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First Manassas (First Bull Run)

On a warm July day in 1861, two armies of a divided nation clashed for the first time on the fields overlooking Bull Run. Their ranks were filled with enthusiastic young volunteers in colorful new uniforms, gathered together from every part of the country. Confident that their foes would run at the first shot, the raw recruits were thankful that they would not miss the only battle of what surely would be a short war. But any thought of colorful pageantry was suddenly lost in the smoke, din, dirt, and death of battle. Soldiers on both sides were stunned by the violence and destruction they encountered. At day's end nearly 900 young men lay lifeless on the fields of Matthews Hill, Henry Hill, and Chinn Ridge. Ten hours of heavy fighting swept away any notion the war's outcome would be decided quickly.

Cheers rang through the streets of Washington on July 16, 1861, as Gen. Irvin McDowell's army, 35,000 strong, marched out to begin the long-awaited campaign to capture Richmond and end the war. It was an army of green recruits, few of whom had the faintest idea of the magnitude of the task facing them. But their swaggering gait showed that none doubted the outcome. As excitement spread, many citizens and congressmen with wine and picnic baskets followed the army into the field to watch what all expected would be a colorful show.

These troops were 90-day volunteers summoned by President Abraham Lincoln after the startling news of Fort Sumter burst over the nation in April 1861. Called from shops and farms, they had little knowledge of what war would mean. The first day's march covered only five miles, as many straggled to pick blackberries or fill canteens.

McDowell's lumbering columns were headed for the vital railroad junction at Manassas. Here the Orange and Alexandria Railroad met the Manassas Gap Railroad, which led west to the Shenandoah Valley. If McDowell could seize this junction, he would stand astride the best overland approach to the Confederate capital.

On July 18 McDowell's army reached Centreville. Five miles ahead a small meandering stream named Bull Run crossed the route of the Union advance, and there guarding the fords from Union Mills to the Stone Bridge waited 22,000 Southern troops under the command of Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard. McDowell first attempted to move toward the Confederate right flank, but his troops were checked at Blackburn's Ford. He then spent the next two days scouting the Southern left flank. In the meantime, Beauregard asked the Confederate government at Richmond for help. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, stationed in the Shenandoah Valley with 10,000 Confederate troops, was ordered to support Beauregard if possible. Johnston gave an opposing Union force the slip and, employing the Manassas Gap Railroad, started his brigades toward Manassas Junction. Most of Johnston's troops arrived at the junction on July 20 and 21, some marching from the trains directly into battle.

On the morning of July 21, McDowell sent his attack columns in a long march north toward Sudley Springs Ford. This route took the Federals around the Confederate left. To distract the Southerners, McDowell ordered a diversionary attack where the Warrenton Turnpike crossed Bull Run at the Stone Bridge. At 5:30 am the deep-throated roar of a 30-pounder Parrott rifle shattered the morning calm, and signaled the start of battle.

McDowell's new plan depended on speed and surprise, both difficult with inexperienced troops. Valuable time was lost as the men stumbled through the darkness along narrow roads. Confederate Col. Nathan Evans, commanding at the Stone Bridge, soon realized that the attack on his front was only a diversion. Leaving a small force to hold the bridge, Evans rushed the remainder of his command to Matthews Hill in time to check McDowell's lead unit. But Evans' force was too small to hold back the Federals for long.

Soon brigades under Barnard Bee and Francis Bartow marched to Evans' assistance. But even with these reinforcements, the thin gray line collapsed and Southerners fled in disorder toward Henry Hill. Attempting to rally his men, Bee used Gen. Thomas J. Jackson's newly arrived brigade as an anchor. Pointing to Jackson, Bee shouted, "There stands Jackson like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians!" Generals Johnston and Beauregard then arrived on Henry Hill, where they assisted in rallying shattered brigades and redeploying fresh units that were marching to the point of danger.

