The main route from Washington to the South crossed the Potomac, then as now, by the “Long Bridge,” passing in full view of the yellow Arlington House, fronted by its columned porch. This historic building was the home of General Robert E. Lee in his early life, the chief Confederate Commander during the Civil War. The estate is now a vast cemetery, and upon it and all about to the westward are the remains of the forts and earthworks erected for the defence of Washington. After the war began, in April, 1861, the Northern troops were gradually assembled in and around Washington; but there came an imperative demand from the country that they should go forth and give the Confederates battle and capture Richmond before their Congress could meet, the opening of the session being fixed for July 20th. The Southern armies were entrenched at Manassas Junction, west of Washington, and at Winchester to the northwest, and they were making forays almost in sight of Washington. General McDowell, with nearly forty thousand men, marched out of the Washington fortifications on July 17th to attack General Beauregard at Manassas. The Confederates brought their Winchester army hastily down, and took position along the banks of Bull Run, a tributary of the Occoquan, their lines stretching for about eight miles. McDowell attacked on the morning of the 21st, each side having about twenty-eight thousand available men. The conflict lasted with varying success most of the day, McDowell being finally beaten and retreating to Washington.
Thirteen months later, after McClellan’s retreat from Richmond, was fought in almost the same place, on August 29 and 30, 1862, the second battle of Bull Run. General Pope had a considerable force in Northern Virginia, and when McClellan, whom Pope superseded, retreated from before Richmond, and started on his return from James River, Lee moved nearly his whole army up from Richmond, hoping to fall upon Pope before McClellan could join him. On August 22d the opposing forces confronted each other along the Rappahannock, when General Stuart, with the Confederate cavalry, made a raid around Pope’s lines to the rear, reaching that general’s head-quarters and capturing his personal baggage, in which was his despatch book describing the position of the whole Northern army. This gave Lee such valuable information that on the 25th he sent Stonewall Jackson with thirty thousand men, who, by a forced march, went around the western side of the Bull Run Mountains, came east again by the Thorough-fare Gap, and on the night of the 27th was in Pope’s rear, and had cut his railroad connections and captured his supplies at Manassas. Pope, discovering the flanking movement, began falling back towards Manassas, and Jackson then withdrew towards the Gap, waiting for Lee to come up. There were various strategic movements afterwards, with fighting on the 29th ; and on the 30th the Confederate wings had enclosed as in a vise Pope’s forces to the west of Bull Run, when, after some terrific combats, Pope retreated across Bull Run towards Washington. Pope had about thirty-five thousand men and Lee forty-six thousand engaged in this battle. During the night of September 2d Jackson made a reconnoissance towards Washington, in which the Union Generals Stevens and Kearney were killed at Chantilly, and the authorities became so apprehensive of an attack upon the Capital that they ordered the whole army to fall back behind the Washington defenses. Pope was then relieved, at his own request, and the command restored to McClellan. The Confederates marched northward across the Potomac and McClellan followed, ending with the battles of South Mountain and Antietam, later in September, when Lee retreated and recrossed the Potomac into Virginia on the 18th. The significant result of this conflict and withdrawal was the issue of the famous Emancipation Proclamation. President Lincoln had made a vow that if Lee was driven back from Maryland he would issue a proclamation abolishing slavery, which was done September 22, 1862.