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general irvin mcdowellUnion General Irvin McDowell

general irvin mcdowellConfederate General Pierre G. T. Beauregard

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First Battle of Manassas or Bull Run

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Civil War 1.0

On July 18, 1861 General Irvin McDowell’s army reached Centreville. Five miles ahead a small meandering stream named Bull Run crossed the route of the Union advance, and there guarding the fords from Union Mills to the Stone Bridge waited 22,000 Confederate troops under the command of General Pierre G.T. Beauregard.

civil war photo of bull run creek

Did You Know?
The North generally named a battle after the closest river, stream or creek and the South tended to name battles after towns or railroad junctions. Hence the Confederate name Manassas after Manassas Junction and the Union name Bull Run for the stream Bull Run.

Bull Run, the stream running across the battlefield

McDowell first attempted to move toward the Confederate right flank, but his troops were stopped so he then spent the next two days scouting the Southern left flank. Realizing he was outnumbered, Beauregard asked the Confederate government in Richmond for help. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston had 10,000 Confederate troops in the Shenandoah Valley and was ordered to support Beauregard if possible.  Using the Manassas Gap Railroad, Johnson was able to slip away from an opposing Union army and arrived at Manassas, marching directly into battle that had already begun.

Link to download map of the First Battle of Manassas

civil war photo of destroyed stone bridgeAt 5:30 in the morning, July 21, the Union army began the battle with a diversionary attack where the Warrenton Turnpike crossed Bull Run at the Stone Bridge.  The main part of the army began a long march north towards Sudley Springs Ford. The plan depended on speed and surprise, which was difficult to do with inexperienced troops. Valuable time was lost as the men stumbled through the darkness along narrow roads. 

The Stone Bridge, after the First Battle of Manassas

Read more about the battle and learn how "Stonewall" Jackson got his name.

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Link to Civil War 2.0: Resources 4 Further Study

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