1861 July 18th

July 18 1861 Thursday

Battle of Blackburn’s Ford, VA (CWSAC Formative Battle – Confederate Victory)

First Bull Run Campaign

McClellan’s West Virginia Campaign

Patterson’s Shenandoah Valley Operations

Maryland. Commander Daniel Bowly Ridgely, commanding the US receiving ship Allegheny, reported that his ship had received a battery of guns from the Washington Navy Yard and was standing by in the harbour for the protection of Annapolis.

Missouri. Incidents at Parkersville and Harrisonville. Kansas City Home Guards were attacked by Confederates near Harrisonville. Union Major R T Van Horn reported one casualty and 20 Confederate casualties.

Missouri. Skirmish at Martinsburg.

Virginia. The Confederate schooner Favorite was captured by USS Yankee, Commander Thomas Tingey Craven, on the Yeocomico River. The Favorite was sunk later at Piney Point on the Potomac River to block the passage.

Virginia. Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen Russell Mallory reported that the frigate formerly known as USS Merrimack, and later renamed as CSS Virginia, had been raised and docked. It was planned to shield the ship completely with a casemate of 3 inch iron. In the end, 4-inch armour was fitted, angled to render it invulnerable to solid shot. The innovative warship would seek to contend against enemy ships in Hampton Roads and the coast of Virginia.

Virginia. Orders reached Confederate Brigadier-General Joseph Eggleston Johnston at 1 am to leave the Shenandoah Valley immediately and to reinforce Brigadier-General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard at Manassas. The withdrawal of Union Major-General Robert Patterson towards Harper’s Ferry had relieved Johnston of immediate anxiety for the security of the Valley and allowed him to oppose the greater threat alongside Beauregard. Johnston’s Confederate Army of the Shenandoah departed from Winchester at 12 noon, marched via Ashby Gap to Piedmont, and travelled thence by rail towards Manassas Junction.

Virginia. The Confederate brigade of Brigadier-General Theophilus Hunter Holmes arrived at Manassas Junction from Aquia Creek with 3,000 men to reinforce the Confederate force behind Bull Run Creek.

Blackburn’s Ford, Virginia, also known as Bull Run, McLean’s Ford or Mitchell’s Ford. The Union Army of Northeastern Virginia under Brigadier-General Irvin McDowell reached Centreville after a nine-mile march from Fairfax. They approached Bull Run Creek, where a Confederate army of about 22,000 men under Brigadier-General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard was guarding the fords.

McDowell ordered State Brigadier-General Daniel Tyler to give the impression of marching towards Manassas but not to bring on an engagement while making a reconnaissance of the Confederate left flank. Tyler was ordered to advance through Centreville, to reconnoitre towards Bull Run and report back. When Tyler found that Centreville was unoccupied by Confederate troops, he continued southeastwards to Mitchell’s Ford and Blackburn’s Ford, arriving at the latter about 11am.

Looking south across the stream Tyler believed that the road to Manassas Junction was clear but failed to see a Confederate brigade under Brigadier-General James Longstreet concealed in the woods beyond the ford. Tyler ordered two howitzers under Captain Romeyn Beck Ayres to bombard the Confederate artillery he could see: the Alexandria Artillery and the Washington Artillery. The Union fire had no visible effect.

Tyler then ordered Colonel Israel Buch Richardson and part of his brigade forward. Richardson’s advance met initial resistance from the 1st Virginia Infantry, 11th Virginia Infantry, and 17th Virginia Infantry of Longstreet’s brigade. Tyler ordered Ayres to move his guns closer to the action, accompanied by cavalry, while the rest of Richardson’s brigade was sent toward the ford. Richardson’s assault fell apart when the 12th New York began to retreat under heavy fire, causing a wave of panic to spread through the Union line.

Confederate Colonel Jubal Anderson Early arrived with his Confederate brigade after marching two miles north from Beauregard’s headquarters at Wilmer McLean’s house. This additional strength sealed the Confederate victory and the Washington Artillery kept the Union troops under fire as they retreated away from the Ford.

The unauthorised reconnaissance-in-force at Blackburn’s Ford confirmed the wisdom of McDowell’s decision not to make an immediate frontal assault across Bull Run Creek. Deterred from attacking at Blackburn’s Ford, McDowell prepared a more ambitious flanking manoeuvre further upstream. The repulse cost 83 Union casualties (19 killed, 38 wounded, and 26 missing), while the Confederates reported 68 casualties (15 killed and 53 wounded). (CWSAC Formative Battle – Confederate Victory)

Union Organisation

Commander in Chief: President Abraham Lincoln

Vice-President: Hannibal Hamlin

Secretary of War: Simon Cameron

Secretary of the Navy: Gideon Welles

  • Coast Blockading Squadron USN: Flag Officer Silas Horton Stringham USN
  • Gulf Blockading Squadron USN: Flag Officer William Mervine USN
  • Pacific Squadron USN: Captain John B Montgomery USN
  • Potomac Flotilla USN: Commander Thomas Tingey Craven USN

General–in-Chief: Winfield Scott

  • Department of Annapolis: Nathaniel Prentiss Banks
  • Department of the East: John Ellis Wool
  • Department of Florida: Harvey Brown
  • Department of Kentucky: Robert Anderson
  • Department of Northeastern Virginia: Irvin McDowell
    • Army of Northeastern Virginia: Irvin McDowell
  • Department of the Ohio: George Brinton McClellan
    • Army of Occupation: George Brinton McClellan
  • Department of the Pacific: Edwin Vose Sumner
    • District of Oregon: George Wright
  • Department of Pennsylvania: Robert Patterson
    • Army of the Shenandoah: Robert Patterson
  • Department of Texas: Vacant
  • Department of Virginia: Benjamin Franklin Butler
  • Department of Washington: Joseph King Fenno Mansfield
  • Western Department: Nathaniel Lyon interim John Charles Frémont awaited
    • District of Ironton: Benjamin Gratz Brown
    • Army of the West: Nathaniel Lyon

Confederate Organisation

CSA: The District of Aquia was established in the Department of Fredericksburg, comprising the area between Powell’s River and the mouth of the Potomac River including North Neck and the counties on either side of the Rappahannock River from its mouth to Fredericksburg.

