|The Battle of Bull Run
On the morning of April 12, 1861, Confederate cannons fired on the flag of the United States as it flew above Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charlestown, South Carolina. The bloodiest and most tragic war ever fought by American soldiers had begun. During these four bloody years, Virginia became a major battleground between Union and Confederate troops.
Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, was only 90 miles from Washington, D.C., the capital of the Union. For this reason, the northern part of Virginia between the two cities became a major battleground.
The first Battle of Bull Run (or Manassas) was the first major fight of the Civil War. In July 1861, Union troops marched from Washington, D.C., to the town of Manassas in Prince William County, Virginia. Manassas was a railroad junction (a place where two railroads come together). Confederate troops were already at Manassas. Because the Union troops were not used to marching long distances, they arrived in Manassas tired and hungry. A stream called Bull Run separated the Union troops from the railroad junction. The stream also separated the Union troops from the Confederate troops, who were waiting on the other side.
The morning of July 21, General Irvin McDowell (commander of the Union troops) gave his orders to attack the Confederates. At first it appeared that the Union soldiers would go away victorious and the Civil War would be short-lived. This wasn't to be.
Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson arrived with a group of fresh soldiers. He refused to let the Confederates back away. He and his troops refused to move, standing firm against the attacks of the Union army. Jackson was even shot in the hand but he continued to shout orders as bullets flew around him. Another Confederate general who was retreating with his men under the heavy Union fire called out, “Look yonder! There’s Jackson standing like a stone wall!”
The Confederate army won the Battle of Bull Run. It was the first major clash of the Civil War. This battle proved to the Union that the Confederates would be a powerful enemy. People, both in the North and the South, realized that the Civil War would be a long, terrible war.
= Leesburg, Virginia