After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy, McDowell served with the 1st Artillery and then returned to the academy as the adjutant. During the Mexican War he was brevetted a captain for “gallant and meritorious conduct." From then until the outbreak of the Civil War, McDowell was employed in various staff duties in Washington, New York, and Texas, being promoted to brevet major on 31 March 1856.
In 1861, at the
urging of his close friend Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, McDowell was promoted three grades to brigadier general in the Regular Army and assigned commander of the newly organized army at Washington. Although he requested more time to prepare his force, McDowell was ordered to advance immediately against the Confederate force at Manassas Junction. In the ensuing Battle of First Bull Run (21 July 1861), he dashed around the field, trying personally to encourage his men. Although the morning phase of the battle saw the Confederates driven back, by afternoon the Southern forces had counterattacked and routed the Federal forces. Northern officials and the public blamed McDowell for the defeat, and he was relieved of army command.
Afterward appointed commander of a division, he was later promoted to major general of volunteers (14 March 1862) and assigned command of the I Corps, Army of the Potomac. Officials in Washington, fearing for the safety of the capital, retained McDowell's command, redesignated it the Army of the Rappahannock, and placed it along that river. Subsequently, McDowell's army was consolidated with troops in the Shenandoah Valley to create a force known as the Army of Virginia under Maj. Gen. John Pope. McDowell's command was redesignated the III Corps.
The defeat at First Bull Run continued to haunt McDowell, and his officers and enlisted men generally disliked him. When he was injured in a riding accident in the summer of 1862, it was said that a portion of his command gave three cheers “for the horse that threw General McDowell."
In the Battle of Second Bull Run (29–30 August 1862), the Army of Virginia was defeated and fell back into the defenses of Washington. Pope accused McDowell of not fully supporting him during the campaign, and McDowell was relieved of command. Although a court of inquiry found nothing to warrant a court-martial, a strong prejudice remained against McDowell in the public mind, and he held no further field command during the war. After commanding various military departments to 1882, McDowell retired from the service, with the rank of major general in the Regular Army.
Balls Bluff: A Small Battle and Its Long Shadow
Confederate troops scored what was probably the most complete victory by either side in the Civil War at a place called Ball's Bluff, thirty-five miles west of Washington, DC, on the Virginia bank of the Potomac River. Union soldiers were driven in a panic off the high bluff into the river, where many of them drowned
Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History
Definitive Reference Work, this volume, rich with over 500 illustrations, 75 maps, and 250 primary source documents, offers more than 1,600 entries that chart the war's strategic aims, analyze diplomatic and political maneuvering, describe key military actions, sketch important participants, assess developments in military science, and discuss the social and financial impact of the conflict.
Battleground 7: Bull Run
July 21, 1861 The earliest large-scale engagement of the Civil War, the First Battle of Bull Run found J.E. Johnston's outnumbered Rebels fighting a desperate delaying action versus the powerful Union army of Irvin McDowell. It was in this battle that General Thomas J. Jackson earned his famous nickname "Stonewall"
Civil War Battles
You decide the outcome of a duel between two determined generals in the American Civil War. It's 1864 and the Union forces are ready to make a final drive into the Deep South. General William T. Sherman advances to destroy the Confederate Army of Tennessee & capture the city of Atlanta. Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston planned on using Georgia's difficult terrain to inflict heavy losses
Civil War Battles
A defining moment in the Civil War -- one that could have spelled victory for the South if things had been slightly different. At Chickamauga Creek near Chattanooga, TN there was a battle that earned it a new nickname: "River Of Blood." Chattanooga was a vital rail station at the time and had fallen to Union General Rosecrans
History Channel Civil War
There are about a half-dozen different small arms types, but the Henry is the best for rapid repeating fire and least reloading. The shotgun they give you is useless: you must aim spot-on to affect an enemy, so why not just use the rifle? Grenades are useful at times.