Term: Bull Run, First Battle of
Date(s): July 21, 1861
Location: Manassas, Virginia (Google Map)
Other name(s): Manassas I
Campaign: Manassas Campaign (July 1861)
Outcome: Confederate victory
The Battle of Bull Run was the first major engagement of the war. This embarassing Union defeat convinced many observers that the conflict would be longer and more brutal than they had anticipated.
After the war opened in April 1861, both sides recruited large armies to protect their capitals at Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Virginia. On July 16, 1861, the Union army began to march from Washington south toward Confederate forces. They encountered the Confederate enemy five days later at Bull Run, a creek near Manassas, Virginia.
On July 21, 1861, roughly 18,000 soldiers took the field for each side and fighting raged throughout the day. When Confederate reinforcements arrived, Union troops retreated in chaos back to Washington. It was at this battle that Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson earned the nickname “Stonewall.”
Bull Run's 3,461 casualties (1,969 Confederates were killed or wounded and 1,492 Union troops died) shocked observers. The next day President Lincoln called for 500,000 volunteers willing to serve for three years.
This battle should not be confused with the Second Battle of Bull Run fought in the same location on August 29-30, 1862.
The 2nd Wisconsin Infantry was the only Wisconsin regiment engaged at Bull Run. It made several unsuccessful assaults on the enemy position, losing 19 men with 114 wounded. Thirty-eight Wisconsin soldiers were taken prisoner and confined at Richmond. They were released early in 1862.
Read about Wisconsin's 2nd Wisconsin Infantry on pages 439-442 in E.B. Quiner’s “Military History of Wisconsin” (Madison: 1866).
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[Source: Report on the Nation’s Civil War Battlefields (Washington, 1993); Estabrook, C. Records and Sketches of Military Organizations (Madison, 1914); Love, W. Wisconsin in the War of the Rebellion (Madison, 1866).]