Thursday, July 21, 2016

Interactive panoramas: First Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861

Monument to  Stonewall Jackson at Bull Run. Read John Hennessy's take on his nickname.
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In late April 2016, more than 50 other Civil War aficionados and I had the great fortune to tour the First Bull Run battlefield with two experts, John Hennessy of the National Park Service and my fellow Pittsburgher, Harry Smeltzer. John's recently updated book on First Manassas (also known as Bull Run) and Harry's fabulous blog/digital history project are premier sources on the first major battle of the war, fought July 21, 1861. Here are five interactive panoramas I shot that day, a small slice of our nine-hour trek of the battlefield (click at upper right for full-screen experience): 


    Warrenton Turnpike crossed at Stone Bridge, which was destroyed during the war.
"It was an appalling hour. The shot whistled and tore through trees and bones. The ground became literally paved with the fallen. Yet the remnant stood composed and unquailing, carefully loading, steadily aiming, unerringly firing, and then quietly looking to see the effect of their shots. Mere boys fought like veterans — unexcited, save with that stern "white heat," flameless exhilaration, that battle gives to brave spirits.

"After eight or ten rounds the regiment appeared annihilated. The order was reluctantly given to cease firing and retire. The stubborn fellows gave no heed. It was repeated. Still no obedience. The battle spirit was up. Again it was given. Three volleys had been fired after the first command. At length they retired, walking and fighting. Owing to the density of the growth, a part of the regiment were separated from the colors. The other part formed in an open field behind the thicket. The retreat continued over ground alternately wood and field. At every open spot they would reform, pour a volley into the pursuing enemy and again retire."

-- Confederate soldier on fighting near the Stone Bridge early on July 21


        71st N.Y., 1st and 2nd Rhode Island soldiers were among troops that fought here.

"I cannot here relate all the scenes I saw, the horrible wounds inflicted, and all the incidents of this most shameful and unnecessary battle – for which the troops feel they were sacrificed by the stupidity of their generals. Suffice it to say our men fought bravely; and I can only account for the panic with which they were seized by the facts that the teamsters took fright and drove their wagons pell mell through them, and that many of the regiments had totally incompetent field and company officers – many of  whom acted cowardly – and the most of whom didn’t know what to do."

-- Colonel John Ellis, a volunteer in the 71st New York


                          Confederate troops under Jackson, artillery were positioned here.

"The contest that ensued was terrific. Jackson ordered me to go from battery to battery and see that the guns were properly aimed and the fuses cut the right length. This was the work of but a few minutes. On returning to the left of the line of guns, I stopped to ask General Jackson’s permission to rejoin my battery. The fight was just then hot enough to make him feel well. His eyes fairly blazed. He had a way of throwing up his left hand with the open palm toward the person he was addressing. And as he told me to go, he made this gesture. The air was full of flying missiles, and as he spoke he jerked down his hand, and I saw that blood was streaming from it. I exclaimed,  'General, you are wounded?' He replied, as he drew a handkerchief from his breast-pocket, and began to bind it up, 'Only a scratch — a mere scratch,' and galloped away along his line."

-- Confederate General John Imboden on fighting at Henry Hill


                                             Site of major Confederate field hospital.

"On his way to the rear, the wound pained him so much that he stopped at the first hospital he came to, and the surgeon there proposed to cut the finger off; but while the Doctor looked for his instruments, and for a moment turned his back, the General silently mounted his horse, rode off, and soon afterwards found me. I was busily engaged with the wounded, but when I saw him coming, I left them, and asked him if he was seriously hurt. 'No,' he answered, 'not half as badly as many here, and I will wait.' And he forthwith sat down on the bank of a little stream near by, and positively declined any assistance until  'his turn came!' ”

-- Dr. Hunter McGuire on Stonewall Jackson's wound at First Battle of Bull Run


                                                     Near Holkum's Branch of Bull Run.  

 "Give me ten thousand men and I shall take Washington City tomorrow.”

-- Stonewall Jackson to Confederate president Jefferson Davis.

The Rebels, however, were too disorganized to follow up on their great victory at Bull Run.

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