Defeat at the Battle of Bull Run


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, August 10, 1861

This original Civil War Harper's Weekly newspaper has a number of stunning images of the Battle of Bull Run, including a battle map. This paper also has important news on the battle and various other news of the day.

(Scroll Down to see entire page, or Newspaper Thumbnails will take you to the page of interest)


Edward Bulwer Lytton

Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton

Bull Run Battle Defeat

Defeat at the Battle of Bull Run

Wounded at Battle of Bull Run

Wounded at Bull Run

Bull Run Infantry Charge

Infantry Charge at Bull Run

Battle of Manassas

Manassas Junction

News of Bull Run

News of the Battle of Bull Run

Bull Run Retreat

The Retreat From Bull Run

Bull Run Picture

Picture of the Battle of Bull Run

Battle of Bull Run Map

Bull Run Battle Map

Battle of Bull Run Infantry Charge

Chesapeake Bay

Scott Bull Run

Gen. Scott Forced to Fight Bull Run




AUGUST 10, 1861.]



(Previous Page) believe me in error? Still you knew that my object was research into truth. You employed against your brother in art venomous drugs and a poisoned probe. Look at me ! Are you satisfied with your work ?"

I sought to draw back and pluck my arm from the dying man's grasp. I could not do so without using a force that would have been inhuman. His lips drew nearer still to my ear.

" Vain pretender, do not boast that you brought a genius for epigram to the service of science. Science is lenient to all who offer experiment as the test of conjecture. You are of the stuff of which inquisitors are made. You cry that truth is profaned when your dogmas are questioned. In your shallow presumption you have meted the dominions of nature, and where your eye halts its vision, you say, 'There, nature must close ;' in the bigotry which adds crime to presumption, you would stone the discoverer who, in annexing new realms to her chart, unsettles your arbitrary landmarks. Verily, retribution shall await you. In those spaces which your sight has disdained to explore you shall yourself be a lost and bewildered straggler. Hist ! I see them already ! The gibbering phantoms are gathering round you !"

The man's voice stopped abruptly; his eye fixed in a glazing stare ; his hand relaxed its hold; he fell back on his pillow. I stole from the room; on the landing-place I met the nurse and the old woman servant. Happily the children were not there. But I heard the wail of the female child from some room not far distant.

I whispered hurriedly to the nurse, "All is over!"—passed again under the jaws of the vast anaconda—and on through the blind lane between the dead walls—on through the ghastly streets, under the ghastly moon—went back to my solitary home.




IF we are true to ourselves, the disaster of 21st July will prove a benefit rather than an injury. The Great Bethel blunder taught us the folly of going to battle under civilian leadership ; the Bull Run tragedy is fraught with many valuable lessons.

It will teach us, in the first place, and not only us, but those also who have in charge the national interest at this crisis, that this war must be prosecuted on scientific principles, and that popular clamor must not be suffered to override the dictates of experience and the rules of strategy. We have the best evidence to prove that the march to Bull Run, and the fight there, were both undertaken against the judgment of LIEUTENANT-GENERAL SCOTT, and solely in deference to the popular craving for action which owed its origin and main virulence to the New York Tribune. The wretched result must serve as a warning for the future. Hereafter our generals must not be hurried into premature demonstrations. If any portion of the press should attempt hereafter to goad them into acting in opposition to their judgment, public sentiment must rebuke the mischievous endeavor, and our officers and the Government must withstand it resolutely. No doubt, in the course of the next few weeks or months, it will often appear that our armies are sluggish, and their action dilatory. We must remember, when this occurs, that there may be reasons for delay which the public can not discern. We must, in such cases, remind each other of the fatal twenty-first of July, and thank God that we can trust implicitly in ABRAHAM LINCOLN and WINFIELD SCOTT.

Again. The detailed accounts of the retreat from Bull Run prove that a very large proportion of our militia officers failed in their duty on that occasion. Some displayed cowardice, others incapacity. This is no matter of surprise. In selecting company and even field officers, our militiamen often attach more weight to wealth and political or social influence than to bravery or soldierly aptitude. Very many commissions are won by intrigue. Under these circumstances it was natural that, in the hour of danger, the officers who owed their epaulets to wealth, political or social influence, or intrigue, should have failed to develop the coolness, courage, and command over their men which soldiers require in their leaders. It was to be expected that they would rather lead than check a panic. This radical flaw in our military system must now be corrected. Great Bethel emancipated us, cheaply enough, from the mischief of civilian brigadiers. Bull Run must rid us of cowardly or imbecile colonels, majors, and captains. It is announced that hereafter the War Department will exercise the right of reviewing the elections of field officers in each regiment. We trust that no scruple of delicacy or timidity will interfere with the vigorous execution of this rule. It should be extended to captains of companies also. Better offend a thousand ambitious candidates for military rank than have another flight led by colonels, majors, and captains. And there will be great need of the pruning-knife. By means best known to themselves most unfit men are even now obtaining commissions in regiments fitted out here. Intrigue, money, family connections, and all kinds of improper influences are officering our new

