistance. But even with these reinforcements, the thin gray line (the South) collapsed and the Southerners fled in disorder toward Henry Hill. Attempting to rally his men, Bee used Gen. Thomas J Jackson’s newly arrived brigade as an anchor. Pointing to Jackson, Bee shouted:
“There stands Jackson like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians!”
The Fight for Rickett’s Guns Shells were exploding overhead as Ricketts’ men dueled Stonewall Jackson’s artillery, directly across the field. Sharpshooters’ bullets thumped into the wooden lumber chests. Suddenly from the far woods came an eerie, blood-chilling cry—the rebel yell. Through dense smoke Ricketts could see Confederate (Southern) infantry starting across the field.
Up to that moment the Confederates (South) appeared to be losing the battle, and possibly the war. Here the battle shifted. At Henry House the battle rushed toward an unexpected turn at Rickett’s guns. Captain Ricketts, in his official report, described the fire from Henry House and then the Confederate charge!
Rickett’s Report “We ascended the hill near the Henry House, which was at that time filled with sharpshooters. I had scarcely got into battery before I saw some of my horses fall and some of my men wounded by sharpshooters. I turned my guns on the house and literally riddled it. It has been said that there was a woman killed there by our guns.”
Rickett’s Report Continued “We did not move from our position. In fact, in a very short time we were not in a condition to move, on account of the number of horses that were disabled. I know it was the hottest place I ever saw in my life and I had seen some fighting before. The enemy had taken advantage of the woods and the natural slope of the ground, and delivered a terrible fire upon us.”
First Manassas: Afternoon of July 21, 1861 About noon, the Federals (the North) stopped their advance to reorganize for a new attack. The lull lasted for about an hour, giving the Confederates (the South) enough time to reform their lines. Then the fighting resumed, each side trying to force the other off Henry Hill. Then the battle continued until just after 4 p.m., when fresh Southern units crashed into the Union (Northern) right flank on Chinn Ridge, causing McDowell’s tired & discouraged soldiers to withdraw.
At first the withdrawal was orderly. Protected by the regulars,, the 3 month volunteers retired across Bull Run, where they found the road to Washington jammed with the carriages of congressmen and others who had driven out to Centreville to watch the fight. Panic now seized many of the soldiers and the retreat became a riot. The Confederates(South) though bolstered by the arrival of President Jefferson Davis on the field just as the battle was ending, were too disorganized to follow up their success. Daybreak on July 22 found the defeated Union (North) army back behind the defenses of Washington.
Putting It All Together By war’s end in April 1865, more than 620,000 soldiers would lose their lives. The civilian population of the nation also was affected by the events at Manassas. Those who lived near the battlefields, like the Henrys, had their livelihood ruined because the battles were fought on their property. Others who lived hundreds of miles away, were devastated by the loss of a cherished family member. No longer would Americans think of the Civil War as an entertaining spectacle, as had the Washingtonians who followed the troops to view this conflict.