Battle of Bull Run
The Battle of Bull Run, also known as the Battle of Manassas, was the first formal battle of the Civil War. Fought about 25 miles outside Washington, D.C., the Battle of Bull Run came approximately three months after the surrender of Fort Sumter outside Charleston, South Carolina. Union forces, led by General Irvin McDowell, were slow to take position at the battle; there, they would face the armies of General P.G.T. Beauregard, a leader with approximately the same military experience and prowess as McDowell. The Confederate forces led an unsuccessful surprise attack on McDowell’s flank, giving the Union an initial advantage in the conflict. The sluggish movement of McDowell’s troops, however, gave the Confederate forces time to regroup, this time supplemented with forces from the armies of General Joseph Johnston, recently arrived by rail. Troops from Virginia stood their ground under the leadership of Thomas Jackson, giving him the nickname “Stonewall,” and Union forces were subjected to an onslaught from Confederate forces, causing them to retreat.
In addition to being the first battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Bull Run taught members of the Union and Confederacy alike that this war was going to be a long, costly one. Individuals from both sides had traveled to the battle from surrounding areas to witness what they thought would be a quick and easy victory; instead, they witnessed a day-long struggle that left nearly 3,000 Union soldiers dead or wounded and nearly 2,000 Confederate soldiers in a similar state. The Civil War was going to be a war like none other before it, and the Battle of Bull Run set the stage appropriately.