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And so Begins the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War

These are hallowed times for many who live in the United States of America.  Over the next four years we will live through a series of 150 year anniversaries of the major events, battles, and struggles that we know as the American Civil War.  While the official beginning of the war was on April 12, with the shelling of Fort Sumter, the real fighting began 150 years ago this month at the First Battle of Bull Run, fought in northern Virginia just miles from the capital city of Washington.

 

The Union forces were led by General Irvin McDowell, while the Confederates were led by General P. G. T. Beauregaurd.  The battle raged back and forth for much of the day with the afternoon spent fighting for control of the Union artillery to use against the other forces.  In the end, the Union lines were shattered and withdrew from the field and limped back to the capital in utter defeat.  The battle was the bloodiest ever fought by American troops up to that point.  In one day of fighting there were 4,700 casualties across both armies.  By the standards that the Civil War would see, they were actually modest.

 

The battle would lead to a series of firsts.  It was at this battle that a young Confederate Colonel, relatively unknown at the time, kept his forces in line and bravely repulsed a brutal charge from the Union side, his men standing like a stonewall, earning Thomas Jackson his famous nickname.  It was the first real fighting between Union and Confederate infantry that would set the tone for much of the next two years with the Union soldiers retreating in defeat.  Abraham Lincoln would soon relieve General McDowell of his command, the first in a series of Generals the President would relieve of their command because of their inability to lead on the battlefield.  This was the first of many battles that would occur in the state of Virginia, whose citizenry witnessed more battles than any state in the four year war.  And it was the first in a series of battles that would record the highest casualty count of a single American battle.

 

These are, indeed, hallowed times, made so by the tears, blood, and lives of the men and women who fought so fiercely to defend the bright and shining ideals of our nation:  that government should be of the people, by the people, and for the people.  It was 150 years ago that the true fighting began and we have the opportunity to reflect, all of these years later, and be grateful that so many would sacrifice so much for me and you so we can enjoy our freedom.

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