Vol. 14


A Legacy Toward Equality

1861; Prince William County, Virginia, USA

My family has always taken pride in our American heritage. My great-grandma’s face glows with delight whenever she tells the story of my fifth-great-grandfather. He was more than a military veteran — he was a Civil War hero.

1861 found my fifth-great-grandfather preparing for the greatest battle of his life — one that would change American culture forever. In his bedroom he put on his ornate navy blue coat. His shiny silver sword hung at his side with a sense of command. He combed his rough beard. Then he kissed his wife, gave his children a hug, and left.

My fifth-great-grandfather had been promoted to brigadier general at the outbreak of the Civil War. He was excited for the battle ahead. He knew that the impact of this battle would forever change the culture of America. This is shown in how he presented his troops for battle. His men expected to win this battle, as well as the war. The Union Army1 felt confident with their finely made guns and polished swords, and they looked invincible on their highly trained steeds.

The Union was favored to win this battle, but they were slow to advance and had little nourishment prior to the battle. As he awaited support, Grandfather attempted to make the most of the situation by rallying his troops and boosting their morale. However, reinforcements arrived late, giving the Confederate troops the chance to receive reinforcements by railway. The battle would now involve nearly 40,000 soldiers vying for victory as a show of their superiority.

As the guns blazed and the cannons fired, it became clear that this would not be an easily won battle. Grandfather’s soldiers screamed in terror as the enemy surrounded their flanks. His soldiers fell in bloody pools, yet he persuaded his men to advance. His troops were outnumbered. They were exhausted. The once confident and proud regiment was forced to face the reality that their fate was gloom.

Grandfather observed the field, his troops lying on the ground. Those not dead cried out in pain. It was then that my fifth-great-grandfather Irvin McDowell had to accept the painful reality that he had lost the First Battle of Bull Run to the great Stonewall Jackson.

Although history books often attempt to focus on his failure, Irvin McDowell has been honored as an important part of American history. Irvin died of a heart attack in 1885, but his legacy lives on in the stories passed down through generations of my family. We now proudly house the letters and other artifacts from his collections as priceless mementos of our family heritage.

I am proud to share the story of McDowell’s heroism and bravery, and I know that his actions are an example of how those who can, should stand for justice for all. That is why Irvin McDowell, my fifth-great-grandfather, will always be remembered for his legacy toward equality for all.

Carter Chance; Missouri, USA


1. In the U.S. Civil War, the Union Army fought for the United States, or “the North." The Confederate States Army fought for the Confederacy, a group of Southern states that had formed a new country.



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