I. Bull Run Ends the “Ninety-Day War”
When President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 militiamen on April 15, 1861, he and just about
everyone else in the North expected a swift war lasting about 90 days, with a quick suppression of the
South to prove the North’s superiority and end this foolishness.
On July 21, 1861, ill-trained Yankee recruits swaggered out toward Bull Run to engage a smaller
Confederate unit. They expected one big battle and a quick victory for the war.
The atmosphere was like that of a sporting event, as spectators gathered in picnics to watch.
However, after initial success by the Union, Confederate reinforcements arrived and, coupled
’s line holding, sent the Union soldiers into disarray.
Battle of Bull Run
showed the North that this would not be a short, easy war and swelled the
South’s already too-large ego.
II. “Tardy George” McClellan and the Peninsula Campaign
Later in 1861, command of the Army of the Potomac (name of the Union army) was given to 34
General George B. McClellan
, an excellent drillmaster and organizer of troops, but also a
perfectionist who constantly believed that he was outnumbered, never took risks, and held the army
without moving for months before finally ordered by Lincoln to advance.
At Lincoln’s urging, he finally decided upon a water-borne approach to Richmond (the South’s
capital), called the
, taking about a month to capture Yorktown before coming to
At this moment, President Lincoln took McClellan’s expected reinforcements and sent them
chasing Stonewall Jackson, and after “
’s Confederate cavalry rode completely around
McClellan’s army, Southern
General Robert E. Lee
launched a devastating counterattack—the
—on June 26 to July 2 of 1862.
The victory at Bull Run ensured that the South, if it lost, would lose slavery as well, and it was
after this battle that Lincoln began to draft an emancipation proclamation.
With the quick-strike plan a failure, the Union strategy now turned to total war. Summed up, the
plan was to blockade, divide, and conquer. The plan included…
Suffocate the South through an oceanic blockade.
Free the slaves to undermine the South’s very economic foundations.
Cut the Confederacy in half by seizing control of the Mississippi River.
Chop the Confederacy to pieces by marching through Georgia and the Carolinas.
Capture its capital, Richmond, Virginia.
Try everywhere to engage the enemy’s main strength and grind it to submission.
This was essentially General Winfield Scott’s “Anaconda Plan.”
III. The War at Sea
The Union blockade started with many leaks at first, but it clamped down later.