The first biggest land clash in the history of the American Civil War is the battle of the Bull Run also popularly known as the First Manassas; it was fought in the middle of the 17th century (starting on July 21 1861) (Beatie 12). This warfare erupted in the state of Virginia at Prince William County, next to a city of Manassas (Beatie 13). This paper will discuss the battle of the Bull Run. It will focus on military structure including the types of weapons and tactics used. Further, it will make a comparison of the Bull Run battle and the modern warfare.
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The battle of the Bull Run came as a surprise, and neither the North nor the South was prepared for this civil war (Stewart 15). Just before the war began (around April 1861), a good number of the union’s army had scattered across the West, and a large number of the army officers had resigned to join the alliance (Beatie 13).
At the start of the war, both the North and the South were not well prepared for this battle. Deficiencies in the two opposing sides were obvious. The two sides did not posses adequate tax structure; they did not have navy and the gunpowder industries were considerably small (Beatie 13). Additionally, infrastructures were poorly developed (Beatie 13). During the first two years of the civil war, the North and the South sides worked hard to rise above these challenges through increasing the number of armies and gathering funds to finance the war (Beatie 78). However, the North was more developed.
On the other hand, there was political interference in the Northern Camp as impatient politicians kept pressuring the troop leader, McDowel (Stewart 135). Apart from this, McDowell’s army was inexperienced and this was a challenge for the Northern side.
The Northern side had a number of advantages. First, the Northern side received strong support from President Lincoln (Stewart 81). Secondly, the army was very large, with about 35000 individuals. Generally, the Northern side was more powerful than the Southern side because it had a developed system (ranging from industries, army, weapons, roads and railways). Although the Northern side was more developed and better equipped in terms of machineries, the South side possessed manufacturing power. For instance, they had experienced shoemakers, which ensured constant supply of war shoes.
They were on home soil, which was an advantage to them (Southern side). Irrespective of the strong Northern side, its army could not handle the pressure. Lincoln sacked McDowell and replaced him with McClellan as the new commander (Beatie 46).
The weapon manufacturing capability possessed by the Northern and the Southern sides was immense. In fact, the Bull Run battle was the first “modern” war because of the high level of technology and tactics used (Beatie 84). The armies used several sophisticated weapons including knives, swords, and firearms. The firearms included handguns, breech loaders, rifled-muskets, and repeating weapons (Beatie 67). In addition, they possessed hand grenades and deadly machine guns (Stewart 263). Due to the level of weaponry technology, the two sides had to employ traditional mounted infantry tactics in this war (Beatie 76).
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This involved closing the enemy, capturing, and killing soldiers. With the use of roads and railways, both the Northern and Southern camps attacked from sides. Since the Northern side possessed naval power, they prevented weapons from being imported by the southern side (Stewart 173).
The tactics and technology used during the Bull Run war caused mass deaths of armies (Stewart 145). The capturing and killing resulted in mass deaths with about 500 armies being killed, 1,200 wounded, and 1,300 being captured from the Northern side (Stewart 249). The Southern side lost around 400 individuals to death, 1,582 were wounded, and 15 got captured (Beatie 93). Due to massive deaths in the Northern camp, many solders flowed back resulting to a surprise defeat.
The first battle of the Bull Run is considered to be the first “modern” war due to the level of technology and tactics used (Beatie 14). Comparing this particular war with the modern warfare in Iraq reveals a number of similarities even though the differences are many. In the first battle of Bull Run, the level of technology was not as advanced as the modern day warfare. In today’s warfare, more deadly weapons are used in Iraq. The use of missiles and bombs represent the modern warfare while the use of knives, swords and firearms such as hand grenades and machine guns represent the first “modern” war (the Bull Run battle) (Beatie 67).
In today’s warfare, the use of air military is common with a number air attacks being reported in Iraq. In the Bull Run battle, trains and ships were the most commonly used means of transport. However, the use of infantry tactics is still common in the modern warfare. Mass killing and capturing of soldiers (which is common in Iraq) is also something that existed in the Battle of the Bull Run war.
In conclusion, the battle of the Bull Run represents the first modern war. During this war, the Northern side locked horns with the Southern side in what is considered to be the bloodiest warfare in the American history. Although the Northern side appeared strong, it was defeated unexpectedly by the southern side. However, when both sides realized that the battle would be brutal, they ended it.
Beatie, Russel. Army of the Potomac: Birth of Command, November 1860 – September 1861. New York: Da Capo Press, 2002. Print.
Stewart, Richard. American Military History. American State Army and Forging of a Nation, 1775-1917, 1.1 (2006): 1-376. Print.