Bull Run Battle Hero

Bull Run

First Manassas

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On July 16, 1861, the new Union volunteer army under Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell marched from Washington DC toward the Confederate army under Gen. Pierre G. T. Beauregard, drawn up behind Bull Run creek west of Centreville. Beauregard's men defended the strategic railroad junction at Manassas, just west of the creek.  On July 17th, McDowell sent a small force across Bull Run at Blackburn's Ford to test the Confederate defenses.  A brief skirmish ensured, with light casualties and little result.  McDowell made plans to attack the north or left end of Beauregard's line, while making a simultaneous demonstration where the Warrenton Turnpike crossed the creek at a stone bridge. Early on the 21st, two of McDowell's divisions crossed at Sudley Ford and attacked the Confederate left flank on Matthews Hill. Fighting raged throughout the morning as Confederate forces were driven back to Henry Hill and more Union brigades crossed Bull Run.  In the afternoon, Confederate reinforcements arrived via railroad from Gen. Joseph Johnston's army in the Shenandoah Valley, among them a brigade of Virginians under Gen. Thomas J. Jackson.  Jackson organized a defense of Henry Hill bolstered by artillery. McDowell also ordered more infantry and artillery to Henry Hill, where the fiercest fighting of the new war occurred. Additional Confederate reinforcements broke the Union right flank, and Jackson held his ground on Henry Hill "like a stone wall." Under counterattack and with no reinforcements, the Federals retreated, and, when pressed hard by the Confederates, rapidly deteriorated into a complete rout. The next day, the shattered Union army reached the safety of Washington and the first battle of the war was over.  The emboldened Confederates would fight on for nearly four more years.

Battle Facts

Result

Confederate Victory
COMMANDERS
Forces Engaged
60,680

Union

28,450

Confederate

32,230
Total Estimated Casualties
4,878

Union

2,896
460
killed
1,124
wounded
1,312
missing & captured

Confederate

1,982
387
killed
1,582
wounded
13
missing & captured