1999 Road Trip: Bull Run

There were actually two Battles of Bull Run; the First Battle of Bull Run occurred on July 21, 1861, and the Second Battle of Bull Run started on August 28, 1862 and ended on August 30, 1962. (Note that these battles are also sometimes called the First and Second Battles of Manassas after a nearby town.) The First Battle of Bull Run was the first real battle of the Civil War.

The Confederate leader in the First Bull Run was General Pierre G. T. Beauregard and the Union leader was General Irvin McDowell. Prior to this battle, most expected a short war. Soldiers on both sides were green and really did not know what to expect.

General McDowell had planned a decoy attack with a portion of his troops crossing Bull Run via the Stone Bridge while his main force crossed via the Sudley Springs Ford. It failed primarily due to the inexperience of the Union troops.

In the end, the Confederacy won the day and the Union forces retreated. The retreat was confused by various civilians who had shown up to watch the battle getting in the way, but the Confederates were too inexperienced to follow up on their advantage.

One little noteworthy fact is that Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson got his nickname of "Stonewall" during this battle as he and his line stood like a stone wall against the Federal attack.

The Second Battle of Bull Run occurred in almost exactly the same location as the first with some overlapping areas. The Confederate leader was General Robert E. Lee, and the Union leader was General John Pope.

Prior to the battle, Confederate General Stonewall Jackson and his troops had managed to seize General Pope's supply depot while Pope and his troops were away. When Gen. Pope returned, he immediately went off hunting for Gen. Jackson and his troop, who he assumed must be isolated.

Meanwhile Generals Lee and Longstreet were bringing in their respective troops to join up with Gen. Jackson. Knowing this, and realizing that Gen. Pope and his troop were isolated (the main Union forces were with General McClellan many miles away) he attacked Pope's troop from a strong defensive position.

Gen. Pope ordered many attacks against Gen. Jackson's forces, none with any lasting success. In the meanwhile, Confederate reinforcements arrived and quietly deployed themselves in a position flanking the Union troops.

Not knowing about the reinforcements and mistakingly thinking that Gen. Jackson's forces were reatreating, Gen. Pope ordered that his troops take pursuit. It of course did not take long for them to realize that no retreat had taken place, but Gen. Pope ordered an attack anyway.

When this attack failed, the flanking Confederate forces charged and nearly annihilated the Union troops. Desperate, heroic defenses by some of the Union soldiers managed to provide enough time for Gen. Pope's forces to retreat over the Stone Bridge and get away. This disasterous defeat opened the way for a Southern invasion attempt of the North.

Bull Run is not marked by as many monuments as either Gettysburg or Antietam, but one monument is of especial interest. It honors the sacrifice of Massachusetts native Fletcher Webster, eldest son of Daniel.