Ed Ayers, President of the University of Richmond, gave the keynote speech at the first major event of the Civil War Sesquicentennial. The Battle of Bull Run, or Manassas as it was known to the Confederate side, was fought on July 21, 1861.
Doctor Ayers is a historian who is noted for his work on southern history, particularly the period around the Civil War.
The East Coast has been enduring sweltering weather of late, so the reenactors must have felt some of the misery of the actual participants.
The battle was unique in one sense – there was a carnival atmosphere that preceded it, with many residents of Washington City (as the Capitol was known in those days) riding down in carriages or on horseback to view what was expected to be a grand display. Many brought picnic lunches. This may have been the first tailgating event in American history.
Sadly, the festivity gave way to dreadful violence and many of the spectators were swept up in the chaotic Union retreat.
For more on the Civil War, please read my series, It is complete through 1861, with more on the way.