Events and battles
Fort Sumter to Manassas
Fortifications at Manassas
The firing on Fort Sumter in South Carolina in April 1861 began the Civil War.
Over the next several months, the armies were raised and the men were trained as both sides prepared for the conflict. There were three parts to each army: infantry (marching soldiers), cavalry (soldiers on horseback), and artillery (cannon units). The North had more men and resources than the South, but Confederates were fighting for their homes and freedom. Most people believed it would be a short war.
The Northern strategy was to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond, Va. The Union navy would also be used to blockade Southern ports, cutting off vital trade and supplies to Southern cities such as Savannah, Charleston, and New Orleans.
Finally, the Union wanted to capture and gain control of the Mississippi River to split the Confederacy in half. Because of its location in relation to the capitals, Virginia became an major battleground during the war.
On July 21, 1861, the armies would meet for the first major battle at Manassas, Va., 26 miles south of Washington, D.C.
A stream ran nearby the town called Bull Run Creek. Gen. Irvin McDowell led 30,000 Union troops against 21,000 Confederates under the command of Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard. Hundreds of onlookers traveled from Washington with their picnic baskets to watch the battle. The romantic idea of men marching off to battle with flags waving and drums pounding was about to be changed forever.
The battle began with a Union attack, which was successful at first, but was soon halted.
It was at this point that Gen. Thomas Jackson earned his nickname "Stonewall" for holding strong against the attack. Jackson played a major role in the battle as the Confederates pushed forward, and the Union army was driven from the field in utter confusion.
Many people were trampled as the Northern army fled back to Washington. This First Battle of Bull Run (as the North called it) or Manassas (the South's name) was a great victory for the Confederacy. This defeat for the Union shocked people in the North, while making the horrors of war a grim reality to all who were there. This war would not be over quickly.
Lincoln called for a million volunteers to serve for three years and placed Gen. George B. McClellan in charge of the Army of the Potomac, as it was now called.
The Confederacy savored its military victory and would wait for the Union army to attack again. Over the next few years, the Union and Confederacy would build the largest armies and fight the costliest battles ever witnessed on the North American continent.