About noon, the Federals stopped their advance to reorganize for a new attack. The lull lasted for about an hour, giving the Confederates enough time to reform their lines. Then the fighting resumed, each side trying to force the other off Henry Hill. The battle continued until just after 4 pm, when fresh Southern units crashed into the Union right flank on Chinn Ridge, causing McDowell's tired and discouraged soldiers to withdraw.

At first the withdrawal was orderly. Screened by the regulars, the three-month volunteers retired across Bull Run, where they found the road to Washington jammed with the carriages of congressmen and others who had driven out to Centreville to watch the fight. Panic now seized many of the soldiers and the retreat became a rout. The Confederates, though bolstered by the arrival of President Jefferson Davis on the field just as the battle was ending, were too disorganized to follow up their success. Daybreak on July 22 found the defeated Union army back behind the bristling defenses of Washington.

Second Manassas (Second Bull Run)

In August 1862, Union and Confederate armies converged for a second time on the plains of Manassas. The naive enthusiasm that preceded the earlier encounter was gone. War was not the holiday outing or grand adventure envisioned by the young recruits of 1861. The contending forces, now made up of seasoned veterans, knew well the realities of war. The Battle of Second Manassas, covering three days, produced far greater carnage—3,300 killed—and brought the Confederacy to the height of its power. Still the battle did not weaken Northern resolve. The war's final outcome was yet unknown, and it would be left to other battles to decide whether the sacrifice at Manassas was part of the high price of Southern independence, or the cost of one country again united under the national standard.

After the Union defeat at Manassas in July 1861, Gen. George B. McClellan took command of the Federal forces in and around Washington and organized them into a formidable fighting machine—the Army of the Potomac. In March 1862, leaving a strong force to cover the capital, McClellan shifted his army by water to Fort Monroe on the tip of the York-James peninsula, only 100 miles southeast of Richmond. Early in April he advanced toward the Confederate capitai.

Anticipating such a move, the Southerners abandoned the Manassas area and marched to meet the Federals. By the end of May, McClellan's troops were within sight of Richmond. Here Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's Confederate army assailed the Federals in the bloody but inconclusive Battle of Seven Pines. Johnston was wounded, and President Davis placed Gen. Robert E. Lee in command. Seizing the offensive, Lee sent his force (now called the Army of Northern Virginia) across the Chickahominy River and, in a series of savage battles, pushed McClellan back from the edge of Richmond to a position on the James River.

At the same time, the scattered Federal forces in northern Virginia were organized into the Army of Virginia under the command of Gen. John Pope, who arrived with a reputation freshly won in the war's western theater. Gambling that McClellan would cause no further trouble around Richmond, Lee sent Stonewall Jackson's corps northward to "suppress" Pope. Jackson clashed indecisively with part of Pope's troops at Cedar Mountain on August 9. Meanwhile, learning that the Army of the Potomac was withdrawing by water to join Pope, Lee marched with Gen. James Longstreet's corps to bolster Jackson. On the Rapidan, Pope successfully blocked Lee's attempts to gain a tactical advantage, and then withdrew his men north of the Rappahannock River. Lee knew that if he was to defeat Pope he would have to strike before McClellan's army arrived in northern Virginia. On August 25 Lee boldly started Jackson's corps on a march of over 50 miles, around the Union right flank to strike aT Pope's rear.

Two days later, Jackson's veterans seized Pope's supply depot at Manassas Junction. After a day of wild feasting, Jackson burned the Federal supplies and moved to a position in the woods at Groveton near the old Manassas battlefield.

Pope, stung by the attack on his supply base, abandoned the line of the Rappahannock and headed toward Manassas to "bag" Jackson. At the same time, Lee was moving northward with Longstreet's corps to reunite his army. On the afternoon of August 28, to prevent the Federal commander's efforts to concentrate at Centreville and bring Pope to battle, Jackson ordered his troops to attack a Union column as it marched past on the Warrenton Turnpike. This savage fight at Brawner's Farm lasted until dark.

