1st Battle of Bull Run "A Charge of Screaming Tigers" July 21, 1861
"Look out to your left, you are turned!" was the message Confederate Col. Nathan G. Evans received from the signal tower in his rear at about 8:00am on July 21, 1861. He had already observed a long line of dust above the trees in that direction and suspected some Union troops might be moving about off his left flank. Evans's half brigade of Louisiana and South Carolina troops was the anchor on the left of a six-mile-long Confederate line confronting the federal advance toward Bull Run near Manassas, Va. Without hesitation, Evans, nicknamed "Shanks" for his thin legs, made the most important decision of the battle. Leaving only four companies to cover his position at the Stone Bridge over Bull Run, he led the remaining six companies of the 4th South Carolina and a battalion of Louisiana Tigers, a total of about 1,000 men, out beyond the Confederate left flank toward the rising clouds of dust.
Evans did not know that the force he had set out to confront was actually the main body of the entire Union army, 18,000 soldiers that their commander, Gen. Irvin McDowell, had sent on a surprise attack on the Confederate flank. Evans quickly placed his command in defensive positions under cover of the woods on Matthews Hill, overlooking the road the blue soldiers would take from Sudley Springs Ford as they crossed Bull Run. At 9:15 the federal vanguard, two Rhode Island regiments commanded by Col. Ambrose Burnside, appeared from trees at the ford and started up Matthews Hill. The Rebel volleys that flashed out and stopped the federal advance were so intense that Burnside thought he was confronted by six regiments instead of one, and he quickly brought up reinforcements. Suddenly 500 red-shirted Tigers came screaming down the hill in a wild charge that caught the federal troops completely off guard and threw them into confusion. The charge was beaten back, but Evans and his hard-fighting soldiers had stalled the vastly superior Union force long enough for Confederate reinforcements to begin to arrive.
Fascinating Fact: Maj. Roberdeau Wheat, commander of the Louisiana Tigers, was shot through both lungs during the charge. When told that his wound was fatal, he said, "I don't feel like dying yet." Defying the medical experts, he recovered to fight again.
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