At Big Bethel and Aquia Creek in Virginia, at Hoke’s Run and Philippi in what is now West Virginia, at Boonville and Carthage in Missouri, Americans began battling one another after the fall of Fort Sumter.
Casualties were light in most engagements. That changed in July 1861.
A Union army of more than 30,000 commanded by Gen. Irvin McDowell set out for Richmond, Va. The immediate target was a rail junction at Manassas, not far from Washington, D.C.
But Southern troops – 22,000 led by Fort Sumter hero Pierre Beauregard – blocked the fords at a creek called Bull Run. Riding to Beauregard’s aid was Gen. Joseph Johnston, with 10,000 more Confederates.
The battle opened July 21, and for a while it looked as if Union forces would make short work of the new Confederate States of America.
But a diversionary Union attack was discovered, Southern reinforcements arrived, and momentum swung to the South. What started as a Union retreat collapsed into a rout.
That day, two legends were born.
In an effort to rally his men, Southern Gen. Barnard Bee pointed to troops under the command of Thomas Jackson and said: “There stands Jackson like a stone wall.”
Historian James McPherson notes it may not have been a compliment. Some observers thought Bee was frustrated because Jackson had not come to his relief.
Whatever Bee’s motive, Jackson’s troops blocked a Union assault, and on Jackson’s order to “yell like furies,” they let loose a peculiar shouting scream that one Union veteran said sent a “corkscrew” sensation down his spine, notes McPherson.
From then on, Jackson owned a new first name: “Stonewall.” And the South had found its Rebel Yell.
The battle of First Manassas was a Confederate victory, but both sides were stunned by the number of casualties, which approached 5,000.
Men on both sides that day would play prominent roles in the war, including William Tecumseh Sherman, who would prove to have the same killer instincts that Jackson would demonstrate.
Sherman was as good a prophet as he was a warrior.
He had earlier warned a Southern friend that the Confederacy lacked resources to wage war, despite Southern spirit and determination: “The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make.”
The South might make headway initially, Sherman warned, but the North, with resources to match its resolve, made the outcome inevitable.
But not before, he predicted, “This country will be drenched in blood.”
Less than three months after Fort Sumter, Sherman's prediction was coming true. Quick Fact: Bull Run or Manassas?
Many battlefields bear two names because Southern and Northern troops called them different things. It was called Bull Run in the North, Manassas in the South; Pea Ridge in the North, Elkhorn Tavern in the South; Antietam in the North, Sharpsburg in the South. To the victor go the spoils, which is why the winner’s name is usually given top billing.