Through the spring of 1861, the northern press and public angrily prodded President Abraham
Lincoln and his government to launch the Union army into action. The Confederate forces were within a day's march of
the nation's capital.
In early July the president ordered Brigadier General Irvin McDowell to go
on the offensive. His army of about 35,000 men woefully ill-prepared and poorly trained for action. McDowell came
up with a plan. On July 16 and 17 the Union army would march westward from the Union army camps around Washington
D.C. and clear the Confederates fron their positions at Fairfax Courthouse and Centerville.
Opening movements were on July 21, 1861, the leading brigades of Colonels Ambrose
Burnside and Andrew Porter crossed Bull Run at Sudley Ford. The Confederate Brigades were cought badly out of position,
spread over a six-mile front
The Union brigades, after crossing at Sudley Ford turned southward. At Matthews
Hill a Confederate brigade under the command of Colonel Nathan G. Evans, with help from a battalion of Louisiana Tigers under
the command of Major C.R. Wheat, held the Federals at bay. The Confederates were reinforced by units of the Army of
the Shenandoah and stalled the Union army, that outnumbered the Confederates three to one, for almost two hours.
The Confederates were forces to withdraw back across the Warrenton Turnpike to Henrw House Hill. It was here at the
Warrenton Turnpike that General Jackson stood "Like a Stonewall."
The Federals moved against Henry House Hill. The Federals were doing great
until around 2:30 p.m., then the momentum shifted. Colonel Arthur Cummings led his 33rd Virginia against the Union Artillery
Batteries. They routed the U.S. Marines and the 11th New York.
The Union troops and supply wagons raced eastward along the roads leading to Centerville
and Washington in what became known as "THE GREAT SKEDADDLE".
Confederate Brigadier General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard ordered a pursuit, but his troops,too, were
tired, and the Union army - less 3,000 killed, wounded or captured - managed to straggle back to Washington over the next
The Confederates lost fewer men, perhaps 2,000, and gained a glorious victory
that put an end to Northern expectations of a short war.