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First Battle of Bull Run, VA (Manassas)

​Confederate Commander

Brig. Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard

Forces Engaged: 31,432

Killed: 387

Wounded: 1,582

Captured or Missing: 13

Total: 1,982

July 21, 1861

Prince William & Fairfax Counties, Virginia

Confederate Victory

Manassas Campaign (July 1861)

Also Called: First Bull Run

​Union Commander

Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell

Forces Engaged: 28,540

Killed: 460

Wounded: 1,124

Captured or Missing: 1,312

Total: 2,896

          Gen. Beauregard left Charleston, South Carolina stopping in Richmond on his way to Manassas Junction. Arriving in Manassas Junction on June 2nd and taking command of the Confederate Army of the Potomac (afterwards called 1st Corps). Beauregard found the “terrain was not only without natural defensives … was absolutely unfavorable”1

          However, there was a strategic value to the area, being just 25 miles from Washington and the surrounding countryside had an abundant supply of food. Beauregard ordered his commissary officers to procure food for the troops.2 By having spies in Washington, he was able to receive accurate information from inside Washington, as well as from personnel unaware of their actions. As Beauregard prepared for battle, he had several considerations, one of which was the enemy had superior numbers.

The army commanded by Brig. Gen. McDowell had old militia organizations, regular infantry and artillery of the highest class. The men were better equipped with better rifles. Staff members were well organized and had professional training.3 However, McDowell’s opinion of his own troops was quite the opposite. McDowell felt he had civilians, not soldiers. They were not used to marching, becoming footsore and weary.4

          Beauregard’s plan was to concentrate the Confederate forces of Gens. Johnston and Holmes at Manassas. With McDowell attacking, Beauregard was going to send his troops around the flank of the enemy and attack their rear. Beauregard’s intent was to defeat the enemy, liberate Maryland and capture Washington.5

          However, President Davis and his military advisors disagreed. They wanted Beauregard to pull back across the Rappahannock River, nearly 30 miles. By following President Davis’ suggestion it would have cut communications between the Army of the Shenandoah and the Army of the Potomac. It would also leave the Lower Shenandoah Valley in the hands of the enemy.6

          McDowell left Washington on July 16 with 3 days rations. Having sent Brig. Gen. Tyler ahead which encountered Brig. Gen. Longstreet’s Brigade at Blackburn’s Ford. Tyler’s orders were not to engage the enemy, but since he found the enemy, he decided to attack. While Longstreet was defeating Tyler, Johnston was preparing to move his troops to join Beauregard.7

After receiving word McDowell was ordered to march on Manassas, Beauregard again requested permission to activate his plan. He was given permission for Johnston join him. On the evening of July 18, Johnston started marching towards Manassas.

          July 18th was a Confederate victory at Blackburn’s Ford over Tyler. This caused McDowell to become more cautious. As McDowell delayed his attack, this allowed Johnston to move his troops into position. As Johnston arrive, Beauregard offered to let the senior officer command the battle. Johnston deferred to Beauregard as he had become familiar with the countryside and drafted the battle-plan.

          To prepare for battle, Beauregard placed Brig. Gen. Ewell’s 2nd Brigade on the extreme right at Union Mills Ford. He sent Brig. Gen. Jones’ 3rd Brigade upstream 2 miles to McLean’s Ford. Longstreet was one mile further upstream at Blackburn’s Ford with his 4th Brigade. Another mile upstream at Mitchell’s Ford was Brig. Gen. Bonham’s 1st Brigade. His brigade was extended another ¾ mile upstream. Extending from Bonham’s position was Col. Cocke’s 5th Brigade. It covered Island, Balls and Lewis Fords. It also extended 2 miles upstream to the mouth of Young’s Branch. Finally, was Col. Evans position with part of the 5th Brigade covering Stone Bridge.8

          As Johnston’s troops arrived, Beauregard placed the Brig. Gen. Bee’s Third Brigade and Col. Bartow’s 2nd Brigade behind McLean’s and Blackburn’s Fords. Brig. Gen. Jackson’s brigade was placed between Blackburn’s and Mitchell’s Fords.9

          McDowell placed Tyler’s division along Warrenton Road. Brig. Gen. Richardson’s division was 1 ½  miles southwest of Centreville. The remainder was encamped a short distance east of Centreville. Reserves were encamped between Centreville and Fairfax.10

          The Battle of First Manassas took place July 21st with a Confederate victory. McDowell had claimed victory several times during the day. However, he was beaten back each time until the Union Army retreated in a disorganized rout.

          A turn of the tide for the Confederacy was Jackson’s actions. Bee’s and Evans’ troops were retreating in front of McDowell’s advancing forces. Although Bee and Evans were trying to stop the fleeing troops, they were unable. It was only as the Bee’s troops were passing Jackson’s Brigade, was Bee able to stop the fleeing troops. Bee raced to his disorganized troops yelling, “Look! There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Rally behind the Virginians. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Follow me!”11 With the troops rallying around Jackson, Bee led his troops to Jackson’s left flank against the advancing army. It was during this charge when Bee was fatally wounded.

          During the battle, the Confederate Army had 1,982 in casualties. Nearly a fourth, 484, belonged to Jackson’s brigade.12 They fought bravely and courageously for Jackson. Until his death in 1863, he was Gen. Lee’s right arm and a great military strategist.

          After the battle, questions were asked why they did not follow the Union Army into Washington. Johnston’s reply was “It was simply impossible.” Due to the bureaucracy in Richmond, they had taken all the commissary stores Beauregard had gathered from the countryside leaving the army with few rations for a push on Washington. The other consideration was the lack of transportation. This was probably the last time the South had any chance to take Washington.13


1. G. T. Beauregard. The First Battle of Bull Run. Battles and Leaders of the Civil War: The Opening Battles. Eds. Robert Underwood Johnson and Clarence Clough Buel. (Secaucus, NJ: Castle Books, 1983.) 196

2. Ibid, 196

3. Ibid, 197

4. James B. Fry. McDowell’s Advance to Bull Run. Battles and Leaders of the Civil War: The Opening Battles. Eds. Robert Underwood Johnson and Clarence Clough Buel. (Secaucus, NJ: Castle Books, 1983.) 180

5. Beauregard, 198

6. Ibid, 198-199

7. John D. Imboden. Incidents of the First Bull Run. Battles and Leaders of the Civil War: The Opening Battles. Eds. Robert Underwood Johnson and Clarence Clough Buel. (Secaucus, NJ: Castle Books, 1983.) 230

8. Jed Hotchkiss. Virginia. Battles and Leaders of the Civil War: The Opening Battles. Eds. Robert Underwood Johnson and Clarence Clough Buel. (Secaucus, NJ: Castle Books, 1983.) 101

9. Ibid, 101

10. Ibid, 101

11. Ibid, 107

12. Ibid, 107

13. Imboden, 238 

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