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Bull Run, First Battle of | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Bull Run, First Battle of

Civil War Battle Summary

Bull Run, First Battle of | Wisconsin Historical Society
EnlargeSteel engraving of the first major battle of the Civil War, fought in Virginia, near the Manassas, Virginia, railway junction,

First Battle of Bull Run, 1861.

 This steel engraving depicts the the first major battle of the Civil War, fought in Virginia, near the Manassas, Virginia, railway junction. The name  Bull Run, refers to the stream flowing through the battlefield. View the original source document: WHI 46700

EnlargeThis pen and ink drawing of the First Battle of Bull Run, JuIy 21st, 1861, was made by Charles K. Dean, adjutant with the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry.

Bull Run Topographical Sketch, 1861.

This pen and ink drawing of the First Battle of Bull Run, JuIy 21st, 1861, was made by Charles K. Dean, adjutant with the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry. Thirty-eight Wisconsin soldiers, including Dean, were taken prisoner and confined at Richmond. They were released early in 1862. View the original source document: WHI 90772

Date(s): July 21, 1861

Location: Manassas, Virginia (Google Map)

Other name(s): Manassas I

Campaign: Manassas Campaign (July 1861)

Outcome: Confederate victory

Summary

The Battle of Bull Run was the first major engagement of the Civil War. This embarassing Union defeat convinced many observers that the conflict would last 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 and 1,492 Union were killed or wounded) shocked observers. The next day President Lincoln called for 500,000 volunteers willing to serve the Union army 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.

Wisconsin's Role

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.

Links to Learn more

[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).]