#1 – USA Troop Strengths July 16-17, 1861

8 02 2009

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, p 309




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5 responses

9 02 2009
Brett Schulte - TOCWOC


Seeing this made me wonder how well troop strengths are documented for First Bull Run. Has anyone looked at this in any detail? Are there sources which go down to regimental level?


9 02 2009
Will Keene

Strength numbers are a fascinating topic. This table makes it appear that McDowell had somewhere in the range of 35K for the battle. But we can readily subtract close to 50% as detachments that weren’t engaged.


9 02 2009
Harry Smeltzer

Will and Brett,

More tables are to follow. I think we have pretty reliable numbers for the Union. In general, we can say the forces were evenly matched in gross, and also in engaged (around 17-18,000 each).

Talking with Jonathan Soffe of http://www.firstbullrun.com, Confederate numbers are a different story, as usual. He’s finding companies not listed on OOB’s whose histories indicate they were present at the battle.

But several “traditional” versions of the battle fall apart in light of cold, hard numbers. Casualty rates belie narratives of “every man cut down”. David Donald wrote in “Lincoln” that the Union army was “overwhelmed”. Contemporary Union and Confederate accounts alike claim they were outnumbered (I’ll be posting an OR table of Confederate estimate of Union strength soon). But most important, the notion that McDowell’s plan was foiled only by the arrival of Johnston from the Valley is bunk – McDowell’s plan anticipated facing almost exactly the number of Confederates he did in fact face – about 35,000.

A pretty good analysis of numbers is in R. M. Johnston’s “Bull Run: Its Strategy and Tactics” which you can find online in the books and articles page to the right.


10 02 2009
#1 - Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell « Bull Runnings

[…] Table – USA Troop Strengths July 16-17, 1861 […]


30 06 2022
Who Knew Revisionist History Was So Easy? | Bull Runnings

[…] Virginia Commanded by Brigadier-General McDowell, U. S. A., for July 16 and 17, 1861. (View it here.) There it was, in black and […]


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