TwHP Lessons

First Battle of Manassas:
An End to Innocence

[Cover Photo] Stone House
(Manassas National Battlefield Park)


o many Americans, the firing on Fort Sumter by Confederate troops on the morning of April 12, 1861, signaled the separation of the United States into two nations. Soon thereafter, both the North and the South began preparing for war­­enlisting armies, training troops, and raising rhetoric to a fevered pitch. At first, Americans viewed the conflict romantically, as a great adventure. To many, it was a crusade of sorts that would be decided quickly, and would return both the North and South to a peaceful way of life, either as one nation or two. Scarcely three months later, however, events near the small Virginia community of Manassas Junction shocked the nation into the realization that the war might prove longer and more costly than anyone could have imagined--not only to the armies, but to the nation as a whole. On July 21, 1861, the first major confrontation of the opposing armies took place here, coming to a climax on the fallow fields of the widow Judith Henry's family, and claiming almost 5,000 casualties. Among the victims were not only the dead and wounded of the opposing armies, but members of the civilian population, and, ultimately, the wide-eyed innocence of a nation that suddenly realized it had gone to war with itself.

The importance of the first battle of Manassas, or Bull Run as it was generally known in the North, lay not so much in the movement of the armies or the strategic territory gained or lost, but rather in the realization that the struggle was more an apocalyptic event than the romantic adventure earlier envisioned.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. Central and eastern Virginia,
 Maryland, & Delaware, c. 1861

 2. The upper Potomac, 1861
 3. Manassas Battlefield today

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. The Last Letter of Major Sullivan Ballou
 2. The Letters of J.W. Reid
 3. Events Connected with the Life
 of Judith Carter Henry

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. Drawing of the Henry House, 1861
 2. Henry House, March 1862
 3. The Stone House, 1862

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Considering Life as a Soldier
 2. Manassas National Battlefield Park
 3. Local and Personal Impact of the Civil War

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Manassas National Battlefield Park

American Civil War:
Symbols of Battle: Civil War Flags

This lesson is based on the Manassas National Battlefield Park, one of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.




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