21 July 2011 by Published in: General News 11 comments

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention that today is a very important anniversary. 150 years ago today, the First Battle of Bull Run was fought. On July 21, 1861, the inexperienced armies of Irvin McDowell, Joseph Johnston, and P.G.T. Beauregard clashed near Manassas, Virginia, and the bloody results of that violent clash opened a lot of eyes. Suddenly, it became clear that this rebellion would not be over in 90 days, and that if the Federal government wanted to prevail, a LOT of blood would have to be shed to do so. In many ways, America lost its innocence that day.

For lots of reasons, I’ve never found the battle especially compelling, but that does not make it any less important. The sesquicentennial of that pivotal engagement is most assuredly worth commemorating, and I want to invite you, my readers, to leave comments here as to why you think that First Bull Run is worthy of commemorating.

For those interested in more on this battle, I highly recommend spending the five or six minutes that it takes to watch this excellent presentation (which features the superb maps of cartographer Steve Stanley) put together by the Civil War Trust.

I also commend to you Harry Smeltzer’s excellent blog, Bull Runnings, which is devoted primarily to Harry’s many years of study of First Bull Run.

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  1. Thu 21st Jul 2011 at 2:53 pm

    I, for one, am going to celebrate by taking the carriage out to watch the battle from the hillside whilst picnicking. What could go wrong?

  2. Thu 21st Jul 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Works for me, Scott. 🙂

  3. Chris Shelton
    Thu 21st Jul 2011 at 3:46 pm

    To answer your request, I would first say it’s worth commemorating because simply because it was the first major battle of the war and, as you stated, revealed that it wasn’t going to be a short rebellion/war.

    There are many arguments as to what really started the war and 1st Bull Run doesn’t happen without a series of events occurring first, but I’d say it wasn’t just important because it was the 1st major battle. It was more important, imo, for the Confederates to win than it was for the Union. Could a Union victory have further shown the futility of the rebels’ cause? The odds were stacked against them from day one.

    Not only that, but look at the cast of characters in this battle who would go on to reach greater heights (or infamy): On the Confederate side, Thomas Jackson earned his nom de gerre, Beauregard was there, Johnston, Ewell, Stuart, Longstreet, Early.
    Union side: Sherman, Burnside, Richardson, Howard, etc.

    Think of the potential matchups. How would Sherman have handled Jackson during Jackson’s Valley Campaign? Would Beauregard have faired any better than Johnston during Sherman’s march to the sea?

  4. Colonel Todd
    Thu 21st Jul 2011 at 5:12 pm

    You stated in your opening comments why it should be commenerated….. it demestrated the war would not be over in 90 days, that this was real war, and it would be long and bloody……

  5. David R. Shaw
    Thu 21st Jul 2011 at 11:56 pm

    Hi, Eric,

    I agree. I’ve never been able to get fired up about Manassas (either one). My fascination has always been with the Western Theater, in particular Shiloh (as you well know). Has it really been 18 years since we walked that field together?

    Dave Shaw

  6. Mon 25th Jul 2011 at 12:11 am

    As a life-longstudent of the war I couldn’t help but think of the anniversary of the First Great battle of the war at Manassas. The reenactment unit I hung with for many years commemorates the 2nd Tenn, who arrived on the field that momentous day as the battle was winding up. They stll painted the battle honor on their flag! Twenty-five years ago we journeyed to VA and pitched in with a number of other units to re-create the 7th LA-with one-hundred and sixty of us wearing the same uniforms(unusual for Johnnies-French havelocks, gaiters, Pelican buckles, etc.) marching behind a real brass band and mounted field officers and color guard-a tremendous experience! We marched into the COnfed camp to the strains of the “Marseillse” as the men rushed out of their tents to applaud and cheer. I am a descendant of a Confederate cavalryman who was captured with Morgan in Ohio in ’63.Come visit my blog indicated above.

  7. Matt Borders
    Tue 26th Jul 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Beyond the earlier comments stated regarding the end of the short/easy struggle idea, I believe an even greater significance for the Bull Run battlefields can be found when looking at these sights through the lens of historic preservation. While a portion of the Bull Run battlefield was protect by the NPS, it was the very public fight between Anne Snyder and her allies in the National Register against Til Hazel and Prince William County that brought the idea of land preservation to light. This fight ended with an Act of Congress that cost the Federal government 138 Million to preserve a tract of land that had been outside the boundaries of the National Battlefield. This tract made up much of the current Second Bull Run battlefield landscape that is preserved at Manassas. This expensive land taking set the wheels in motion for the establishment of the National Park Service’s Civil War Sites Advisory Commission and the American Battlefield Protection Program. These programs, along with their partners in the private sector such as CWT, Georgia Battlefields and the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation (just to name a few), have been able to establish land conservation, and battlefield preservation specifically, as a national movement in part due to the “3rd Battle of Manassas”.

  8. Ben
    Thu 04th Aug 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Greetings all. Just stumbled onto here looking for hardtack recipes. I teach SC history. I amtrying to make history come alive for my students. My gggdad was in 3rd Reg SC Volunteers. I am looking for items that can be photographed and pictures from this war that are more personable in nature. It would be great if there was a story attached. I would like to share with my students.

  9. Ben
    Thu 04th Aug 2011 at 10:22 pm

    Was just in Manassas 2 weeks ago on my way to Mt. Vernnon. It was exciting for me walking through 2 eras of American history all in one day. the crucible of adversity distilled our forefathers and made them ready for the challanges that the times thrust on them. 1st Bull Run showed both sides that it was going to take grit and not huburis to settle the issue.

  10. guy valachovic
    Tue 09th Aug 2011 at 6:12 am

    Why? That’s an interesting question. I guess it’s all of the questions going into the fight that were answered that makes this battle of great interest and importance to me. I believe that in order to appreciate this battle, we must wipe our minds totally clean of what we know of the following years to truly appreciate it as it deserves.

    Did these men really believe it could come to this? How many were really mentally ready for what they were about to take part in? Did they know what they were really getting into?

    How would armies with a great majority of militia and relatively few (ex)regulars perform? Would they respond to the call in the same manner as militia from 1775-83?

    As far as cause vs. cause goes, the main driving force of an army, restoration vs. independence, which would stir the strongest resolve? Which would ultimately drive more men to stand against what faces them?

    Would home field advantage play a roll?

    All of these questions would be answered and hold true for many battle to come.

  11. Mon 15th Aug 2011 at 4:38 pm

    I work in Manassas at American Public University, actually right down the road from where this renactment took place. There is a lot of history in this area, and even more out west. Coming up on Wednesday, August 17 we’ll be hosting a special webcast, no cost to attend, that will explore Jefferson County (WV) at the Outset of the Civil War.


    Did you know there were 77 Civil War sites in Jefferson County? These sites included the surrender of 12,500 Union troops to Stonewall Jackson’s forces in September 1862 at Bolivar Heights. The guest speaker for the event is Dennis E. Frye. He was a co-producer for the movie Gods and Generals, and is currently the Chief Historian at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Take a late lunch break this Wednesday at 1pm and sit in on this special live webcast.

    You can register for the event here: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/896622802.

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