FIRST BULL RUN: AN OVERVIEW
Prelude to Battle
On 15 April 1861, the day after South Carolina military forces had attacked and captured Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation declaring an insurrection against the laws of the United States. Earlier, South Carolina and seven other Southern states had declared their secession from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America. To suppress the rebellion and restore Federal law in the Southern states, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers with ninety-day enlistments to augment the existing U.S. Army of about 15,000. He later accepted an
additional 40,000 volunteers with three-year enlistments and increased the strength of the U.S. Army to almost 20,000. Lincoln’s actions caused four more Southern states, including Virginia, to secede and join the Confederacy, and by 1 June the Confederate capital had been moved from
Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond, Virginia.
In Washington, D.C., as thousands of volunteers rushed to defend the capital, General in Chief Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott laid out his strategy to subdue the rebellious states. He proposed that an army of 80,000 men be organized and sail down the Mississippi River and capture New Orleans. While the Army “strangled” the Confederacy in the west, the U.S. Navy would blockade Southern ports along the eastern and Gulf coasts. The press ridiculed what they dubbed as Scott’s “Anaconda Plan.” Instead, many believed the capture of the Confederate capital at Richmond, only one hundred miles south of Washington, would quickly end the war.