to THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in VOA Special English.
Two summers had
gone by since the start of the American Civil War, and the North had not yet
won a major battle in Virginia. The Army of the Potomac -- the strongest of the
Union armies -- had tried to seize Richmond, the Confederate capital.
McClellan moved the army up to the very gates of the city. But then, General
Robert E. Lee led his southern forces in a fierce attack. It smashed
McClellan's army and drove them away from Richmond.
This week in our
series, Maurice Joyce and Jack Moyles continue the story of the Civil War.
Lincoln and his new chief general, Henry Halleck, put together a new northern
force. They called it the Army of Virginia. They gave command of it to General
John Pope, a successful fighter in the West.
Pope began to move
south toward Richmond. Halleck ordered McClellan to bring his army up to join
Pope. Together, they could smash through the Confederate defenses around
Lee decided to hit
Pope before McClellan could join him. He left a few thousand troops to guard
Richmond, then took the rest north. Lee moved up to the Rappahannock River,
across from Pope's army.
Lee sent Stonewall
Jackson, with twenty-four thousand men, on a quick march around the western end
of Pope's lines. Jackson and his men marched more than eighty kilometers in two
days. They got behind Pope and seized a huge northern supply center at
Pope moved to smash
them. They burned the captured supplies. Then they moved a few kilometers away
to a long, low hill just northwest of the Bull Run battleground, where southern
forces defeated a northern army a year before.
Jackson hid his
troops in woods along the hill and waited for General Lee to arrive with the
rest of the southern army.
But before Lee
could get there, Union troops -- thousands of them --marched down the road
below Jackson. Jackson decided to attack, to hold them there until Lee arrived
The fighting was
furious. Neither side broke. The fighting died down at the end of the day, and
Jackson's men moved back to their positions on higher ground. They made their
lines along a partly-built railroad on the side of the hill.
headquarters on the hill, Jackson watched the northern forces prepare for
battle. Many thousands of the enemy were marching into position. Pope brought
up all his soldiers, and others were on the way from bases near Washington.
Several thousand of McClellan's troops, commanded by General Porter, were
arriving from the South.
It was a mighty
force, much larger than Jackson's army. Jackson was worried. He sent an officer
back to find General Lee. He sent a message: Lee must hurry. Jackson faced a
Pope's army was
large. But it was poorly organized. The men had been rushed into position. The
order to attack was given before all the troops were ready.
So, the attack
began slowly. And Jackson was able to fight it off. But then, more and more
northern soldiers joined the fight. The two sides struggled for hours in the
hot summer sun. Jackson's men almost broke. Men prayed for the long day to end.
The sun seemed to stand still.
Finally, the sun
went down, and the battlefield became dark. Jackson's men had held, but they
paid a terrible price. Thousands were killed or wounded. Northern losses were
Most of the Union troops
had fought bravely. They had hit the Confederate lines time after time. But one
large group of soldiers did not get into the battle at all that day. This was
the group from McClellan's Army of the Potomac, led by Fitz John Porter.
Pope had ordered Porter
to strike at the right end of Jackson's lines. Porter took his troops several
kilometers past Jackson's right and stopped them. His soldiers remained there
all day, out of the battle. Porter said later he believed the Confederate
forces were too strong for his men.
Other groups of
McClellan's men were arriving in Alexandria, thirty kilometers to the east.
Pope asked that they be sent to help him. McClellan was ordered to send them
immediately. But he refused to do so. He said they were not in condition to
fight, and he would not send them.
General Pope still
thought he was facing only Jackson's army. He refused to believe reports that
Lee had arrived on the battlefield with thirty thousand more southern soldiers.
Pope thought Lee was still far to the west of Manassas.
Pope knew that
Jackson's army had taken a terrible beating in the two days of bloody fighting.
And he was sure that Jackson would try to withdraw the next day, to retreat to
Pope divided his
forces that night. He left thousands in place in front of Jackson's lines. The
others were moved back. They were ordered to get ready for a march west to
block Jackson's retreat.
Pope made a
terrible mistake. Jackson was not planning to retreat. He was waiting with Lee
to smash the northern army. And that is what happened the next day.
attacked Jackson's lines. The fighting was bitter. Pope's forces almost smashed
through. But then Lee ordered his men to move forward to help Jackson.
Confederate artillery broke up the northern attack. When the northern troops
began to retreat, Lee and Jackson attacked with all their might.
Many of Pope's men
were not prepared for battle. They were standing together in groups, ready for
marching. They could not stop the southern attack. The Confederates pushed
Pope's army back across the Old Bull Run battlefield.
Near the end of the
day, northern forces succeeded in organizing a stronger defensive line. The
southern attack slowed down, then stopped. Lee sent Jackson around the north
end of Pope's line to try to stop the northern retreat. Lee did not want the
defeated Union army to escape. He wanted to destroy it.
But heavy rain held
up Jackson's troops. They were discovered and attacked by a strong northern
force. Jackson could move no farther. He could not stop Pope's retreat to
Centreville and Washington. The northern army escaped.
But it left behind
thousands and thousands of dead and wounded. Confederate doctors treated their
own men, then tried to help the wounded soldiers of the other side. General Lee
permitted northern medical wagons to return to the battlefield. And they began
to carry the wounded back to Centreville.
McClellan's army, arriving from Alexandria, met Pope's men in Centreville. They
laughed and shouted at the tired, beaten soldiers. Many said they were glad
that Pope had lost.
One of McClellan's
Generals, Samuel Sturgis, greeted Pope at Centreville: "I always told you,
Pope, that if they gave you enough rope, you would hang yourself."
What happened at
Bull Run created bitter anger among the people of the North -- anger against
their military leaders. People felt that a year had been wasted, that
thousands had died for no real purpose. The year before, southern troops sent a
northern army fleeing from Bull Run. Now, it was happening again. The Army of
the Potomac was back where it started.
As the facts of the
battle became known, cries of anger became even louder. The people demanded
answers. Why did McClellan and his men move so slowly? Why did they refuse to
go to Pope's aid? Why did Pope let Jackson get behind him? Why were
fourteen thousand soldiers lost?
Most members of
Lincoln's cabinet believed McClellan was responsible.
Salmon Chase said McClellan should be shot. War Secretary Edwin Stanton said he
should be dismissed immediately. He and three other cabinet members signed a
note demanding that Lincoln remove McClellan as Commander of the Army of the
Lincoln agreed that
what McClellan had done was shocking. He said it was clear that McClellan
wanted Pope to fail. But Lincoln said he would not remove McClellan. He said he
knew that McClellan was not an aggressive general. But he said McClellan was a
good organizer who could build the defeated army into a strong force.
General Robert E.
Lee, however, would not wait while McClellan rebuilt the army. He decided to
carry the war to the North.
Our program was written by Frank Beardsley. The narrators were Maurice
Joyce and Jack Moyles. Our series can be
found online with transcripts, podcasts and historical images at
voaspecialenglish.com. You can also follow our weekly programs on Twitter at
VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- an
American history series in VOA Special English.
This is program #103 of THE
MAKING OF A NATION