regiments. By the memory of Bull Run we adjure the War Department and the commanding general to subject all these officers to a thorough test, and to reject the unsuitable without hesitation. We have plenty of bravery and plenty of military talent in the country ; for Heaven's sake let some one see that it is used in the right place.

Let no man be disheartened by the Bull Run disaster. We were beaten, it is true. But we were beaten by an enemy twice as strong as we were. They fought in intrenchments elaborately constructed—we groped our way up to the muzzles of their guns, in total ignorance of the topography of the battle-field. Wherever our soldiers met theirs in fair fight, we beat them. They had been drilling and preparing for the fight for half a year at least: our men were raw levies. And if the battle has proved that with these disadvantages we could not contend against them, it has also proved that our troops possess more personal bravery than theirs, and that our people—whom the defeat has only roused to fresh exertions—have the right stuff in them.

"With our light, success is a duty!" Let this be our watch-word. We have every thing in our favor ; more than twice the population, complete command of the sea, all the industrial capacity of the country, unrestricted communication with the foreign world, all the money we need, and, best of all, a just cause.


SEVERAL journals, in the heat of indignation at the Bull Run defeat, have called for changes in the Cabinet. We hope that none will be made. That certain Secretaries have displayed a want of energy, while others have devoted more time and thought than was decent to securing contracts for political friends, is probably true enough. But it is no time to punish them when the Gaul is at the gates. We must first repel the enemy—then we shall have ample time to settle with unfaithful servants at home. Any change in the Cabinet just now would have the same moral effect, both abroad and at home, as a defeat in the field.

At the same time it may be well for the members of Mr. Lincoln's Administration to read the histories of Rome and Greece. They will there discover that republics are vindictive as well as ungrateful, and that the anger of the most despotic monarch is light and trivial in comparison with the wrath of an outraged and betrayed democracy. The country demands that the business of the several Departments of Government shall be conducted honestly and energetically at the present crisis. Woe to the Cabinet Minister who, when the day of reckoning comes, shall be found to have neglected this public mandate !

The two volunteers, GEORGE O. M'MULLIN and ISAAC BLAKEMORE, who hauled down the secession flag at Harper's Ferry, belong to the Pennsylvania Seventeenth, and not to the New York Ninth, as stated in the letter-press under our recent picture of the exploit.



IT is not in the Saxon heart to despond or despair. On the Monday night after the action at Bull Run, though it was the darkest night that ever fell upon this country, the country was never so strong. Great as we have all felt the contest to be, we knew, that night, that it was greater than our thoughts; that the urgent duty was neither to regret nor recriminate, but to "close up," and press more strongly, more unitedly, forward.

It is impossible yet to tell the story of the day. The newspapers have teemed with differing accounts. Apparently there was victory at hand, if not in possession, when a sudden order to retire dismayed the triumphant line. The soldiers, who from exhaustion or whatever cause had been sent to the rear, and the teamsters and civilians who hovered along the base of our active line, were struck with terror by a sudden dash of cavalry from the flank. They fled, panic-stricken, in a promiscuous crowd: while the soldiers who were really engaged fell back quietly and in good order. It was the crowd of disengaged soldiers, teamsters, and civilians in the rear who rushed, a panting rabble, to Washington, and who told the disheartening story that was flashed over the country at noon on Monday. But our army, our soldiers who were fighting the battle, fought as heroes fight, and only retired when the orders came, as the bravest and most reluctant soldiers must.

The fight at Bull Run, therefore, was of no evil auspice to the cause, as it would have been if the truth had proved to be what we all at first feared. It was, so far as our army was concerned, the orderly retirement of an inferior force before superior numbers strongly intrenched. Why they were so exposed, and whether, exposed or not, they would not have remained upon the field victorious except for the panic in the rear, are questions which can not be easily decided.

