First Battle of Bull Run

1861 first major land battle of the American Civil War

The First Battle of Bull Run was the first large battle of the American Civil War. It was fought on July 21, 1861. The battle took place near a stream called Bull Run. The battle actually has two names: the First Battle of Bull Run and First Battle of Manassas.[a]

First Battle of Bull Run
Part of the American Civil War
DateJuly 21, 1861
Fairfax County and Prince William County, Virginia
Result Confederate Victory
United States United States (Union) Confederate States of America Confederacy
Commanders and leaders
Irvin McDowell Joseph E. Johnston
P.G.T. Beauregard
Casualties and losses
2,896 1,982



Union general Irvin McDowell was put in command of the Union army in northeastern Virginia.[3] Many people in the North wanted him to attack to Confederate capital city of Richmond, Virginia. McDowell didn't think his soldiers were ready to fight but Union president Abraham Lincoln wanted him to march south into Virginia anyway.[4]

The Confederates had an army nearby, which was commanded by P.G.T. Beauregard. After McDowell's army started marching towards Beauregard's army, Joseph E. Johnston came to Manassas Junction with his army from the Shenandoah Valley. Johnston was in command of the entire Confederate army and Beauregard was his second-in-command.

The Battle


The battle started early in the morning on July 21st. McDowell started marching part of his army around the left end of the Confederate army. The two armies started shooting at each other about 6 a.m. near Matthews Hill. The Confederates did not expect the Union army to attack but they moved brigades to their left flank.

McDowell made the Confederates leave Matthews Hill about 11 a.m. The Confederates retreated back to another hill called Henry House Hill. On the hill was Thomas J. Jackson's brigade. Another Confederate general was trying to regroup his men. He said, "There stands Jackson standing like a stonewall". After the battle Jackson would be called "Stonewall".

The Union army made many attacks on the Confederate line on Henry House Hill. All of the attacks failed. In the afternoon the Confederates made an attack of their own. This drove the Union army back towards Washington, D.C. The Confederates were too tired to march after the Union army.



The Union army had 2,896 casualties.[b] McDowell was blamed for the Union defeat.[6] He was replaced by George B. McClellan.[7] The Confederates had 1,982 casualties.[b] Even though Johnston was in charge of the Confederate army, Beauregard became famous after the battle.[8]

  1. Many Civil War battles have two names.[1] Federal sources named battles after the nearest creek or river.[1] Confederates named a battle after the nearest town.[1] For example, the first and second battles of Bull Run, also known as Manassas, were named for Bull Run Creek, near the town of Manassas, Virginia.[2]
  2. 2.0 2.1 All American Civil War casualty numbers are approximate, no matter what the source.[5] Three types of documents were used to estimate casualties. These were: enlistment rolls, muster rolls and casualty lists.[5] Aside from spelling and other errors, many of these were subjected to the weather, lost or damaged.[5] Many Confederate records were destroyed by the end of the war leaving Union numbers the more accurate of the two estimates.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Shon Powers, A Buff Looks at the American Civil War (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2011), p. 501
  2. "Remembering the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas)". History in the Headlines. A&E Television Networks, LLC. 21 July 2011. Retrieved 29 June 2016.
  3. Gottfried, p. 2.
  4. Davis, pp. 73, 90.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 "Civil War Casualties". Civil War Trust. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  6. Davis, pp. 253, 255.
  7. Gottfried, p. 76.
  8. Davis, pp. 245, 248.

Other reading

  • Davis, William C. Battle at Bull Run: A History of the First Major Campaign of the Civil War. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1977.
  • Gottfried, Bradley M. The Maps of First Bull Run: An Atlas of the First Bull Run (Manassas) Campaign, including the Battle of Ball's Bluff, June – October 1861. New York: Savas Beatie, 2009. ISBN 978-1-932714-60-9.0

Other websites