Convinced that Jackson was isolated, Pope ordered his columns to converge on Groveton. He was sure that he could destroy Jackson before Lee and Longstreet could intervene. On the 29th Pope's army found Jackson's men posted along an unfinished railroad grade, north of the turnpike. All afternoon, in a series of uncoordinated attacks. Pope hurled his men against the Confederate position. In several places the northerners momentarily breached Jackson's line, but each time were forced back. During the afternoon, Longstreet's troops arrived on the battlefield and, unknown to Pope, deployed on Jackson's right, overlapping the exposed Union left. Lee urged Longstreet to attack, but "Old Pete" demurred. The time was just not right, he said.

The morning of August 30 passed quietly. Just before noon, erroneously concluding the Confederates were retreating, Pope ordered his army forward in "pursuit." The pursuit, however, was short-lived. Pope found that Lee had gone nowhere. Amazingly, Pope ordered yet another attack against Jackson's line. Fitz-John Porter's corps, along with part of McDowell's, struck Starke's division at the unfinished railroad's "Deep Cut." The southerners held firm, and Porter's column was hurled back in a bloody repulse.

Seeing the Union lines in disarray, Longstreet pushed his massive columns forward and staggered the Union left. Pope's army was faced with annihilation. Only a heroic stand by northern troops, first on Chinn Ridge and then once again on Henry Hill, bought time for Pope's hard-pressed Union forces. Finally, under cover of darkness the defeated Union army withdrew across Bull Run toward the defenses of Washington. Lee's bold and brilliant Second Manassas campaign opened the way for the south's first invasion of the north, and a bid for foreign intervention.

The Battlefields of Manassas

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Much of the landscape within Manassas National Battlefield Park still retains its wartime character, little changed since the battles of July 1861 and August 1862. Henry Hill, tranquil today where bloody fighting raged in both battles, is still cleared fields with sparse timber. A new (1870) farmhouse stands on the site of the old. The unfinished railroad, scene of savage combat during the second battle, still runs through the woods north of the Warrenton Turnpike (modern U.S. 29). The peaceful atmosphere of the Chinn Farm belies the violence that occurred over the ridge there. The Stone House, a refuge for the battles' wounded and Union field hospital, still stands as a landmark overlooking the intersection as it has since it was first built. These and other sites on the battlefields of Manassas can be reached by following the tours outlined below. Uniformed park personnel will gladly help you make the most of your visit.

First Manassas Battlefield: A Walking Tour

The critical fighting at First Manassas (Bull Run) centered on Henry Hill. Today a one-mile self-guiding loop trail with interpretive signs tells the story of the battle. The trail begins behind the visitor center, leads past Ricketts's Battery of Union artillery, and continues to the rebuilt Henry House. In the yard of the 1870 house is the grave of Judith Carter Henry, who was mortally wounded by artillery fire and the only civilian killed during the first battle. Behind the house is an 1865 monument erected by Union soldiers in "Memory of the Patriots who fell at Bull Run."

From the Henry House the trail continues north to the location of Imboden's Confederate artillery overlooking Matthews Hill—occupied during the morning phase of the battle—and then across the fields to the site of the Robinson House, where Col. Wade Hampton led his South Carolina troops into the battle. The trail then loops back along the Southern line, where Gen. Thomas J. Jackson received his famous nickname "Stonewall" from Gen. Barnard Bee, to the site where Confederate infantry captured artillery from Capt. Charles Griffin's Union battery—a turning point of the battle. The final stop faces Chinn Ridge where, in late afternoon, a Confederate attack crushed Gen. Irvin McDowell's right flank and began the rout of the entire Union army.

Second Manassas Battlefield: A Driving Tour

This 18-mile driving tour is designed to cover 12 locations that figured prominently in the second battle. Each tour stop features a parking lot, interpretive markers, and walking trails. Follow the text below. Please drive carefully.