An experienced soldier, an officer in a foreign army, who has seen much service, writes to the Lounger in a purely military strain: "I can understand that such news affect you disagreeably; but you must remember that war is a new thing to

you, especially to some of your officers in command : and this, also, that it always must take the lives of a good many men to acquire experience in warfare. There is a rather cruel proverb in French which is in great favor with military men : it is ; Pour faire un omelette, il faut d'abord casser des oeufs.


THE men at the South who are trying to destroy the government, and the men at the North who are trying to save it, can not contemplate the day at Bull Run without deep reflection. The time for passion and rhetoric and surprise has passed. The issue is made up before the world. The arena is our noble country. The combatants are ourselves. The struggle is for free constitutional government. Shall it be lost, or maintained ?

Now the particular lesson that the friends of a free government in this country have learned is this : that its enemies are resolutely prepared to dispute the point in the way most favorable to themselves. They are under the military command of an engineer whom the Government educated and who bore off the honors of his class. The system of defense he adopts is the one most suitable to the country in which he is placed, and to the habits and character of the people he commands. Those people are as profoundly ignorant of their fellow-citizens north of the Potomac as they are of the Chinese. They believe that they are defending all that is dearest and most sacred from the violating hands of barbarian hordes. And this ignorance is deepened by the artful falsehoods of Jefferson Davis, Beauregard, and the other rebel chiefs. For the war they have commenced they have plenty of artillery and ammunition. They mean to fight desperately behind their works, but not outside of them, and they will try to prolong the war long enough for foreign powers to have an excuse to interfere.

This is what we have learned ; and what have we taught them ?

We have taught them that the great mass of the people of this country, free, intelligent, and comfortable, do not mean to have the government which secures them every blessing ruined without shedding the last drop of blood in its defense. The people whom the conspirators thought to be cowards have proved themselves to be cool and terrible soldiers. The appalling truth threatens the rebellion even from the field at Bull Run that the loyal people of this country are just as fearfully in earnest as the rebels ; and that "the abstraction" for which the rebels taunt them for fighting is nothing less than the system which secures each one of those citizens his rights.

Granting the rebels, then, an equal faith with ourselves in the justice of their cause, which side is likely to prevail—they, who stand upon slavery and cotton, the first of which war makes a deadly danger, and the second is useless if it can not be sold ; or we, who have abounding men and money, who are a people of every pursuit, with a soil producing every crop, who have the tradition and possession of the government, the course of civilization, and the sympathy of mankind?


A BALTIMORE gentleman, who believes in Mr. Jefferson Davis and disbelieves in the Government of the United States, is said to have asked whether after another victory or two we might not hope for peace. He meant, whether the country at large would not then assent to Mr. Davis's Constitution as the law of the land.

But how should we have peace from that assent? Suppose his Constitution accepted by a majority of the States even, and imposed upon the others. What then ? How do you hope for peace from it ? The Davis Constitution is a revival of the old Confederation. It is a league among States, not a government of the people, and each State is to decide for itself when it will leave the league. That is the fundamental doctrine of this rebellion. A revolution proceeds upon causes which are cited to justify it to God and men. But the principle of "the Confederacy" is, as Mr. Lincoln plainly said at Indianapolis last February, the free-love principle. When a State is tired it goes off. Its whim is the constitutional justification of its course.

Does any Baltimore gentleman think that this is the road to peace ?

Probably not. But he may say that he supposes that, after a battle or two more lost by us, we shall be willing to seek peace by assenting to the separation of the States.

Mr. Everett answers this question on the Fourth of July as it had been often enough answered before. Of secession he says, " It is in its very nature a perpetual cause of hostility..... If, for the frivolous reasons assigned, the seceding States have chosen to plunge into this gulf, while all the peaceful temperaments and constitutional remedies of the Union were within their reach, and offers of further compromise and additional guarantees were daily tendered them, what hope, what possibility of peace can there be when the Union is broken up ; when, in addition to all other sources of deadly quarrel, a general exodus of the slave population begins (as, beyond all question, it will), and nothing but war remains for the settlement of controversies ? The Vice-President of the new Confederacy states that it rests on slavery ; but from its very nature it must rest equally on war—eternal war first between North and South, and then between some of the smaller fragments into which some of the disintegrated parts may crumble."

Is this the way to peace ? Any Baltimore gentleman can see as plainly as any patriot in the country, that even if peace were made upon such terms, the army which we have now in the field could not be reduced by a single soldier.

There is but one way to peace in this emergency, and that is to establish the national supremacy a hundred-fold more absolutely than ever before. All other solutions are simply anarchy and war. This alone is permanent peace. The present generation

at the South have been taught to hate the Union. They must now be taught to fear it, in order that they may gradually understand and love it.


