Sunday, July 17, 2011

150 Years Ago Today, July 17, 1861, Part 2: Union Troops on the March to Bull Run Creek in Virginia

Road to Bull Run

Calm Before the Storm

As the war began to unfold in the summer of 1861, the vast majority of Union soldiers were volunteers who had received very little military training, unused to the discipline of military life. The 25-mile march from Washington, D.C. to Manassas Junction, Virginia was hot and boring and subject to many halts, due to the difficulty of mobilizing such large numbers of men. On these occasions, the soldiers found other ways to entertain themselves:

“July 17, 1861. On the way (from Annandale to Fairfax Court House, Virginia) we found an old railroad embankment, and I never saw blackberries more plenty. We stopped and ate what we wanted. . .July 21. Almost nine o’clock in the forenoon we reached Sudley church. . .We now took a side road that skirted a piece of woods and marched for some distance, the men amusing themselves with laughter and jokes, with occasional stops for berries. . .” -- Private Elisha Hunt Rhodes, Company D, Second Rhode Island Volunteers

“They stopped every moment to pick blackberries or get water, they would not keep in the ranks, order as much as you pleased. . .” -- Union General Irvin McDowell

“. . .for all my personal efforts I could not prevent the men from straggling for water, blackberries, or anything on the way they fancied.” -- Union Colonel William Tecumseh Sherman

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