Battle of Bull Run/Manassas Pt. 1

This lesson includes images of items picked up from the field after the battle of First Manassas/Bull Run. Images include: a cartridge, a homemade uniform jacket, a toothbrush a watch chain, a map, and several pipes. The lesson includes an artifact cataloging chart.

Dates and Eras 1861
Themes Battles, Soldiers
Grades 5–7
Standards VS.1,   VS.7,   VUS.1;   CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH11-12.3


Paper wrapped charge with hand-written ink inscription: “Carried onto the field at the battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861.”

Historical Context

In the spring of 1861 the nation was preparing for war.  Men in the North and the South rushed to join the ranks. But had anyone prepared for the fight that lay ahead? Both the United States government and Confederate States leaders had their hands full preparing for a military conflict. Rations were tight, housing was insufficient, and transportation was slow and disorganized. 

Young men, some only teenagers, were not prepared for military drills or long, tedious days of marching.  The officers had a difficult time gaining respect or obedience from their men.  Moreover, time was not on anyone’s side. 

On July 21, 1861, the first major battle of the war took place near a stream called Bull Run near Manassas, Virginia.  This battle served as a reality check for governments, military leaders, and especially the common soldier.  

With nearly 5,000 men killed, wounded, or captured, many realized that this conflict would not be settled in one large battle.

Artifacts from the Battle of First Manassas/Bull Run reveal the human side of this story.  The artifacts tell historians of the personal impact this battle had on those who actually experienced it.

Suggested Questions

  1. How can you use these artifacts to argue that the actual experience of battle was far from the romantic, glorified image that soldiers had before they participated in a battle?
  2. What can you tell about the person who owned or created each of these artifacts?
  3. Taking mementos or the act of creating reverence and remembrance around certain events is still done today. Provide a modern example of this being done by an individual or a society.

Suggested Activities

  1. Have students use the cataloging chart to record information about the pictured artifacts. Instruct them to look critically at the artifacts and determine why and how a specific piece can create a more complete understanding of the battle. Then, hold a class discussion using the suggested questions.
  2. Have the students gather into groups of 2 or 3 to read the report from Brigadier General Jackson following the Battle of Manassas (follow the link to Jackson’s report on The Civil War Home Page website). With textual evidence from Jackson’s report, have the groups summarize the events concerning the Battle. Have students state one interesting fact they learned from this activity.