I. Bull Run Ends the “Ninety-Day War”
A. Northern newspapers at first had expectations of quick victory, “On to Richmond!”
B. A Union army is of some 30 men is drilled near Washington in the supper of 1861 and it was ill prepared for battle, but the press and the public clamored for action.
a. Lincoln concluded that an attack on a small Confederate force at Bull Run some thirty miles southwest of Washington might be worth a try. If successful it would demonstrate the superiority of Union arms.
b. It might even lead to the capture of the Union capital at Richmond, 100 miles to the South
c. If Richmond fell, secession would be thoroughly discredited and the Union could be restored without damage to the economic and social system of the South.
C. Yankee recruits swaggered out towards Bull Run in July of 1861 as if they were headed to a sporting event. Congressmen and spectators trailed along with lunch baskets to witness the fun.
a. At first the battle went well for the Yankees but “Stonewall” Jackson’s gray-clad warriors stood like a stone wall and Confederate forces arrived unexpectedly.
b. Panic seized the green Union troops many of whom fled in confusion and the Confederates themselves too exhausted or disorganized to pursue, feasted on captured lunches.
D. The military panic of Bull Run though not decisive militarily bore significant psychological and political consequences, many of them paradoxical.
a. Victory was worse than defeat for the South because it inflated an already dangerous overconfidence
1. Many Southern soldiers deserted feeling that the war was surely over
2. Southern enlistments fell sharply and preparations for a long war in the South slackened.
b. Defeat was better than victory for the Union
1. It dispelled all illusions of a short war and caused the Northerners to buckle down and start to prepare for a large conflict
2. Also set the stage for a war that would be waged not merely for the cause of the Union but also, eventually for the abolitionist ideal of emancipation.
II. “Tardy George” McClellan and the Peninsula Campaign
A. Northern hopes brightened later in 1861 when General George B. McClellan was given command of the Army of the Potomac, as the major Union force near Washington
a. McClellan was a brilliant, thirty four year old West Pointer
b. As a serious student of warfare he was dubbed “Young Napoleon” and he had seen plenty of fighting in the Mexico War and as in observer of the Crimean War in Russia.
c. He embodied a curious mixture of virtues and defects
i. He was a superb organizer and drillmaster and he injected splendid morale into the Army of the Potomac.
ii. Hating to sacrifice his troops he was idolized by his men who affectionately called him “Little Mac”
iii. But he was a perfectionist who seems not to have realized that an army is never ready to the last button and that wars cannot be won without running some risks.
iv. He consistently but erroneously believed that the enemy outnumbered him (partly because his intelligence reports from the head of Pinkerton’s Detective Agency were unreliable)
v. He was overcautious and he addressed the president in an arrogant tone that a less forgiving person would not have tolerated.
B. As McClellan drilled his army without moving it towards Richmond the derisive Northern watchword became “All Quiet Along the Potomac”
C. Lincoln finally issued firm orders to advance
a. Reluctant McClellan decides upon a waterborne approach to Richmond which lies at the western base of a narrow peninsula formed by the James and York Rivers (Peninsula Campaign)
b. McClellan warily inched towards the Confederate capital in the spring of 1862 with about 100,000 men.
c. After taking a month to capture Yorktown he came in the sigh of Richmond. At this crucial…