This Day In History: July 21 1861 The First Battle of Bull Run

Greetings and salutations brilliant beautiful book and history enthusiasts! Today in History July 21st, 1861 The First Battle of Bull Run began. It was the first major land battle of the American Civil War and a rude awakening for Union forces.

Three months after the events at Fort Sumter, which marked the beginning of the American Civil War, the North led a 34,000 man army south into Virginia under the command of General McDowell. The plan was to crush Southern resistance with a tremendous show of force, hopefully stopping the rebellion in its early stages. If Virginia could be subdued, it may have shattered the Southern states’ collective will to resist. After all, the North had the overwhelming superiority in terms of industry, munitions and capital.  No one really knew what to expect and civilians lined up to watch the battle unfold.

The battle began as the Union forces crossed the small stream of Bull Run, driving back the southern flanks. However the rebel forces under the command of  General Thomas J. Jackson fell back to strong defensive positions and proceeded to repulse attack after attack from the Union army, earning Jackson the nickname “Stonewall”. Jackson would go on to be the most celebrated Confederate commander in the war. As McDowell’s advance stalled, his ranks began to falter, and when the Southern forces charged downhill in a daring counterattack, the Union lines broke and a retreat was called. The retreat quickly became an unorganized rout and saw a large loss of supplies and material by the Union army.

By the end of the day over 5000 casualties littered the battle field. It was an inglorious start to the war for the North, and gave the South a tremendous moral boost. Bull Run fiercely dispelled any illusions that may have existed that the Southern Rebellion could be speedily crushed with little loss of life and treasure.  It was one of the first of many instances where Northern generals left much to be desired and showed that the South was not going to back down easily.

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