On July 21, 1861, Union and Confederate troops faced off in the first major land battle of the American Civil War, the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run). Samuel Rutherford Houston, a Presbyterian minister from Virginia, notes in his diary the rumors and newspaper accounts of the battle:
Sab. [Sabbath, July] 21: We have reliable intelligence that a battle was fought between the Federals and our men below Charleston…[Federals] routed, many killed…The Dispatch calls it ‘a brilliant victory…’
July 23: A rumor has reached us that a telegram to Newburn Depot announced another battle at Manassas Junction (on Sunday) and another victory for the Confederates! …A letter from one of the company to which Willie* belongs states that on last Thursday they all marched to meet the enemy at a point about 20 miles below Charleston near where the battle mentioned (Sun 21) above was fought on the day previous – we look for the mail of tomorrow with intense anxiety – whatever the intelligence may be I trust we shall have hearts [illegible] (if it be sad) to perfect submission with God’s will and if it be chearing [sic] to give him all the glory … How unhappy the condition of this land – the victory gained at Mansasas will I fear great[ly] exasperate the foe and cause them to redouble their efforts…
*presumably William Paxton Houston, Samuel’s eldest son.
The diary is part of the Samuel Rutherford Houston and Family Papers, Mss. 3451, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.