With the two sides firmly in place, the fighting starts in earnest with a graduate education in the inhumanity of war at Bull Run.
On July 2, Union Major General Robert Patterson took his division across the Potomac under vaguely-worded orders to re-take Harper’s Ferry. Patterson had been slow to move which gave the Rebels time to deploy. He ran into the troops of Colonel Thomas Jackson (soon to be nicknamed “Stonewall”) near Hoke’s Run. He began to push Jackson’s troops back, but Jackson was under orders to only delay the Union advance, not to stop them. Patterson got as far as Martinsburg, but stopped there on the 3rd. This inactivity allowed Confederates to bring up reinforcements which defeated the Union forces at Bull Run.
On July 4th, Leonidas Polk, first cousin to President James K. Polk, a political general who possessed no combat experience, but had a close friendship with President Jefferson Davis, was commissioned a Major General and given command of Department Number 2, roughly the area between the Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers.
July 11th saw the Battle of Rich Mountain, taking place in Randolph County, Virginia (now West Virginia). On June 27th, George McClellan moved his divisions from Clarksburg south against Confederates under the command of John Pegram. Thomas Morris’ brigade moved to Laurel Hill to confront Confederate General Robert Garnett. Union General William Rosecrans took a brigade over a mountain path to seize the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, effectively isolating Pegram from the rear. During the battle, Confederate forces were split in two. Half escaped, the others, Pegram’s command, were forced to surrender on the 13th.
Also on July 11th, Sterling Price, Confederate Governor Claiborne Jackson, Nathaniel Lyon and Francis Blair met at Planters’ House in St. Louis to discuss a truce. The talks ended abruptly, Lyon declaring, “This means war.”
The Battle of Corrick’s Ford occurred on July 13th. After hearing of Pegram’s defeat at Rich Mountain, Confederate General Robert Garnett fell back towards Beverly, Virginia with about 4,500 soldiers. False information stating that the Union controlled Beverly, Garnett backtracked, abandoning the crucial Staunton-Parkersburg turnpike and crossed Cheat Mountain, pursued by Union General Thomas Morris. Morris overtook Garnett’s rear at Corrick’s Ford and attacked. Garnett personally directed the skirmishers in a delaying action. During the ensuing fight, Garnett was killed by a Union volley, becoming the first General officer to die in battle. The results of this battle meant that control of Western Virginia was now firmly in Union hands, where it would remain for the rest of the war. (This Garnett is not to be confused with Richard Brooke Garnett, who was killed during Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg in 1863).
The U.S. government began issuing demand notes, commonly called “greenbacks” on July 17th.
The Battle of Scary Creek on July 17th was a minor action in which Union forces under Jacob Cox began to push up the Kanawha Valley from Ohio into western Virginia. When Colonel John Lowe met the Confederate forces at Scary Creek, they were commanded by none other than Captain George S. Patton, the grandfather and namesake of the legendary World War II General. Captain Patton was wounded in the battle.
On July 21, 1863 the first major battle of the Civil war was joined on a farm by Bull Run Creek. The battle has two different names, Bull Run on the Union side, and First Manassas by the Rebels. This battle took place only 25 miles away from Washington and many of the capital’s wealthy came out and had picnics in order to watch the battle. Bull Run was fought by officers and men who were inexperienced and untrained for battle and many mistakes were made. The battle started when Irvin McDowell under political pressure for a quick end to the war, moved south towards the Confederate capital at Richmond. He was met near Manassas, Virginia by equally green troops of P.G.T. Beauregard. A botched Union flanking attack nevertheless put the Confederates at an initial disadvantage. But arriving on the field were several brigades of reinforcements including one brigade of Virginians under Thomas J. Jackson. Rather than join the fleeing southerners, Jackson stood his ground, causing General Bee to rally his men, saying, “There stands Jackson like a stone wall! Rally around the Virginians!” That sobriquet would stay with Jackson forever. The battle was a Southern victory, sending the civilian picnickers fleeing back towards Washington, along with many of the troops. It was a rude awakening for many that war was not a gentlemen’s game, but a brutal and bloody business.
As a result of the battle, George McClellan was ordered to Washington to take command of the Army of the Potomac on July 22nd. On that day, President Jefferson Davis accepted Tennessee as a member of the Confederacy.
On the 25th, Robert Patterson was relieved by the Union Army for failing to hold Joseph Johnston’s Confederate troops from reinforcing at Bull Run. Patterson was mustered out of the Army a few days later. Also on that day, Congress approved the use of volunteer soldiers in the war. Congress also passed the Crittendon Resolution, stating that the preservation of the Union was the reason for the Civil War.
On July 31, eleven Union officers are submitted to Congress form promotion to Brigadier General. Included on this list were Ulysses S. Grant, Joseph Hooker, and William T. Sherman.