The Washington Post

Country woman saves Confederate army at Big Bethel

Well before the better known First Manassas, there was the Battle of Big Bethel on June 10, 1861 where untested troops on both sides confronted each other in southern Virginia at a church called Big Bethel.

Just hours before the two armies would have run into each other because they were unknowingly advancing toward each other on the same road, a woman only described as a “noble-hearted Virginia county woman” emerged from the dark to warn the Confederates. The troops under Col. John Bankhead Magruder reversed direction and hurried back to their entrenchments at the church.

Although outnumbered 7 to 1, the Southerners withstood the attack that followed and won in a lopsided victory.

In his detailed story on the battle, Mark St. John Erickson of the Daily Press in Hampton Roads, Va. quotes historian John V. Quarstein, author of a new book, “Big Bethel: The First Battle.”

“The whole country goes crazy over it--because it’s the first time anybody had stood up toe to toe with the enemy and fired volley after volley on the field of battle,” Etickson said. “For the South, the myth that one rebel could whip up on two, three, four and even 10 Yankees was confirmed ...”


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