The first major battle of the Civil War was fought in Virginia, near the Manassas, Virginia railway junction. The battle is called First Bull Run, named after the flowing stream on the battlefield. By Civil War standards, the armies of this battle were rather small. The Federal forces under Brigadier General Irvin McDowell were organized into four divisions of about 30,000 men. The Confederate Army of the Potomac was under the command of Brigadier General Pierre G. T. Beauregard, and the Army of the Shenandoah was commanded by Brigadier General Joseph E. Johnston. These two forces would equal McDowell’s strength.
Each commander planned to initiate an attack on the other side with a feint attack on the enemy’s right flank and a massed attack on the opposite flank. As it turned out, the general least successful in initiating this movement was the winner. McDowell had planned to use Tyler’s division as the diversionary attack at the Stone Bridge, while Davies’ brigade did the same at Blackburn’s Ford. At the same time, Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions would cross Bull Run at Sudley Springs and attack from the north.
McDowell’s green troops involved in the flanking column, reached their jumping off positions two and a half hours behind schedule. Tyler’s and Davies’ attacks at the Stone Bridge and Blackburn’s Ford were already well under way, and the Confederate high command was beginning to sense a ruse because the Union attacks were not pressed very hard. When Beauregard was notified that Federal troops were massing on his left flank, he realized that this must be the main attack so began to shift his own troop dispositions.
This attack caved-in the Federal right and what began as a fairly orderly retreat turned into a disorganized attempt. The equally tired and inexperienced Confederates however, were in no shape to conduct an effective pursuit, so the battle ended. The Federals lost about 3,000 casualties and the Confederates suffered about 2,000.