On October 2, 1862, President Lincoln met with General George McClellan, commander of the Union Army of the Potomac, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, to urge a stepped up attack on Robert E. Lee’s Southern soldiers.
President Lincoln addresses the State of the Union and grows impatient with General McClellan.
The month saw few battles, with no decisive advantage gained. A skirmish on Buffalo Mountain in western Virginia was typical. Union troops attacked a Confederate camp but withdrew after a morning’s fight—137 Union casualties, 146 Confederate.
As Union generals came and left, personalities clashed and Southern farmers set fire to their fields.
On November 1, George B. McClellan assumed the role of general in chief of the Union armies, a post voluntarily vacated by the ailing 75-year-old Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott, who had been a target of McClellan’s barbs in the press. The promotion inflated McClellan’s already significant ego, and he would spar with Lincoln throughout the war.
While the generals on both sides deliberated, troops in blue and gray fidgeted.
A greater defeat awaited Union forces on the 21st. At Ball’s Bluff on the Potomac River, Union Col. Edward D. Baker, a friend of the president’s, led his soldiers in a charge up the cliff, only to be pushed back into the river, incurring 921 casualties, including himself, out of 1,700
During September, the civil war expanded to Kentucky and West Virginia, and President Lincoln rejects an attempt at emancipation.
Five months into the Civil War—on September 9—Richmond, Virginia’s Daily Dispatch editorialized that the time for debate had passed. “Words are now of no avail: blood is more potent than rhetoric, more profound than logic.”
Famous for accepting escaped slaves during the Civil War, the Virginia base also has a history that heralds back to Jamestown.
…since Virginia had voted to secede, the Fugitive Slave Act no longer applied, and the slaves were contraband of war. Once word of Fort Monroe’s willingness to harbor escaped slaves spread, thousands flocked to the safety of its guns.
Both North and South expected victory to be glorious and quick, but the first major battle signaled the long and deadly war to come.
Bull Run—or Manassas, as Southerners call it, preferring to name Civil War battles for towns instead of watercourses—was a fierce battle, but not huge compared with those to come later. Counts vary, but the Union lost about 460 men killed, 1,125 wounded and 1,310 missing, most of those captured. The Confederates suffered about 390 killed, 1,580 wounded—and only 13 missing, because they occupied the field.