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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 of Bull Run
Lithograph "From A Pfotho[gr.]" "The Battle Of Bull's Run." 1861. Lithograph. 11 5/8 x 17 3/4. A few repaired tears, and chips in margins. Bottom right corner missing, just affecting last word of attribution. Otherwise, very good image and condition. Weitenkampf: 130.

An unusual pro-Confederate cartoon, lampooning the Northern forces and politicians in the wake of the first Battle of Bull Run, July 1861. In this early engagement of the Civil War, the Union attack on the Confederate position was turned back. An initially orderly retreat turned into a full-fledged rout, with the troops racing back to Washington. The battle is noteworthy for the many politicians and civilians, including many women, who carriaged from Washington in order to watch an anticipated Union victory. These spectators joined in the flight after the battle, adding significantly to the confusion and panic. This print caricatures the Union troops, politicians, and civilians, including "ladies as sputatiers," all of whom are shown fleeing from the Confederate troops in the background. A key at bottom identifies many of the participants, including Jeff. Davis, Gen. McDowell, and several members of Congress. The central figures are from the New York Fire Zouave troop, who were routed by the Virginia Black Horse Cavalry. This event was a long-time sore point for the Union infantry and was ridiculed in a number of popular illustrations, including this one. This separately issued print is unidentified other than the claim that it was based on a 'pfothograph.' Though pro-Southern, the print may have been issued in the North, where sympathies had not yet fully swung behind the Union cause. $1,200

"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. June 27, 2012