How did the Battle of Bull Run affect the Civil War?

The Bull Run Battlefield

The Battle of Bull Run, also known as the The Battle of Manassas, was the first major land battle of the Civil War. It took place near the town of Manassas in northeast Virginia. The battle was given the name Bull Run by the Union Army who named it after Bull Run Creek, which ran through the battlefield. The Confederate Army named the battle after the nearby village of Manassas. The battle began on July 21, 1861, shortly after the Confederates took control of Fort Sumter to commence the Civil War.

After the fall of Fort Sumter in April, the northerners found themselves in the middle of the war. Shortly after that event, President Abraham Lincoln called for military regiments to join the Union Army for three months service to help defend the federal capital. When July came, citizens wanted to see the Union take out the Confederate forces in a quick battle. They began pressing President Lincoln to take action crying “On to Richmond!” which was now the capital of the Confederacy. Lincoln appointed Brig. General Irvin McDowell to command forces in Virginia. The Union soldiers at that time were inexperienced and poorly trained. Despite the fact that soldiers were not very well trained, General McDowell led around 28,000 Union soldiers towards Centreville, Virginia, close to Bull Run Creek. They arrived in Centreville on July 18 where they planned to advance on the Confederate Army.
Gen. Irvin McDowell

Commander of the Confederate soldiers, General P.G.T. Beauregard had led around 18,000 soldiers, who were also inexperienced, from Richmond to Manassas, Virginia. There he chose to defend Bull Run and stationed his soldiers there. When Beauregard heard news that the Union was planning to advance he told Jefferson Davis who sent General Joseph E. Johnston and his soldiers to join Beauregard at Bull Run. General Johnston’s last brigade arrived on the day that the battle started. The Confederate army now had roughly 31,000 soldiers as apposed to the 28,000 soldiers the Union Army had.
Map of Bull Run

On the morning of July 21, General McDowell began his advance on the Confederate Army. McDowell and his army crossed Bull Run and began their attack to the left of where Beauregard and his men were. McDowell was successful at first. The Confederates were beginning to lose ground and were close to being defeated. However, General Thomas Jonathan Jackson, commander of the brigade, did not think of retreating. He stood his ground until reinforcements could arrive to help. This was the battle that earned General Jackson the nickname is most commonly known as “Stonewall.” Later in the afternoon, the Confederate Army pushed McDowell back across Bull Run. The Union began to retreat back on the same route they advanced on and also headed east toward the stone bridge that crossed Bull Run Creek.

Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard
l Beauregard and the Confederate Army succeeded and came out with the shocking victory. In the end, the Union had 460 killed, 1,124 wounded and 1,312 missing. The Confederates lost 387, 1,582 wounded, and 13 missing soldiers. It has been said that if it was not for the inexperience and poor training of the soldiers, that Beauregard and the Confederate Army may have advanced to the Union capital in Washington. With the Union taking a huge loss, it made President Lincoln and both northerners and southerners aware that the war was going to last much long than either side had previously expected. The outcome of this battle greatly affected how the Civil War would result. It turned the war into a constant battle that would take a long time to complete.

Gabriel, Ralph H. "Bull Run, First Battle of." Encyclopedia Americana. 2008. Grolier Online. 7 Mar. 2008 <>.
Johnston, R. M.. "The Battle of 1st Manassas ." Civil War Home. 4 Mar 2008 <>.


Bull Run Batllefield