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Checking those historical facts

The Legal Genealogist is very fond of the various websites that are willing to tell us what happened on this day in history.

Despite their occasional inaccuracies,1 the websites that serve up history in sound bites often provide fodder for blog posts or, at least, food for thought.

They can be inordinately frustrating, as when I was trying to find the source of the on-this-day factoid many of the sites are reporting today that on this day in 1664, Adriaen Pieck and Gerrit de Ferry patented a wooden fire spout in Amsterdam.2 I mean, really? A wooden fire spout? I can’t even…

And they can lead to other frustrations — that still serve as fodder for blog posts or, at least, food for thought.

Case in point: today is the 157th anniversary of the second Battle of Bull Run (along with yesterday and tomorrow).

According to Wikipedia, “The Second Battle of Bull Run or Battle of Second Manassas was fought August 28–30, 1862 in Prince William County, Virginia, as part of the American Civil War. It was the culmination of the Northern Virginia Campaign waged by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia against Union Maj. Gen. John Pope’s Army of Virginia, and a battle of much larger scale and numbers than the First Battle of Bull Run (or First Manassas) fought on July 21, 1861 on the same ground.”3

So… here’s the issue. Take a careful look at this image — a Currier and Ives hand-colored lithograph of the battle held by the Library of Congress.4 You can click on the photo to see a larger version.

Second Bull Run

Gorgeous, isn’t it?

Now, here’s my question: looking at the image, who won this battle?

It sure looks like the Second Battle of Bull Run ended with a victory for the Union forces, doesn’t it?

But that’s not what happened at all. The Confederate troops drove the Union troops from the field in that battle: “The Union left flank was crushed and the army was driven back … Only an effective Union rear guard action prevented a replay of the First Manassas defeat. Pope’s retreat to Centreville was nonetheless precipitous. … The Second Battle of Bull Run, like the First (July 21, 1861), was a significant tactical victory for the Confederates and was another blow to Union morale…”5

So the moral of the story is always, always, always check the facts — all those historical facts we use in genealogy, whether they’re facts of personal history or of national or world history.

No matter if it’s a birthdate of an ancestor or the parent-child relationship of two people in our line or the outcome of a battle we see depicted in a contemporary drawing, we always need to check the facts.

Now if I could just find the facts about that fire spout…

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “On this day,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 29 Aug 2019).


  1. See Judy G. Russell, “O death! Thy name is woman,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 14 Jan 2013 ( : accessed 29 Aug 2019).
  2. See e.g. “Historical Events on August 29,” On This Day ( : accessed 29 Aug 2019).
  3. Wikipedia (, “Second Battle of Bull Run,” rev. 2 June 2019.
  4. Currier and Ives, “The second battle of Bull Run, fought Augt. 29th 1862” (New York : Published by Currier & Ives, 1862?); digital images, Library of Congress Prints & Photographs ( : accessed 29 Aug 2019).
  5. Wikipedia (, “Second Battle of Bull Run,” rev. 2 June 2019. See also “Second Manassas-Second Bull Run, Brawner’s Farm,” American Battlefield Trust ( : accessed 29 Aug 2019).
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