Brawner Farm On August 28, 1862, Gen. Stonewall Jackson concealed his troops on Stony Ridge, just north of tenant farmer John Brawner's fields. In the evening a column of Union troops of the "Black Hat" Brigade were marching east along the Warrenton Turnpike towards Centreville when Confederate artillery opened fire. Turning to drive off the guns, the Midwesterners encountered the massed infantry of the Stonewall Brigade. More troops were fed into the struggle by both sides, and the lines exchanged volleys for nearly two hours, in places only 80 yards apart. This opening clash of the second battle ended with darkness. Nearly a third of the 7,000 troops engaged became casualties during the stubborn combat.

Battery Heights As the battle at Brawner Farm began, Capt. Joseph Campbell's Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery, deployed along this ridge. The fire of these six guns effectively silenced the opposing Confederate batteries. Two days later, on the afternoon of August 30, Capt. William Chapman's Dixie Artillery occupied this elevation contributing to the repulse of the huge Union attack on Jackson's line at the Deep Cut of the unfinished railroad. A converging fire of 36 Confederate cannon from massed batteries on the Brawner Farm shattered the Union infantry maneuvering over the open fields to the northeast. Chapman's four guns joined this concentrated fire to strike the flank and rear of the wavering Union troops, hastening their retreat.

Stone House Convinced that Jackson was isolated, Pope ordered his columns to converge upon and attack the Confederates. He was sure he could destroy Jackson before Lee and Longstreet intervened. During the fighting on August 29 and 30, Pope made his headquarters on Buck Hill directly behind this house. The house sheltered the wounded as a Union field hospital during both battles.

Matthews Hill On August 29, Pope's army found Jackson's troops behind the cuts and fills of an unfinished railroad grade west of here. Throughout the day the fields across the road were awash with Union soldiers forming for assaults against the Confederates. Jackson's line was strained, but remained unbroken. Union artillery batteries were positioned along the ridge across the road.

Sudley Throughout August 29, Federal troops repeatedly attacked Jackson's left flank—Gen. Maxcy Gregg's South Carolina brigade—on a knoll just west of here. Exhausted, their ammunition depleted, Gregg's troops were driven back by the late afternoon assault of Gen. Philip Kearny's Union division. Only darkness prevented a fatal collapse of the Confederates. Meanwhile, unknown to Pope, Longstreet's troops arrived on the battlefield near Groveton to the south and deployed on Jackson's right flank, overlapping the exposed Union left beyond the Warrenton Turnpike.

Unfinished Railroad Jackson's line covered a front of about one and one-half miles, extending from near the Sudley Church to a point three-quarters of a mile southwest of here. The center of his line rested in this area. The focal point of Jackson's position was the bed of the unfinished railroad. The grade is still visible running into the woods on both sides of the road.

Deep Cut The morning of August 30 passed with desultory skirmishing. Just before noon, mistakenly believing the Confederates to be in retreat, Pope ordered a "pursuit." The brief advance revealed Jackson's Confederates steadfast behind the unfinished railroad. Pope ordered a final massive assault of some 8,000 troops against Jackson's line around the Deep Cut. About 3 pm Union troops of Gen. Fitz John Porter's V Corps and Gen. Irvin McDowell's III Corps maneuvered in dense formations to attack up the slope. Exposed to raking Confederate artillery fire from the Brawner Farm less than one-half mile to the west, and then to sheets of musket fire from Jackson's infantry, the Union assault was shattered and bloodily repulsed.

Groveton The small frame Dogan House is all that remains of the crossroads village of Groveton. It was over the Dogan farm fields that the Union assault upon the Deep Cut was broken. The Groveton Confederate Cemetery, established in 1869, contains as many as 500 Confederate dead in trench graves identified by state. The identity of only a handful is known.

New York Monuments On the afternoon of August 30, seeing the Union lines in disarray following the repulse of Porter, Longstreet pushed his massive columns forward and staggered the Union left flank. A brief, futile stand on this ridge by the 5th and 10th New York Regiments ended in slaughter. In five minutes the 5th New York lost 123 men killed, the greatest loss of life in any single infantry regiment in any battle of the Civil War.

