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The First Battle of Bull Run, also called First Battle of Manassas, Battle of First Manassas, or Manassas Junction in the American Civil War, was the first of two engagements fought at a small stream called Bull Run near Manassas, Virginia on July 21, 1861. A year later, the Second Battle culminated between Gen. Robert Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia against Maj. Gen. John Pope’s Army of Virginia.
See the fact file below for more information on the Battles of Bull Run or alternatively, you can download our 23-page Battles of Bull Run worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
THE FIRST BATTLE: BACKGROUND
- The citizens of the Northern United States clamored for a march against the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, just months after the start of the war at Fort Sumter. This was expected to bring an early end to the Confederacy.
- Yielding to political pressure, Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell led his unseasoned Union Army across Bull Run against the equally inexperienced Confederate Army of Brig. Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard, which was camped near Manassas Junction.
- To suppress the Confederacy and restore federal law in the southern states, President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers with 90-day enlistments to augment the existing U.S. Army of about 15,000.
- In Washington, D.C., as thousands of volunteers rushed to defend the capital, General in Chief Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott laid out his strategy to subdue the Confederate States. He proposed that an army of 80,000 men be organized to sail down the Mississippi River and capture New Orleans.
THE FIRST BATTLE: OPPOSING FORCES
- Gen. Irvin McDowell’s Army of Northeastern Virginia was organized into five infantry divisions of three to five brigades each. Each brigade contained three to five infantry regiments. An artillery battery was generally assigned to each brigade.
- The total number of Union troops present at the First Battle of Bull Run was about 35,000, although only about 18,000 were actually engaged.
- While McDowell organized the Army of Northeastern Virginia, a smaller Union command was organized and stationed northwest of Washington, near Harper’s Ferry. It was commanded by Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson.
THE FIRST BATTLE
- McDowell sent divisions of about 12,000 men from Centreville at 2:30 a.m. on July 21, 1861, marching southwest on the Warrenton Turnpike and then turning northwest toward Sudley Springs to get around the Confederates’ left. The inexperienced units immediately developed logistical problems.
- The later units found the approach roads to Sudley Springs were inadequate, little more than a cart path in some places, and did not begin fording Bull Run until 9:30 a.m.
- At 5:15 a.m., Richardson’s brigade fired a few artillery rounds across Mitchell’s Ford on the Confederate right, some of which hit Beauregard’s headquarters in the Wilmer McLean house as he was eating breakfast.
- Gen Thomas J. Jackson’s Virginia Brigade came up in support of the disorganized Confederates around noon, accompanied by Col. Wade Hampton and his Hampton’s Legion, as well as Col. J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry, along with a contingent of 6-pounder guns.
- The Hampton Legion, some 600 men strong, managed to buy Jackson enough time to construct a defensive line on Henry House Hill by firing repeated volleys at Sherman’s advancing brigade.
- The retreat was relatively orderly up to the Bull Run crossings but was poorly managed by the Union officers. A Union wagon was overturned by artillery fire on a bridge spanning Cub Run Creek, inciting panic in McDowell’s force.
- As the soldiers streamed uncontrollably toward Centreville, discarding their arms and equipment, McDowell ordered Col. Dixon S. Miles’s division to act as a rear guard, but it was impossible to rally the army short of Washington. In the disorder that followed, hundreds of Union troops were taken prisoner.
THE FIRST BATTLE: AFTERMATH
- The battle was a clash between relatively large, ill-trained bodies of recruits that were led by inexperienced officers. Neither army commander was able to deploy his forces effectively. Although nearly 60,000 men were present at the battle, only 18,000 had actually been engaged.
- The Battle of Bull Run was the largest and bloodiest battle in United States history at that point. Union casualties were 460 killed, 1,124 wounded, and 1,312 missing or captured; Confederate casualties were 387 killed, 1,582 wounded, and 13 missing.
- Compared to later battles, the casualties at First Bull Run were not especially heavy. Combined killed, wounded, and missing from both sides reached a little over 1,700 each. Two Confederate brigade commanders, Jackson and Edmund Kirby-Smith, were wounded in the battle.
- Three months after the First Battle of Bull Run, Union forces suffered another, smaller defeat at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, near Leesburg, Virginia. The perceived military incompetence at both battles led to the establishment of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, a congressional body created to investigate Northern military affairs.
- The battle also had long-term psychological consequences. The decisive victory led to a degree of overconfidence on the part of Confederate forces and prompted a determined organizational effort on the part of the Union.
THE SECOND BATTLE: BACKGROUND
- President Abraham Lincoln assigned John Pope to lead the newly created Army of Virginia.
- Pope’s objective was to protect Washington and the Shenandoah Valley and draw Confederate forces away from McClellan by traveling to Gordonsville.
- On August 3, General-in-Chief Henry Halleck commanded McClellan to start his last withdrawal from the peninsula and to go back to Northern Virginia to assist Pope. However, McClellan rejected and did not start his redeployment until August 14.