THE novel of Dickens, which is just completed in this paper, is among the best novels in our literature. The Athenoeum in London says of it—and we quote it because it is so parsimonious of praise : " Whether the library of English fiction contains a romance comparable with 'Great Expectations' is a matter which admits of doubt......Trying Mr. Dickens by himself, we find in this his last tale as much force as in the most forcible portions of 'Oliver Twist,' as much delicacy as in the most delicate passages of 'David Copperfield,' as much quaint humor as in 'Pickwick.' In short, that this is the creation of a great artist in his prime we have felt from the very first moment of its appearance......."

The Athenoem is seldom so much excited by any work as it declares itself to be by this story of Dickens.

The story deserves much if not all that is said of it. It has all the power, variety, humor, tenderness, grace, wonderful pathos, and masterly management which are found in the other tales, but not often so forcibly combined as in this. Its most original character is Joe Gargery : the soul of a child in the body of a giant: a man in whom the essential manhood triumphs over every obstacle, and shines out in such lovely light that our common nature takes fresh hold of our affection and admiration.

There is no sermon preached in the story. Nobody proses or moralizes or "improves." The plot moves steadily forward from the first word, with its impenetrable cloud of causes, countercauses, influences, and fatalities. The many-hued characters, whether hinted, drawn, or elaborated, play their parts without the least superfluity. The landscape and the aspects of outward nature adapt themselves to the tale; and when you close the book, sermon or no sermon, you are a wiser and a sadder man.

That deep, searching skepticism of the course of human justice, which, while it does not question its general necessity, alleviates by sympathy particular injustice, and so appeals to a correction of abuse in our dealings with criminals, and to the great secret pity of mankind for sinners, is nowhere more satisfactorily put than in " Great Expectations." And if this great author had no other claim to remembrance, what a sweet and signal service to humanity it is that he has always shown us the man in the criminal, and softened with tears the voice of condemnation!

As Dickens retires from the scene Bulwer appears. His new novel begins in this number of the Weekly. Meanwhile, in the Monthly, Thackeray tells the tale of " Philip," and Anthony Trollope of " Orley Farm." The lords of old had " harpers hoar" to sing to them at table. We are all lords now, and, sitting at our ease, genius tells stories more delightful than ever the barons heard.


IN his message to the Richmond Congress, Jefferson Davis says that he sent a flag to President Lincoln informing him "of my resolute purpose to check all barbarities on prisoners of war by such severity of retaliation upon prisoners held by us as should secure the abandonment of the practice." Mr. Davis makes the fate of certain United States citizens in his hands depend upon that of the pirates of the Savannah.

He assumes to be the head of a nation. But no other nation in the world acknowledges him. Consequently his commission to a sea-captain to stop and plunder the ships of a great recognized Power in the world can have no other weight than a similar commission from any body else.

In ordinary battle, as at Bull Run, the combatants, whatever the justice of their cause, having appealed to arms, are equally exposed to danger. But a privateer is an armed vessel sailing under false pretenses, and falling upon unprotected merchantmen. The difference of the cases is that of a duel and a highway robbery. A man about to fight a duel may treat his opponent politely. But it is not expected that any body shall be polite to a footpad. Therefore the law of nations condemns privateering as piracy.

With some show of reason Mr. Davis might say that if we hung all the prisoners we took in battle he would hang all that he took. But he can have no pretense for including pirates in the same category. Because, although the sailors sail and the soldiers march equally by his commission, the difference between them lies in the difference of their method of war.

Argument, however, is of no avail in the case except for the future record of these events. The point is one of policy. Shall we save the lives of heroes now in the hands of the enemy by sparing the lives of the pirates whom they send out to capture our ships and murder the crews if they resist ? Do we by so doing make it a war of extermination? And if so, who suffers most?

The answers to these questions involve very important considerations, which are obvious enough.


Now, by Saint Paul, the work goes bravely on, The Stars and Stripes are up for Liberty! Flag of the Nation—Talisman of the Free! Curs'd be the hand that dares to pluck thee down. Traitors may trample—Rebel States disown, The clouds of war encompass land and sea;

The stars may fall from heaven, but not from thee! Thy rainbow stripes shall stand while stands the sun. Up! freemen, up! No more concession now! Act! act! The hour for words is more than past. Free thought—free speech—tree limbs, for high and low: From every land rings out this bugle blast—Strike! 'Tis this hand of God that guides the blow; Strike! 'Tis the hour that frees the world at last. HOUSATONIC VALLEY, 1861.



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