In the first major land battle of the Civil War, a large Union force under General Irvin McDowell was routed by a Confederate army under General Pierre GT Beauregard.

Three months after the outbreak of civil war at Fort Sumter, the Union military command still believed that the Confederacy could be crushed quickly and with little loss of life. In July, this overconfidence led to a premature offensive in northern Virginia by General McDowell. In search of Confederate forces, McDowell led 34,000 troops – mostly inexperienced and poorly trained militiamen – to the Manassas railroad junction, located just 30 miles from Washington, DC. Alerted to the advancing Union, the General Beauregard massed some 20,000 soldiers there and was soon joined by General Joseph Johnston, who brought in some 9,000 additional soldiers by rail.


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