The delusion that there could be war without wholesale destruction was finally cured at First Manassas on July 21, 1861, with combined casualties of 900 killed and 2,700 wounded. Chesnut’s wife, Mary, was ill in bed in Richmond and awaiting word of her husband’s fate when Jefferson Davis’s wife stepped into the room to tell her the news.
“Mrs. Davis came in so softly that I did not know she was here until she leaned over me and said: ‘A great battle has been fought. . . . Your husband is all right. Wade Hampton is wounded. Colonel Johnston of the Legion killed; so are Colonel Bee and Colonel Bartow. Kirby Smith is wounded or killed. . . .’
“She went on in that desperate, calm way, to which people betake themselves under the greatest excitement . . . to read from a paper she held in her hand: ‘Dead and dying cover the field.’ ”
Francis Bartow was a favorite son of Savannah, a lawyer who personally led Georgia to secession and helped select the Confederacy’s military uniforms. He died from a bullet in the chest, after supposedly saying, “They have killed me, but, boys, never give up.” The Confederate Congress adjourned its session in “unfettered sorrow” when it heard of his death.
In Richmond, the Chesnuts attended Bartow’s funeral with a terrible sense of foreboding. “As that march came wailing up, they say Mrs. Bartow fainted,” she wrote in her journal. “The empty saddle and the led war-horse — we saw and heard it all, and now it seems we are never out of the sound of the Dead March in Saul. It comes and it comes, until I feel inclined to close my ears and scream.”
At Forts Moultrie and Sumter, 21-gun salutes were fired, hourly, from 6.a.m. to sunset, in honor of Barnard Bee, a distinguished career military officer from Charleston killed by grapeshot in the stomach. City hall was draped with funeral crepe, which made the statue of John C. Calhoun gleam unnaturally white. Dragoons escorted the bodies of Bee and two other Charleston casualties through crowds so immense that the military units could hardly turn the street corners.
Northerner Jacob William Schuckers wrote of the psychological effect of the battle: “Though the fall of Sumter had been followed by a great uprising of the Northern people, and the determination to suppress the rebellion was universal and sincere, yet there was really no serious apprehension of a prolonged and calamitous war. The shooting of Col. Ellsworth at Alexandria curiously illustrated the prevailing general incredulity. The news excited in the North an astonishment and indignation so wide-spread and profound as to indicate clearly enough how remote from the popular mind the tremendous reality of the impending conflict was. The battle of Bull Run put an end to delusion.”