MANASSAS, Va. (NEWS CENTER) -- This is the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. The first major battle took place 150 years ago on July 21. Four Maine regiments were involved in the action which did not go well for the Union Army.
It's interesting to note that the battle took place just over three months after rebels had fired on Fort Sumter. Many soldiers signed up to fight for ninety days and their enlistments were almost up.
With pressure from President Lincoln, Union General Irvin McDowell marched his troops to Manassas, Virginia. On a blistering hot day, he led his army on a circuitous route to the field.
Because of the inexperience of the troops, the battle developed slowly. Still, the Union had the Confederates on the run by noon. However, reinforcements were brought up. Stonewall Jackson would earn his nickname by anchoring a brigade on Henry House Hill. He stopped the Union advance, seized the initiative and drove them from the field.
Four Maine regiments saw significant action the battle. The 2nd Maine out of Penobscot Valley drove a Georgia Regiment and elements of Hampton's Legion before them to the John Robinson House. Here they were stopped by Jackson's cannon fire. They attempted to flank him, but essentially marched themselves out of the battle.
The 3rd Maine from around Augusta, the 4th from the coast around Rockland and the 5th from around Portland were in the same brigade which was commanded by Oliver Otis Howard of Leeds. They had a difficult day. They were marched miles in a flanking movement. They filled their canteens in a muddy Bull Run and then hustled on to the field just after the Confederates had lengthened their lines. As they advanced, they were exposed to an enfilading cannon fire (from the side) which caused them panic and retreat.
Jackson charged with his men giving the Rebel Yell for the first time. The Union army ran from the field in what came to be known as the "Great Skedaddle."
This week in Manassas, there will be four days of activities commemorating the first great battle of the war.