Chinn Ridge Stretched along this ridge, Union troops desperately struggled on August 30 to delay Longstreet's counterattack upon Pope's vulnerable left flank long enough for Pope to form a rearguard on Henry Hill. The stone foundation is all that remains of Hazel Plain, the house of Benjamin Chinn. A trail leads to the boulder marker for Col. Fletcher Webster, eldest son of Sen. Daniel Webster, killed leading the 12th Massachusetts Infantry into battle.

From tour stop 10 turn right on Va. 234. At the traffic light, turn left on Battleview Parkway and follow signs to tour stop 11.

Portici The plantation house of Francis Lewis stood atop the ridge to the east. Massive brick chimneys flanked the frame house, which had served as Confederate headquarters during the First Battle of Manassas. On August 30, 1862, during the Second Battle of Manassas, Union and Confederate cavalry clashed on these fields. The house was destroyed by fire in late 1862.

Stone Bridge Finally, under cover of darkness, the defeated Union army withdrew across Bull Run in this vicinity toward Centreville and the Washington defenses beyond. Lee's bold and brilliant Second Manassas campaign opened the way for the South's first invasion of the North and possible European recognition of the Confederate government.

Please help us preserve this historic area by observing the following regulations:
• All pets must be kept on a leash at all times; visitors are asked to clean up after their pets while walking in the park.
• Climbing on cannon and monuments is not allowed.
• Picnicking, kite flying, ball games, and other recreational activities are restricted to designated picnic areas.
• Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
• Fires are permitted in grills at the picnic areas and must be extinguished completely before leaving.
• Bicycles are prohibited on all park trails.
• Use caution when riding bicycles on roadways due to narrow shoulders and heavy traffic.
• The possession of metal detectors and hunting for relics are strictly prohibited.
• All motorized vehicles must stay on established roadways and are prohibited on shoulders, grassy areas, and trails.
• Fishing is permitted at select sites with a valid state fishing license and receipt of a park entrance fee or pass.

About Your Visit
Manassas National Battlefield Park is open daily during daylight hours except Thanksgiving and December 25. A park entrance fee is required and is valid for three days. The Henry Hill Visitor Center is open daily, providing visitors with maps, information, restrooms, bookstore, orientation film (fee required), and museum exhibits. Service animals are welcome.

For laws and policies regarding firearms in national parks, see the park website.

Source: NPS Brochure (2010)


Manassas National Battlefield Park — May 10, 1940
Bull Run Recreational Demonstration Area — Nov. 14, 1936

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Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards expand section


Acoustic Monitoring Report, Manassas National Battlefield Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/NSNS/NRR—2017/1565 (Scott D. McFarland, December 2017)

An Archeological and Historical Investigation of Stone House (44PW298), Manassas National Battlefield Park, Manassas, Virginia Occasional Report Series of the Regional Archeology Program, National Capital Region, No. 16 (Matthew B. Reeves, ed., 2001)

Archeological Investigation of the Robinson House Site (44PW288): A Free African-American Domestic Site, Occupied from the 1840s to 1936, Manassas National Battlefield Park Occasional Report Series of the Regional Archeology Program, National Capital Region, No. 17 (Mia T. Parsons, ed., 2001)

Archeological Resource Study and Clearance for the Discovery Center Project at the Henry House, Manassas National Battlefield Park (Mia T. Parsons and John W. Ravenhorst, eds., 2002)

Architectural Fabric Investigation and Documentation of the Robinson House, Manassas National Battlefield Final Report (October 1995)

Battle of Second Manassas (Joseph W. A. Whitehorne, Center of Military History, 1990)

Battling for Manassas: The Fifty Year Preservation Struggle at Manassas National Battlefield Park (Joan M. Zenzen, ©The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998)

Cultural Landscape Report: Chinn Ridge, Manassas National Battlefield Park (Quinn Evans Architects, September 2018)

Cultural Landscape Report: Unfinished Railroad, Manassas National Battlefield Park (Louis Berger Group and Quinn Evans Architects, April 2014)

