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Battle of Bull Run

Also: Battle of Manassas

The first major battle of the Civil War was fought in July 1861, just southwest of Washington, D.C. In the first weeks of the war, Lincoln had begun to assemble a large army in and around the capital city. The Confederates placed a good sized force, under the command of General P.G.T. Beauregard, near Arlington both to keep a watch on the Federal troops and to protect the railroads which ran through Manassas Junction about 25 miles southwest of Washington.

The leader of the Union forces, General Irvin McDowell, was pressured by the government and the northern public to push south towards Richmond, displacing Beauregard and taking control of Manassas Junction. Learning of McDowell's plans, the Confederates reinforced Beauregard with troops from the Shenandoah Valley under General Joseph E. Johnston.

On July 21st, McDowell's 35,000 men attacked Beauregard's and Johnston's 30,000 troops along Bull Run Creek, in what the Northerners called the Battle of Bull Run and the Southerners, the Battle of Manassas. The Union forces initially had some success, but were forced to retreat, the retreat turning into an outright rout.

At Bull Run, the Union had nearly 3,000 soldiers killed, wounded or captured, and the Confederates almost 2,000. These causality figures would prove to be small compared to future battle, but they horrified both sides. Union supporters were particularly dismayed as many in the North had assumed the war would be short and easily won. With this battle it began to dawn on Americans that this war might not be so short, though no one then had any idea of the magnitude of the horror that was to come.

Currier and Ives Battle of Bull Run
"Battle of Bull Run Va. July 21st 1861. Gallant Charge of the Zouaves and defeat of the rebel Black Horse Cavalry." New York: Currier & Ives, 1861-72. Lithograph. Original hand color. Small folio. 7 7/8 x 12 1/8. Expertly repaired tear near center, else very good condition. C:391.

Among the most prolific producers of contemporary images of the Civil War was the firm of Currier & Ives from New York. Their images were usually not based on first-hand drawings, but rather on an artist's rendering based on a first-hand report. They issued their prints as soon after the events as possible, providing these for a public eager for images of their brave boys at the front. Their prints also tended to take the most positive attitude possible, as can be seen with this print of the first battle of Bull Run. $525

Battle of Bull Run
W. Momberger. "First Battle of Bull Run." from John S.C. Abbott's The History of the Civil War in America. New York: Henry Bill, 1866. 4 1/2 x 7 1/2. Steel engraving. Very good condition.

A dramatic image of the first battle, from Abbott's history of the war, issued the year after the cessation of hostilities. $75

"Battle-Field at Bull Run, July 21st, 1861 / Battle-Fields of Manassas, July 21, 1861." From the U.S. War Department's Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington: Gov't. Printing Office, 1891-95. Lithographed map, with some highlight color. Double folio size. NB: The maps from this atlas are printed on brittle paper, so there are often short tears. Otherwise, the maps are in very good condition.

Richard Stephenson has written, "This is the most detailed atlas yet published on the Civil War. It consists of reproductions of maps compiled by both Union and Confederate soldiers." [Stephenson, Civil War Maps, p 99.] The maps show many of the events of the Civil War with great detail, including topography, troop placements and movements, and other information of interest. These are the best near contemporary maps available of many of these battles, sieges, and other events of this conflict. $100
GoGo to page with other maps from this atlas

Prints of the battle from illustrated newspapers

As discussed in our listing of prints from illustrated newspapers, the images from these publications are, almost without exception, the earliest and most accurate images of battles or other events of the Civil War. News of the Battle of Bull Run spread throughout the country quickly, and the public was avid to read account and see images of this defeat (or victory, depending on your sympathies). The prints below, of the war's first major battle, were not only based on "Sketches by our Special Artist" on-the-spot, but they appeared less than two weeks after the battle!

Battle of Bull Run
Prints from Harper's Weekly. Wood engravings. Very good condition.

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©The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd. Last updated March 16, 2015