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150 Years Ago: Tuesday, July 16, 1861

Washington resident Rose O’Neal Greenhow contacts Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard for the second time in one week. This time she has copies of orders that show Union General Irvin McDowell is planning to march 35,000 troops to capture Manassas, Virginia, followed by a move to the Confederate capital of Richmond. She knows when the Union forces will leave Washington, what route they will take and what strategy they plan to use for battle. Beauregard wires Confederate President Jefferson Davis to request reinforcements. Davis orders General Joseph E. Johnston to move from the Shenandoah Valley to Manassas Junction.

U.S. Colonel William Tecumseh Sherman is given orders to move his brigade. They are to leave at 2pm, at which time they are to march 10 miles to Vienna, Virginia. Sherman writes to his wife Ellen back in Lancaster, Ohio, informing her that he is moving out. He expects a battle the next day, maybe in Fairfax, Virginia. There is talk of Manassas Junction, where Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard is headquartered. Sherman gives Ellen instructions to “watch her investments” and provides messages for her to pass onto others. Not knowing what the upcoming days will bring, he closes with “Good bye, and believe me always most affectionately yours.”

U.S. General Winfield Scott and General Irvin McDowell continue to express concerns to President Lincoln, his cabinet and legislators on using raw and undisciplined volunteers in a major battle. But the orders have been set and troops are already on the move. It’s been over ninety days since Fort Sumter. Most people had predicted a ninety day war and are growing impatient with the lack of action.

It’s time to push south, engage in a victorious battle and take Richmond.

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