- Six days later, Nathaniel Bank’s forces seized Jackson at Cedar Mountain, but was counterattacked by corps headed by A.P. Hill. Jackson’s scheme was halted, and Lee sent Longstreet to reinforce Jackson on August 13.
THE SECOND BATTLE: PRELUDE
- From August 22 to 25, two infantries had a minor fight along the Rappahannock River. Heavy rains caused the river to rise, and Lee was not able to cross. During this time, reinforcements from the Army of the Potomac were on their way from the peninsula. Lee’s new plan was to use Jackson and Stuart’s army to cut Pope’s mode of communication, the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. Pope would have no choice but to retreat, and Lee’s forces would have won.
- The next evening, after going over Pope’s right flank through the Thoroughfare Gap, Jackson’s wing of the army hit Orange & Alexandria Railroad at Bristoe Station. At dawn the following day, they proceeded to capture and sabotage the huge Union supply depot at Manassas Junction. This pushed Pope into a sudden withdrawal from his defensive line along the river.
- During the night of August 27, Jackson and his forces went north to the First Manassas arena, where he positioned behind an incomplete railroad grade below Stony Ridge.
THE SECOND BATTLE: OPPOSING FORCES
- Pope’s Army of Virginia consisted of approximately 51,000 men and was classified into three army corps: (1) I Corps, under Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel; (2) II Corps, Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks; and (3) III Corps, Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell.
- The Kanawha Division and portions of three army corps of Gen. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac joined Pope’s forces.
- Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, on the other hand, was grouped into two “wings” or “commands”, reaching about 55,000 men. Maj. Gen. James Longstreet led the right wing, and Maj. Gen. Stonewall Jackson led the second wing, together with the Cavalry Division headed by Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart.
THE SECOND BATTLE: THE FIRST DAY
- On the morning of August 29, the Confederates stood behind a high railway hill and resisted two pointed attacks by Sigel. Pope and his men reached the battlefield at noon.
- Pope, Hooker, and Maj. Gen. Reno desperately attacked Jackson’s line, and Jackson had difficulties in repelling the attacks. He counterattacked but failed and was rebutted by Hooker’s division. Grover then started the fourth strike but lost. The Union forces delivered the last assault, driving the remaining Confederate out of position. However, Brig. Gen. Jubal Early’s men of the Confederates charged the Union with their bayonets.
- By noon, the main elements of Longstreet’s army had started to deploy on Jackson’s right. Porter and McDowell, following Pope’s orders, reached the area and found an enemy force of unexplainable strength. Porter had been commanded to charge Jackson’s right flank, displaying how clueless he was of Longstreet’s arrival. To the north, the blows of Sigel’s guns meant that he was fighting with Jackson. Upon observing this, McDowell joined Sigel and Porter stayed to check on Longstreet.
- In the evening, Lee joined the wings of his army in the battlefield. He had pushed Pope away from the Rappahannock River, assuming the Federals would withdraw to the line of Bull Run before attacking.
THE SECOND BATTLE: THE SECOND DAY
- Pope falsely assumed that Jackson was losing and commanded a “general pursuit” of the Confederates on August 30. Jackson had retreated a short distance, and Longstreet’s advance guard had also failed. McDowell, who was assigned by Pope to lead the pursuit, soon identified Pope’s fault and tried to protect his exposed flank by staying at the Bald and Henry House hills. An assault on Jackson’s right, which Porter committed, was repelled with great losses because of the disastrous artillery fire from Longstreet.
- In the afternoon, Lee called for a grand counterattack. Longstreet seized with 28,000 men, while Jackson charged toward the Warrenton Turnpike. The left flank of the Union forces was defeated, and Bald Hill was rounded up by Longstreet.
- Pope retreated to Centerville and got new reinforcements, but Jackson was already charging. At Chantilly, Pope was defeated when two of his commanders, Kearny and Stevens, were killed. Lee’s forces won, and the general was on his way to invade Maryland.
THE SECOND BATTLE: AFTERMATH
- Total deaths for the second Manassas reached 22,000, with the defeated Union forces adding up to 13,824 of those deaths.
- Confederates killed, injured, or missing reached 8,353 soldiers, which was mostly caused by Longstreet’s extreme charge on the second day, as he lost over 4,000 men in just four hours.
Battles of Bull Run Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Battles of Bull Run across 23 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Battles of Bull Run worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the First Battle of Bull Run, also called First Battle of Manassas, Battle of First Manassas, or Manassas Junction in the American Civil War, which was the first of two engagements fought at a small stream called Bull Run near Manassas, Virginia on July 21, 1861. A year later, the Second Battle culminated between Gen. Robert Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia against Maj. Gen. John Pope’s Army of Virginia.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Battles of Bull Run Facts
- The First Battle
- A Civil War Sesquicentennial
- Which Battle Was It?
- Complete the Facts
- War Timeline
- Other U.S. Civil War Battles
- Battle Significance
- What Really Happened
- Two Battles
- Choose Your Battle
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