Zachariah Chandler at Bull Run Anecdote


Zachariah Chandler

President Lincoln ordered the call for
75,000 volunteers.
And so the call was heeded-
As young men prepared for war
from families who in their ignorance
proclaimed the rebellion all but over
and in three months would not be needed.
B. Nash from an untitled poem.
Both Generals Winfield Scott and Irvin McDowell cautioned President Lincoln that the Northern troops were not trained and prepared enough for an engagement with Southern troops as he had
proposed. Lincoln’s resolve held firm: there would be a battle at Manassas Junction. He reasoned that the Southern troops were just as green as the Northern troops. Lincoln also had political considerations to contend with- the country wanted action-sooner than later. And so, the engagement took place in July 1861.  It is said that, not really knowing what to expect, members of the Washington elite strode out to the battle site to “see a show.” They had no idea of the horrors of combat. Perfumed ladies and finely dressed gentleman rode carriages filled with picnic lunches to watch the spectacle. Of course, it was thought by those folks that the Union troops would score a resounding victory over the rebels. And as the battle progressed it appeared that they were to be correct. However, by the end of the day, no small thanks to Confederate officer Thomas Jackson-soon to be known as “Stonewall” Jackson, the tide has reversed and the Union Army was in full retreat! What a panic ensued! The Union troops were on the run back towards Washington. General McDowell wired Lincoln to prepare to save the city. One can only imagine the scene as bloodied and scared yankee soldiers made their way through and around scores of civilians who were probably bewildered by it all and panic-stricken for their own safety.
Ronald C. White, Jr. writes in his book: A. Lincoln, that Senators Benjamin Wade and Zachariah Chandler had been among those who attended the outing at Bull Run that day.  They were both Northern abolitionists. It must have been awful for them to witness the staggering defeat right before their eyes. However, it it noteworthy to mention that, according to Mr. White, Zacharariah Chandler with rifle in hand tried to stop the fleeing Union soldiers. They didn’t listen to their commanding officers-and they didn’t listen to Chandler either. But it must have been a sigld have ht to see! I can in my imagine hear someone saying: “Give em’ hell Zach!”   Did Chandler bring the rifle with him to Bull Run? Did he expect what had happened? Or did he simply pick up one of the many discarded weapons from the retreating soldiers to use as a prop in his rallying effort? There’s no way of knowing the answer. And although, it was a disaster for the North that day at Bull Run-false notions of a “quick and easy” conflict with the South were forever gone. Lincoln had become a little more educated-and so did Zachariah Chandler. They both were to have four years of Civil War to learn from. That day at Bull Run-school was in session.
P.S. That night Senator Chandler met with President Lincoln near midnight to discuss the battle. It would be the first of many meetings betwwen the two. 
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