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Battle of Bull Run History and Facts for Kids


The battle of Bull Run was the first major battle in the American Civil War. It was fought on July 21, 1861, at Manassas Junction in Prince William County, Virginia. Confederate forces under the command of General Pierre Beauregard attacked a Union force led by General Irvin McDowell. The Confederates` objective was to draw out and isolate a portion of McDowell’s army to attack it in detail later with the main body of their army near Centreville.

First Battle of Bull Run

  • The First Battle of Bull Run, also known as First Manassas (the name used by Confederate forces), was fought on July 21, 1861, in Prince William County, Virginia, near Manassas.
  • It was the first major land battle of the American Civil War.
  • Just months after the start of the war at Fort Sumter, the Northern public clamored for a march against the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, which they expected to bring an early end to the rebellion.
  • Irvin McDowell led his unseasoned Union Army across Bull Run against the equally inexperienced Confederate Army of Brig.
  • McDowell’s ambitious plan for a surprise flank attack on the Confederate left was poorly executed by his officers and men; nevertheless, the Confederates, who had been planning to attack the Union left flank, found themselves at an initial disadvantage.
  • The Confederates launched a strong counterattack, and as the Union troops began withdrawing under fire, many panicked, and the retreat turned into a rout.
  • McDowell’s men frantically ran without order in the direction of Washington, D.C. Both armies were sobered by the fierce fighting and many casualties and realized the war would be much longer and bloodier than either had anticipated.
  • Once in this capacity, McDowell was harassed by impatient politicians and citizens in Washington, who wished to see a quick battlefield victory over the Confederate Army in northern Virginia.
  • On July 9 and July 16 of 1861, Greenhow passed secret messages to Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard containing critical information regarding military movements for the First Battle of Bull Run, including the plans of Union general McDowell.
  • He assumed that the Confederates would be forced to abandon Manassas Junction and fall back to the Rappahannock River, the next defensible line in Virginia, which would relieve some of the pressure on the U.S. capital.
  • At 5:15 a.m., Richardson’s brigade fired a few artillery rounds across Mitchell’s Ford on the Confederate right, some of which hit Beauregard’s headquarters in the Wilmer McLean house as he was eating breakfast, alerting him to the fact that his offensive battle plan had been preempted.
  • George Sykes collapsed the Confederate line shortly after 11:30 a.m., sending them in a disorderly retreat to Henry House Hill.
  • Prince William County is staging special events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War through 2011.

Second Battle of Bull Run

  • The Second Battle of Bull Run or Second Manassas was fought August 28–30, 1862, as part of the American Civil War.
  • It culminated in an offensive campaign waged by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia against Union Maj. John Pope’s Army of Virginia and a battle of much larger scale and numbers than the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas) fought in 1861 on the same ground.
  • Following a wide-ranging flanking march, Confederate Maj.
  • Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson captured the Union supply depot at Manassas Junction, threatening Pope’s line of communications with Washington, D.C.Withdrawing a few miles to the northwest, Jackson took up defensive positions on Stony Ridge.
  • James Longstreet broke through light Union resistance in the Battle of Thoroughfare Gap and approached the battlefield.
  • On August 29, Pope launched a series of assaults against Jackson’s position along with an unfinished railroad grade.
  • Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was organized into two “wings” or “commands,” totaling 55,000 men.
  • Pope’s mission was to fulfill two basic objectives: protect Washington and the Shenandoah Valley; and draw Confederate forces away from McClellan by moving in the direction of Gordonsville.
  • In the face of all these additional forces outnumbering him, Lee’s new plan was to send Jackson and Stuart with half of the army on a flanking march to cut Pope’s line of communication, the Orange & Alexandria Railroad.
  • During the night of August 27–28, Jackson marched his divisions north to the First Bull Run (Manassas) battlefield, where he took position behind an unfinished railroad grade below Stony Ridge.
  • The Second Battle of Bull Run began on August 28 as a Federal column, under Jackson’s observation just outside of Gainesville, near the farm of the John Brawner family, moved along the Warrenton Turnpike.
  • At about 6:30 p.m., Confederate artillery began shelling the portion of the column to their front, John Gibbon’s Black Hat Brigade (later to be named the Iron Brigade).
  • Jackson personally directing the actions of his regiments instead of passing orders to the division commander, Maj.
  • Although the unfinished railroad grade provided natural defensive positions in some places, the Confederates generally eschewed a static defense, absorbing the Union blows and following up with vigorous counterattacks.
  • Longstreet observed a movement of McDowell’s force away from his front; the I Corps was moving divisions to Henry House Hill to support Reynolds.