CSA: Colonel Richard Milton Cary assumed temporary command of the District of Aquia.

Cary, Richard Milton
Captain PACS 30th Virginia Infantry May 1861 / Lieutenant-Colonel PACS 14 May 1861 / Colonel PACS 15 June 1861 District of Aquia 18 July 1861-18 July 1861

Commander in Chief: President Jefferson Finis Davis

Vice-President: Alexander Hamilton Stephens

Secretary of War: Leroy Pope Walker

Secretary of the Navy: Stephen Russell Mallory

Military Adviser to the President: Robert Edward Lee

  • Department No 1: David Emanuel Twiggs
    • “Forces in New Orleans” “Army of Louisiana”: Braxton Bragg
  • Department of Fredericksburg: Daniel Harvey Hill
    • District of Aquia: Richard M Cary temporary
  • Department of Norfolk: Benjamin Huger
  • Department of North Carolina: Theophilus Hunter Holmes
    • Defences of North Carolina: Theophilus Hunter Holmes
  • Department of the Peninsula: John Bankhead Magruder
    • Army of the Peninsula: John Bankhead Magruder
  • Department of the Potomac: Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
    • Army of the Potomac: Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
  • Department of South Carolina: Daniel Harvey Hill
  • Department of Southwestern Virginia: William Wing Loring
  • Department of Texas: Earl Van Dorn
    • Defences of Galveston: John Creed Moore
  • Department of West Florida: Braxton Bragg
    • “Forces in Pensacola”: Braxton Bragg
  • Western Department: Leonidas Polk
    • District of Upper Arkansas: William Joseph Hardee
    • Forces in Missouri: Benjamin McCulloch
  • Defences of Savannah: Alexander Robert Lawton
  • District of Harper’s Ferry: Joseph Eggleston Johnston
    • Army of the Shenandoah: Joseph Eggleston Johnston
  • Indian Territory: Benjamin McCulloch
  • Forces in Richmond: Thomas Turner Fauntleroy
  • Army of the Kanawha: Henry Alexander Wise
  • Army of Liberation: Gideon Johnson Pillow
  • Army of the Northwest: Henry Rootes Jackson

Union Generals

Note: Italics, awaiting confirmation of the commission

Major-General USA

Winfield Scott
George Brinton McClellan
John Charles Frémont

Major-General USV

John Adams Dix
Nathaniel Prentiss Banks
Benjamin Franklin Butler

Brigadier-General USA

John Ellis Wool
William Selby Harney
Edwin Vose Sumner
Joseph King Fenno Mansfield
Irvin McDowell
Robert Anderson
William Starke Rosecrans

Brigadier-General USV

Samuel Peter Heintzelman
David Hunter
Erasmus Darwin Keyes
Andrew Porter
Fitz-John Porter
William Buel Franklin
William Tecumseh Sherman
Charles Pomeroy Stone
Don Carlos Buell
Thomas West Sherman
Nathaniel Lyon
John Pope
George Archibald McCall
William Reading Montgomery
Philip Kearny
Joseph Hooker
John Wolcott Phelps
Ulysses Simpson Grant
Joseph Jones Reynolds
Samuel Ryan Curtis
Charles Smith Hamilton
Darius Nash Couch
Rufus King
Jacob Dolson Cox
Stephen Augustus Hurlbut
Franz Sigel
Robert Cumming Schenck
Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss
Frederick West Lander
Benjamin Franklin Kelley
John Alexander McClernand
Alpheus Starkey Williams
Israel Bush Richardson
James Cooper

Brigadier-General USA (Staff)

Montgomery Cunningham Meigs (Quartermaster-General)

Confederate Generals

Note: Italics, awaiting confirmation of the commission

General ACSA

Samuel Cooper
Albert Sidney Johnston
Robert Edward Lee
Joseph Eggleston Johnston

Major-General PACS

David Emanuel Twiggs
Leonidas Polk

Brigadier-General ACSA

Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
Braxton Bragg

Brigadier-General PACS

Alexander Robert Lawton
Milledge Lake Bonham
Benjamin McCulloch
William Wing Loring
Charles Clark
John Buchanan Floyd
William Henry Talbot Walker
Henry Rootes Jackson
Theophilus Hunter Holmes
Henry Alexander Wise
Earl Van Dorn
William Joseph Hardee
Richard Stoddert Ewell
David Rumph Jones
Benjamin Huger
John Bankhead Magruder
James Longstreet
Edmund Kirby Smith
John Clifford Pemberton
Thomas Jonathan Jackson
Henry Hopkins Sibley
Barnard Elliott Bee
John Henry Winder
Richard Caswell Gatlin
Daniel Smith Donelson
Samuel Read Anderson
Gideon Johnson Pillow
Benjamin Franklin Cheatham
Felix Kirk Zollicoffer
Daniel Harvey Hill
Jones Mitchell Withers

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