First Battle of Bull Run
The Confederate shelling of federal-held Fort Sumter in April 1861 launched the start of the Civil War. The First Battle of Bull Run -- also known as the First Battle of Manassas -- marked the start of the conflict in earnest. Under pressure to crush the secessionists, Union forces on July 21 initially attacked a mass of Confederate troops arrayed amid woods and farmfields of Bull Run, in northern Virginia. The battle raged for hours. Union forces briefly drove Confederate foes back, but the Confederates got reinforcements. A contingent led by Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson stood its ground at a farmhouse hilltop, earning him his nickname. The Confederates counterattacked with cavalry charging, starting a headlong federal retreat. Amid gunfire and chaos, panicked Union soldiers retreated in disarray to Washington. The Confederacy had scored its first major victory. The Charleston (S.C.) Mercury's correspondent reported of Confederate forces: "Men never fought more desperately than did ours to-day." He added: "A great battle has been fought to-day at the Stone Bridge, on Bull Run ... The Southern troops are again victorious. The slaughter on both sides was terrific." The correspondent described "raking fire" and an enemy that gave way toward sundown, adding: "At dark they were still flying, closely pursued by our troops." The Boston Herald reported July 24 that Union forces would now reorganize: "Dispatches of this morning to the Associated Press tell us that the services of 60,000 soldiers, previous offered the government but refused, have now been accepted, and that a complete reorganization of the army is to be made." The bloody battle hinted at a long, grinding war to come.