Cultural Landscapes Inventory: Brawner Farmstead, Manassas National Battlefield Park (2009)

Cultural Resource Survey and Inventory of a War-Torn Landscape: The Stuart's Hill Tract, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia (Laura J. Galke, ed., 1992)

Development Concept Plan, Environmental Assessment: Brawner Farm Site, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia (February 1989)

Final General Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia (April 2008)

Fire Management Plan Environmental Assessment, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Manassas, Virginia (December 2014)

Final White-Tailed Deer Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement, Manassas National Battlefield Park (Summer 2014)

Foundation Document, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia (October 2014)

Foundation Document Overview, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia (January 2015)

Furnishing Plan for the Stone House, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Manassas, Virginia (Agnes Mullins, 1965)

General Management Plan, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia (September 1983)

Geologic Resource Evaluation Report, Manassas National Battlefield Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/GRD/NRR-2008/050 (T.L. Thornberry-Ehrlich, September 2008)

Historic Report On the Troop Movements For the Second Battle Of Manassas, August 28 Through August 30, 1862 (John Hennessy, 1985)

Historic Structure Report, Architectural Data, Part I: Rehabilitation and Restoration of the Dogan House, Manassas National Battlefield Park (Orville W. Carroll, April 1960)

Historic Structure Report, Architectural Data, Part II: Rehabilitation and Restoration of the Dogan House, Manassas National Battlefield Park (Orville W. Carroll, August 1960)

Historic Structure Report, Architectural Data, Part III: Rehabilitation and Restoration of the Dogan House, Manassas National Battlefield Park (Orville W. Carroll, June 1962)

Historic Structure Report: Henry House Final Revised Edition (Historic Preservation Training Center, August 2003)

Interior Finishes Analysis (Paint and Wallpaper): The Henry House, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Manassas, Virginia (Barbara A. Yocum, January 2002)

Interpretive Prospectus, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia (1994)

Junior Ranger, Manassas National Battlefield Park (Date Unknown)

Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia: Historic Handbook #15 (HTML edition) (Francis F. Wilshin, 1953, reprint 1961)

Master Plan for the Preservation and Use of Manassas National Battlefield Park: Mission 66 Edition (1962)

Natural Resource Condition Assessment, Manassas National Battlefield Park, National Capital Region NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NCRN/NRR-2011/414 (Jane Thomas, Tim Carruthers, Bill Dennison, Mark Lehman, Megan Nortrup, Patrick Campbell and Bryan Gorsira, June 2011)

"No Maneuvering and Very Little Tactics": Archeology and the Battle of Brawner Farm (44PW452) (Stephen R. Potter, Robert C. Sonderman, Marian C. Creveling and Susannah L. Dean, 2001)

Portici: Portrait of a Middling Plantation in Piedmont Virginia, Manassas National Battlefield Park Occasional Report #3 (Kathleen A. Parker and Jacqueline L. Hernigle, 1990)

Qualitative Analysis of Fish Species at Manassas National Battlefield and Natural Resource Management Trainee Participation (Summary Report) (Gordon Olson, November 3, 1982)

Road Inventory and Needs Study for Manassas National Battlefield Park (1983)

Traffic Noise and Vibration Assessment: Manassas National Battlefield Park (Bowlby & Associates, Inc. and Stalano Engineering, Inc., June 1996)

Transportation Study: Manassas National Battlefield Park (Robert Peccia & Associates, Inc., June 1996)

Trends in Water Quality in Youngs Branch, Manassas National Battlefield Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NCRN/NRR-2021/2307 (John Paul Schmit and Andrejs Brolis, September 2021)

Views of a Changing Landscape: An Archeological and Historical Investigation of Sudley Post Office (44PW294), Manassas National Battlefield Park, Manassas, Virginia Occasional Report Series of the Regional Archeology Program, National Capital Region, No. 14 (Matthew B. Reeves, 1998)

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The First Battle of Manassas

Last Updated: 02-Dec-2021