First Bull Run: The History of the Civil War’s First Major Battle

First Bull Run: The History of the Civil War’s First Major Battle

Narrated by:
Jim Walsh
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Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
April 2024
1 hour 14 minutes
After the Battle of Fort Sumter in April 1861 ignited the Civil War, many in the North expected a relatively quick victory, including President Abraham Lincoln. While that seems naïve in hindsight, given the knowledge that the war lasted over four years, these expectations seemed entirely realistic at the time due to the Union’s overwhelming economic advantages over the South. At the start of the war, the Union had a population of over 22 million, whereas the South had a population of 9 million, nearly 4 million of whom were slaves. Union states contained 90% of the manufacturing capacity of the country and 97% of the weapon manufacturing capacity. Union states also possessed over 70% of the total railroads in the pre-war United States at the start of the war, and the Union also controlled 80% of the shipbuilding capacity of the pre-war United States.

McDowell’s strategy during the First Battle of Bull Run was grand, and in many ways it was the forerunner of a tactic Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and James Longstreet executed brilliantly on nearly the same field during the Second Battle of Bull Run in August 1862. McDowell’s plan called for parts of his army to pin down General P.G.T. Beauregard’s Confederate soldiers in front while marching another wing of his army around the flank and into the enemy’s rear, rolling up the line. McDowell assumed the Confederates would be forced to abandon Manassas Junction and fall back to the next defensible line, the Rappahannock River. In July 1861, however, this proved far too difficult for his inexperienced troops to carry out effectively.

As the first major land battle of the Civil War, the First Battle of Bull Run made history in several ways. The two sides fought near the railroad junction at Manassas on July 21, 1861, just 25 miles away from Washington, which was close enough for many civilians from the nation’s capital to come and watch what they expected to be a rout of Confederate forces.
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