First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas)

Sunday, July 21, 1861

The First Battle of Bull Run. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The first major land battle of the Civil War results from public pressure on Union leaders to end the war quickly with an invasion of Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederate States of America. Brigadier General Irvin McDowell orders his army over the Bull Run stream near Manassas, Virginia, and engages Confederate Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard. The Confederates initially struggle in the battle, but reinforcements under Brigadier General Joseph E. Johnston arrive and turn the tide of the battle. View a video clip of historian Ethan S. Rafuse exploring the life of "Stonewall" Jackson at the Kansas City Public Library. A Confederate brigade under command of Colonel Thomas J. Jackson stands its ground against the Union onslaught, earning Jackson the sobriquet, "Stonewall Jackson," and allowing the Confederate reinforcements an opportunity to counterattack. The Confederates carry the day, and it becomes clearer to both sides that the war will not be resolved quickly or without significant bloodshed. Northerners remember the battle as the "First Battle of Bull Run," while Southerners refer to it as the "Battle of First Manassas." 


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