Battle of Bull Run

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Battle of Bull Run

Though the Civil War had officially begun when Confederate troops shelled Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, the Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) was the first major land conflict of the American Civil War. Patriotism and enlistment ran high, as both sides confidently believed the war would be over quickly with one crushing defeat at the Battle of Bull Run. Little did they know, this battle was just the beginning of the bloodiest conflict in American history.

The Battle of Bull Run was fought in Virginia just miles from Washington DC, on July 21, 1861. The Union army’s commander in Washington, Brigadier General Irvin McDowell, was pressured into beginning the campaign as early as possible. The North believed that an early Union victory at Bull Run would put a damper on Southern morale and clear the way for the capture of the city of Richmond, the Confederate capital, and end the war. However, McDowell was hesitant. Despite having more troops (35,000 to 22,000) he understood that his army was not properly trained or experienced in war. Lincoln however, assured him saying, “You are green, it is true, but they are green also; you are all green alike.” Against his better judgment, McDowell began campaigning.
On the Confederate side, Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard, faced similar doubts about his own inexperienced army of 22,000 troops. However, he had the advantage of knowing some of the Union’s game plan for the attack on Bull Run. During the previous year, U.S. Army captain Thomas Jordan set up a pro-Southern spy network in Washington, DC. One of the spies, Rose O’Neal Greenhow, passed secret messages to the Confederates.

On a hot July morning, long lines of Union soldiers marched out of

Washington, DC and headed for Richmond. Their voices could be heard

singing and cheering; “On to Richmond” across the countryside. Parties of

civilians followed the army, adding to the excitement. They had come along

to see the end of the rebellion. However, awaiting them at the city of

Manassas was Beauregard’s troops. The two armies met at a creek known as

Bull Run. At first, a Union victory looked certain. During the first two hours of

battle, 4,5000 troops gave ground to 10,000 Union soldiers. But as the

Confederates were retreating; they found a group of fresh troops led by

Thomas Jackson waiting just over the hill. Trying to rally his troops, General Bernard Bee of South Carolina shouted, “Look, there is Jackson with his Virginians, standing like a stone wall!” The Southern troops held firm, and Jackson’s nickname, “Stonewall Jackson,” was born.

During the afternoon, thousands of additional Confederate troops arrived by horse and by train. The Union troops had been fighting in intense heat — many for 14 hours! By late in the day, they were feeling the effects of their efforts. At about 4 p.m., when Beauregard ordered a massive counterattack, Stonewall Jackson urged his soldiers to "yell like furies." The rebel yell became a hallmark of the Confederate Army. A retreat by the Union became chaotic as they scrambled back to Washington. The Civil War could have been over at the Battle of Bull Run if the South was not too exhausted to finish off the fleeing Union army. However, that was not the case. In addition to disorganization, confusion also played a factor in early Civil War battles. With the cloud of smoke that resulted from constant gunfire and general chaos of battle, soldiers often lost their lives to friendly fire, meaning being killed accidentally by your own soldiers. In the early stages of the Civil War, both sides did not have a standard uniform. Instead, soldiers often wore whatever clothing they owned. In addition, the South initially adopted a flag that looked very similar to the American flag. Eventually, the South would switch to the flag that is infamous for the Confederacy today.
While the South had proved itself capable of taking on the North with yet another military victory at the Battle of Bull Run, both sides experienced devastating loss. Overall 4,800 soldiers were killed, wounded or listed as missing from both sides. This had been the bloodiest fighting in American history up to this point, but certainly not the last. The Battle of Bull Run showed both sides that the Civil War would not be as easy as they thought. Soon after the loss, Lincoln replaced the overcautious McDowell with Major General George McClellan. In addition, he signed a bill calling for an enlistment of 500,000 additional soldiers. For the first time in history, the Railroad played a huge role in transporting supplies in troops in the South.

  1. What was the name of the first real land Battle between the North and the South?

_________________________________ or _______________________________

  1. Describe in ONE word how the North / South felt before the battle? __________________________

  1. What was the overall goal for the North? ___________________________________________________

  1. Why was McDowell hesitant about the battle? ______________________________________________


  1. What was Thomas Jackson’s nickname? _______________________________/ Why was he given that name? ______________________________________________________________________________

  1. Who acted as a spy informing the South about the North’s movement towards Bull Run?


  1. What was the ‘Rebel Yell’ __________________________________________________________________

  1. Why did the South not follow the retreating Union army? ____________________________________


  1. What is one reason why ‘friendly fire’ occurred? ____________________________________________


  1. What is one of the MAJOR effects of the Battle of Bull Run?



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