Note: The First Battle of Bull Run, also known as the First Battle of Manassas (the name used by Confederates), was fought on July 21, 1861, near the City of Manassas, Virginia. It was the first major land battle of the Civil War. Both sides believed they would have an easy victory and that the engagement would end the war. Through most of the battle it looked like the Union would be triumphant but Confederate reinforcements arrived by rail from the Shenandoah Valley and the inexperienced Union troops fled in panic. Among other things, the battle is famous for the civilians from Washington who went out to watch the fight as a form of entertainment- and ended up being entangled in the retreat, and for Thomas J. Jackson earning his nickname of "Stonewall" for the way he encouraged his troops to hold their ground.

Sobered by the violence and casualties of the battle, both sides realized that the war would potentially be much longer and bloodier than they had originally thought.

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From the Madison Daily Courier

July 22, 1861



Washington, (via Phil'a) July 22 - After the latest information was received from Centerville, at 7:30 last night, a series of events took place in the intensest(sp) degree disastrous. Many confused statements are prevalent, but enough is known to warrant the statement that we have suffered in a degree which has cast gloom over the remnants of the army, exciting the deepest melancholy throughout Washington. The carnage was tremendously heavy on both sides, and ours is represented as frightful.

We were advancing and taking their masked batteries gradually but surely, and by driving the enemy towards Manassas Junction, when the enemy seemed to have been reinforced by Gen. Johnston, who, it is understood, took command, and immediately commenced driving us back, when a panic among our troops suddenly occurred, and a regular stampede took place. It is thought General McDowell undertook to make a stand at or about Centerville but the panic was so fearful that the whole army became demoralized, and it was impossible to check them either at Centerville or Fairfax C.H., McDowell intended to make another stand at Fairfax C.H., but our forces being in full retreat could not accomplish the object. Beyond Fairfax the retreat was kept up until the men reached their regular encampments....

The city this morning is in most intense excitement, wagons are continually arriving bringing in the dead and wounded. The feeling is awfully distressing, both telegraph and steamboat communication with Alexandria is suspended to the public. The greatest alarm prevails throughout the city....

July 23, 1861

The news of the disaster to the Grand Army at Bull's Run, announced in the Courier yesterday, caused a deep gloom to come over the hearts of the loyal citizens. The faces of the few who sympathize with the traitors wore a more cheerful aspect....

The reverses might have been more calamitous. It is useless for us to speculate upon the cause of the disaster-sufficient for the present to know that our army has been beaten. The results of the defeat will be probably a prolongation of the war, an increase of the public expenditures, and a stiffening of the backs of the secessionists in Missouri, Kentucky and Maryland. The army will soon be on a war footing, and before Christmas we verily believe the rebels will be driven from State to State and into the Gulf of Mexico. We do not wish or intend to underrate the magnitude of the reverse, but we do not believe it is not irretrievable. Never in the history of the world has an army of 300,000 men been placed in the field in so short a time. Where so many officers had to be selected, it was impossible to avoid getting some incompetent ones.

Note: The "border" being referred to in the article below is Indiana's border with Kentucky, a slave state whose citizens were very divided between the Union and the Confederacy.



Research conducted by the Jefferson County Civil War Roundtable.