Jan. 28, 2021

The First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas)

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In this episode of Walking History we talk about the First Battle of Bull Run, also known as the First Battle of Manassas, the first major battle of the Civil War. In one afternoon a nation was changed forever, and this landmark event features some of the most unbelievable and absurd stories in US history.

The First Battle of Bull Run, also known as the First Battle of Manassas, took place on July 21, 1861 near Manassas, Virginia, 25 miles west-southwest of Washington, DC. It was the first major battle of the Civil War, and took place three months after the first shots of the war were fired at Fort Sumter on April 12-13, 1861.


Want to jump ahead in this episode?

Summary of the Battle: 1:10

Interesting Facts: 3:20

Lead-up to the Battle: 7:48

Course of the Battle: 16:45

Visiting Today: 44:13

In the early days of the war the North had been pressuring President Lincoln for a swift, decisive victory over the South, so Union troops began their march from Washington, DC in mid-July towards Richmond, the Confederate capitol, just over 100 miles away. The first objective on their trip was to reach Manassas, Virginia, the site of an important railway junction, and capture it. The Confederacy, of course, would defend it at all costs.

Northern and Southern troops, each with just over 30,000 inexperienced men, many of whom had just enlisted weeks before, met each other near the Manassas Railroad Junction and next to a small river called Bull Run. It would become the largest battle in US history up to that time.

Initially, it appeared the Union had the upper hand and Confederate troops were on the run, but disorganized and poorly trained Union troops, combined with a stream of Confederate reinforcements, turned the tide of the battle, and by late afternoon the Union forces were sent fleeing from the battlefield in a rout back towards Washington DC.

The First Battle of Bull Run became a major victory for the Confederates and an embarrassingly defeat for the North, and afterwards both sides quickly began to increase the size of their armies, pour money, resources and training into the war effort and prepare for what increasingly seemed likely to become a long, bloody, protracted war.

Are you a fan of interesting facts? This battle gave Confederate commander "Stonewall" Jackson his famous nickname, and is home to two of the most unbelievable stories of the Civil War - and perhaps US history - jump ahead to the 3:20 mark to listen in and find out what happened!

In The Educator Podcast: Walking History series we explore the history around us by actually walking it. Curious to explore the battlefield yourself? This episode will tell you all about how and what you can expect if you visit this remarkably well-preserved battlefield today.


Useful Links:

The Battle of First Manassas (First Bull Run) - National Battlefield Park
The First Battle of Bull Run - American Battlefield Trust