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Brian F.


Q: What was the first major battle of the Civil War?


A:The first Battle of Manassas (Bull Run)


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Battle Map

1bullrunmap.jpg

The First Bull Run Battle map above is an original map, printed within days of the battle. It is a leaf from an original Harper's Weekly Civil War newspaper. The paper printed the map, and associated story on the battle. The map shows the troop locations, and relevant landmarks of the day. The map shows the locations of the Rebel Batteries, the Union troop positions, and the regions around Centerville, Mannassas Junction, Bull's Run Creek, Blackburn's Ford, and the Stone Bridge. The location of both Union and Confederate troops is clearly indicated, including those of Colonel Davies, General McDowell, Colonel Blenker, Colonel Miles, Colonel Hunter, General Tyler, and Colonel Richardson. Railroads in the area are also marked.

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THE FIRST MAJOR BATTLE

Soon after the first conflict between the authorities of the Federal Union and those of the Confederate States had occurred in Charleston Harbor, by the bombardment of Fort Sumter,-which, beginning at 4:30 A. M. on the 12th of April 1861, forced that surrender of that fortress within thirty hours thereafter into my hands, -I was called to Richmond, which by that time had become the Confederate seat of Government, and was directed to "assume command of the Confederate troops on the Alexandria line." Arriving at Manassas Junction, I took command on the 2d of June, forty-nine days after the evacuation of Fort Sumter.
Although the position at the time was strategically of commanding importance to the Confederates, the mere terrain was not only without natural defensive advantages, but, on the contrary, was absolutely unfavorable. Its strategic value was that, being close to the Federal capital, it held in observation the chief army then being assembled near Arlington by General McDowell, under the immediate eye of the commander-in-chief, General Scott, for an offensive movement against Richmond; and while it had a railway approach in its rear o the easy accumulation of reinforcements and all the necessary munitions of war from the southward, at the same time another (the Manassas Gap) railway, diverging laterally to the left from that point, gave rapid communications with the fertile valley of the Shenandoah, then teeming with live stock and cereal subsistence, as well as with other resources essential to the Confederates. There was this further value in the position to the Confederate army: that during the period of a accumulation, seasoning, and training, it might be fed from the fat fields, pastures, and garners of Loudoun, Fauquier, and the Lower Shenandoah Valley counties, which otherwise must have fallen into the hands of the enemy. But on the other hand, Bull Run a petty steam, was of little or no defensive strength; for it abounded in fords, and although for the most part its banks were rocky and abrupt, the side from which it would be approached offensively in most places commanded the opposite ground.
At the time of my arrival at Manassas, a Confederate army under General Joseph E. Johnston was in occupation of the Lower Shenandoah Valley, along the line of the Upper Potomac, chiefly at Harper's Ferry, which was regarded as the gateway of the valley and of one of the possible approaches to Richmond; a position from which he was speedily forced to retire, however, by a flank movement of a Federal army, under the veteran General Patterson, thrown across the Potomac at or about Martinsburg. On my other or right flank, so to speak, a Confederate force of some 2500 men under General Holmes occupied the position of Aquia Creek on the lower Potomac, upon the line of approach to Richmond from that direction through Fredericksburg. The other approach, that by way of the James by Confederate troops under Generals Huger and Magruder. Establishing small outposts at Leesburg to observe the crossing of the Potomac in that quarter, and at Fairfax Court House in observation of Arlington, with other detachments in advance of Manassas toward Alexandria on the south side of the railroad, from the very outset I was anxiously aware that the sole military advantage at the moment to the Confederates was that of holding the interior lines. On the Federal or hostile side were all material advantages, including superior numbers, largely drawn from the old militia organizations of the great cities of the North, decidedly better armed and equipped than the troops under me, and strengthened by a small but incomparable body of regular infantry as well as a number of batteries of regular field artillery of the highest class, and a very large and thoroughly organized staff corps, besides a numerous body of professionally educated officers in command of volunteer regiments, **- all precious military elements at such a juncture.
Bull Run, FIRST BATTLE OF: The gathering of Confederate troops at MANASSAS JUNCTION required prompt and vigorous movements for the defense of Washington, D. C. Beauregard was there with the main Confederate army, and Gen. J. E. Johnston was at Winchester, in the Shenandoah Valley, with a large body of troops, with which he might reinforce the former. Gen. Robert Patterson was at Martinsburg with 18,000 Nationals to keep Johnston at Winchester.

http://www.cr.nps.gov/hps/abpp/Battles/va005.htm