The first big battle of the war was fought at Manassas, Virginia, not far from Washington, near a muddy stream known as Bull Run. Manassas was a logical place to have a battle. It was a railroad junction: the place where two railroad lines met . When that July day began, in 1861, war seemed a bit like a show. And hundreds of Washingtonians didn't want to miss that show. They decided to go to Manassas with their picnic baskets, settle down near Bull Run stream, and watch the fighting. But they didn't see what they expected. It wasn't a picture-book battle. It was real, and disorderly. James Tinkham was a private in the Union army. He said: "We fired a volley, and saw the Rebels running. The boys were saying, 'We'll hang Jeff Davis from a sour apple tree'. 'They are running'. 'The war is over'."
By afternoon it no longer seemed exciting. It had become exhausting, and terrifying . Bodies littered the ground, the earth was bloody and beginning to smell, and neither side seemed to be winning. Then fresh Southern troops arrivedby train. The Rebels attacked with bloodcurdling shouts; they called it the "rebel yell." And that was too much for the Yankees. They dropped their guns and ran. The South won that battle of Bull Run .
It didn't take long for people to realize that war is no picnic. Even then, no one dreamed that the war would be as long, hard, and bloody as it turned out to be.