Each of the military leaders on both sides of the Civil War had their strengths, and weaknesses. In the North Abraham Lincoln had great difficulty in picking a commander that would be aggressive enough, but at the same time that not throw his resources away recklessly. His biggest concern was what became known as the “Army of the Potomac,” which was understandable for several reasons. This army protected Washington, as well as states such as Pennsylvania, and Maryland, but was also the main force that could thrust into the South, and their capitol in Richmond. Even in the South where Robert E. Lee held command of the “Army of Northern Virginia” command issues were not unknown, but they did not involve the incompetence of the top commander. The North gave away many advantages that it might have had early in the war simply because of the inability their military commanders to perform. While at the same time in the South, commanders, many of whom were some of the brightest and best to come out of West Point, did their everything they could to end the war in their favor.
Lincoln wanted to end the conflict quickly, which prompted his initial call for 75,000 volunteers, unfortunately for him the new volunteers, many of which had only enlisted for 90 days, only three months after the firing on Fort Sumter were much too green for the effort. Something their commander General Irvin McDowell was quite well aware of. Lincoln pushed McDowell to attack as soon as possible, so on July 21, 1861 the first major eastern battle of the Civil War started when McDowell sent ill trained, and poorly disciplined troops toward the Confederate forces drawn up along Bull Run Creek.. He initially wanted the attack to be a surprise, with the hope of taking a vital railroad junction along “Manassas Gap Railroad,” but that would have taken speed, something that his army was seriously lacking.
His command, consisting of just under 30,000 troops, facing a Confederate force of approximately 22,000 under the command of Pierre G.T. Beauregard. McDowell initially probed the center of the Confederate line, but was turned back, after which he spent some time scouting the left flank of Beauregard's lines. Once it became clear that McDowell was planning to attack at Manassas, and realizing that he was outnumbered requested help from Richmond. General Joseph Johnston, and his 10,000 men were posted in the Shenandoah Valley facing opposing Union forces there. Upon receiving orders to reenforce Beauregard at Manassas he loaded as many troops as possible onto the “Manassas Gap Railroad” and headed them east.
When McDowell begin his attack on July 21st he sent troops around the Confederates left flank. As the fighting started the Federals had the advantage, and despite efforts by various Southern units to halt the advance they continued a steady advance toward a strategic point called Henry Hill. After hours of fighting Union forces reorganized for a final push against the...