The American Civil War Overview


       With Virginia having cast its lot with the South, the Confederate capital was soon moved from Montgomery, Alabama to Richmond, Virginia. This put the two opposing capitals, Washington, D.C., and Richmond, only 100 miles apart. This small area in Maryland and Virginia between the two capitals would see some of the bloodiest fighting during the war.
       In the spring of 1861, Lincoln, seeing that his ninety-day volunteers' terms of enlistments would soon be expiring, placed Brigadier General Irvin McDowell at the head of the 30,000 men then in Washington and ordered an advance toward the Confederate capital. Although McDowell was unhappy with the untrained state of his troops, he proposed moving against Beauregard's concentration of about 22,000 Confederate troops near Manassas, Virginia. Delays in beginning the advance allowed Beauregard time to reinforce his position with some 9,000 troops under Brigadier General Joseph E. Johnston who had succeeded in giving a Federal "holding force" the slip, and moved his command by rail from the Shenandoah Valley to Manassas. On July 21, 1861, a hot, dusty, Sunday afternoon, these two amateur armies clashed across Bull Run Creek. Although McDowell's attack plan was initially successful, a stubborn stand by Thomas J. ("Stonewall") Jackson's brigade allowed Johnston's late arriving reinforcements to turn the tide for the Confederates. McDowell ordered a retreat, which soon became a rout. The inexperienced Confederates however, were in no shape to pursue the beaten Federals, and the Federal army, now more a disorganized mob, retreated back to Washington.

This Page last updated 11/22/03


CHAPTER III, The Western Theater: The Opening Moves