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Civil War Trust

Sesquicentennial Commemoration of the Battle of Bull Run to Include Reenactment - www.civilwar.org

The United States Civil War began in earnest with the attempted Union assault on the Confederate forces at Manassas Junction on July 21, 1861. The battle is known alternately as the Battle of Bull Run – in the North – or the Battle of First Manassas – in the South. Now, 150 years after the outbreak of the bloody war that tore that nearly split United States in half, several states are holding ceremonies and events to commemorate the sesquicentennial of war and specific battles, and Virginia is no exception, planning extensive events to observe the July anniversary.

The first battle of Bull Run came as the Northern public and President Lincoln were anxious for a quick and punishing defeat of the South as part of a march to the Confederate capital at Richmond. Brigadier General Irvin McDowell led roughly 30,000 men to Bull Run, just north of Manassas, where they met and were defeated by a slightly larger force commanded by Brig. Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard. Some 36,000 green troops were engaged in the two-day battle of confused orders that left just under 5,000 casualties.

Sesquicentennial activities in Manassas will center on recreating the battle. They will also include expert speakers on the legacy of the war and the meaning of this anniversary, as well as films, tours, and other living history presentations, but this simulation will be the main focus for many. Prince William County gained permission to use a farm area located next to the protected Manassas National Battlefield for the reenactment, meaning it will come very close to the real thing, with horses, replica weapons firing blanks, and a host of other details usually not possible in reenactments staged on state parks.

The battle’s reenactment for the Civil War 150th anniversary will feature roughly 14,000 men; organizers expect 50,000 visitors for the month of July – in 1861, many Washington families had taken the short trip south to observe the spectacle that they thought would result in a quick Union victory. As the routed Union troops streamed back to Washington leaving thousands dead on the battlefield, some began to grasp the nature of the war that had started. The events, reenactments, talks, and tours at Manassas will endeavor to bring onlookers to a similar moment of concrete realization about the Civil War and the battle of Bull run.

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