to THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English.
between the North and the South spread in the summer of eighteen sixty-one. Union
soldiers fought pro-southern rioters in the streets of Baltimore and Saint
Louis. A Confederate supporter shot and killed a young officer from the North.
Untrained soldiers from both sides fought in the mountains of western Virginia.
though, the fighting had not claimed many lives. But very soon, the battle
would become fierce.
in our series, Frank Oliver and Jack Weitzel continue the story of the American
general who commanded the Union forces, Winfield Scott, did not want to rush
his men into battle.
believed it would be a long war. He planned to spend the first year of it
getting ready to fight. He had an army of thousands of men, and it would get
much larger in coming months. But this army was not trained. His soldiers were
civilians who knew nothing about fighting a war. General Scott needed time to
make soldiers of these men.
needed time to organize a supply system to get to his forces the guns, bullets,
food, and clothing they would need. Without supplies, his army could not fight
many in the North, however, who thought Scott was too careful. It was true,
they said, that Union forces were untrained. But so were those of the South.
And the Confederacy's supply problems were even greater than those of the
Union. The South had much less industry and fewer railroads. It could not
produce as much military equipment, and it could not transport supplies as
easily as the North could.
early months of the war, Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president, did not
even have guns enough for the men in his army.
demanded immediate action expected a short war. They said Scott should take the
army and march to Richmond. They were sure that if Union forces seized the
Confederate capital, the southern rebellion would end.
newspapers took up the cry, "On to Richmond!" Political leaders began
pressing for a quick northern victory. Public pressure forced the army to act.
than a month, General Irvin McDowell had been building a Union army in northern
Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington. He had more than
thirty thousand men at bases in Arlington and Alexandria. Late in June, McDowell
received orders: "March against the Confederate Army of General Pierre
had twenty thousand soldiers at Manassas Junction, a railroad village in
Virginia less than fifty kilometers from Washington. McDowell planned to move
on Manassas Junction July ninth, but was delayed for more than a week.
the attack carefully. McDowell was worried that another large Confederate force
west of Manassas Junction might join Beauregard's army.
force, led by General Joe Johnston, was in the Shenandoah Valley near Harpers
Ferry, Virginia. Across from Harpers Ferry, in Maryland, was a Union army
almost twice the size of Johnston's. It was ordered to put pressure on
Johnston's force to prevent it from helping Beauregard.
Beauregard received early warning from Confederate spies that McDowell would
attack. Much of his information came from a woman, Missus Rose O'Neal Greenhow.
Missus Greenhow, a widow, was an important woman in Washington. She knew almost
all the top government officials. And she had friends in almost every
department of the government.
beautiful Missus Greenhow also had some very special friends. One was Senator
Henry Wilson of Massachusetts. He was chairman of the Senate Committee on
Military Affairs. Another special friend was Thomas Jordan, a Confederate
colonel in Beauregard's army.
asked Missus Greenhow, soon after the war started, to be a spy for the South.
She agreed and sent much valuable information about Union military plans.
July, she sent word to Beauregard that he would be attacked soon. She also sent
a map used by the Senate Military Affairs Committee showing how the Union army
would reach Manassas Junction.
the morning of July sixteenth, Missus Greenhow wrote a nine-word message. She
gave it to a man to carry to Beauregard. The Confederate general received it
that evening. It said: "Order given for McDowell to march upon Manassas
sent a telegram to Richmond. He told the Confederate government that McDowell
was on the way. He asked that Johnston's ten thousand-man force in the
Shenandoah Valley join him for battle. He was told to expect Johnston's help.
Johnston's army was threatened by a large Union force that entered Virginia
from Maryland. Led by General Robert Patterson, the Union troops moved toward
the smaller Confederate force. They were not really interested in fighting
Johnston. But they did want to prevent him from reaching Beauregard.
knew he could not defeat Patterson. So he decided to trick him.
of his army withdrew and prepared to join Beauregard, Johnston sent a small
force to attack Patterson's army. Patterson believed Johnston was attacking
with all his troops. He stopped moving forward and prepared to defend against
what seemed to be a strong Confederate attack.
time the trick was discovered, Johnston and most of his troops were at
McDowell's huge Union army left Arlington on the afternoon of July sixteenth.
It was a hot day, and the road was dusty. The march was not well organized, and
the men traveled slowly. They stopped at every stream to drink and wash the
dust from their faces. Some of the soldiers left the road to pick fruits and
berries from bushes along the way.
To some of
those who watched this army pass, the lines of soldiers in bright clothes
looked like a long circus parade.
these men had not been soldiers long. Their bodies were soft, and they tired
quickly. It took them four days to travel the forty-five kilometers to
Centreville, the final town before Bull Run. The battle would start the next
morning -- Sunday, July twenty-first.
from Washington was crowded early Sunday morning with horses and wagons
bringing people to watch the great battle.
of men and women watched the fight from a hill near Centreville. Below them was
Bull Run. But the battleground was covered so thickly with trees that the
crowds saw little of the fighting. They could, however, see the smoke of
battle. And they could hear the sounds of shots and exploding shells.
to time, Union officers would ride up the hill to report what a great victory
their troops were winning.
first few hours of the battle, Union forces were winning. McDowell had moved
most of his men to the left side of Beauregard's army. They attacked with
artillery and pushed the Confederate forces back. It seemed that the
Confederate defense would break. Some of the southern soldiers began to run.
But others stood and fought.
Confederate officer, trying to prevent his troops from moving back, pointed to
a group led by General T. J. Jackson of Virginia. "Look!" He shouted.
"There is Jackson, standing like a stone wall! Fight like the
Confederate troops refused to break.
fighting was fierce. The air was full of flying bullets. A newsman wrote that
the whole valley was boiling with dust and smoke. A Confederate soldier told
his friend, "Them Yankees are just marching up and being shot to
side would give up. Then, a large group of Johnston's troops arrived by train
and joined in the fight. Suddenly, Union soldiers stopped fighting and began
pulling back. General McDowell and his officers tried to stop the retreat, but
failed. Their men wanted no more fighting.
fleeing Union soldiers threw down their guns and equipment, thinking only of
escape. Many did not stop until they reached Washington.
It was a bitter
defeat. But it made the North recognize the need for a real army -- one trained
and equipped for war. President Abraham Lincoln gave the job of building such
an army to General George McClellan.
Our program was written by Frank Beardsley. The narrators were Frank
Oliver and Jack Weitzel. Our series can be found online with transcripts,
podcasts and historical images at voaspecialenglish.com. You can also follow
our programs at twitter.com/voalearnenglish. Join us again next week for THE
MAKING OF A NATION -- an American history series in VOA Special English.
This is program #99 of THE
MAKING OF A NATION