July 1861: Girding for battle
The Associated Press reports as July 1861 dawns that the nation appears to be building inexorably for major combat as a contingent of federal troops cross the Potomac River from Maryland into Virginia, in sight of Confederate forces: “The reporter from the Associated Press went down yesterday to see the expected move of the (federal) troops cross the river The stars and stripes were hoisted on the south side of the river to-day by a Marylander named Saunders, in full view of the rebels, who did not fire on him The enemy are observed to be busily engaged in erecting outworks it is thought they design putting guns in a position to obstruct the march of our troops.”
Other dispatches in early July report about 5,000 rebels are within an hour's march of Fairfax in northern Virginia including “large bodies of horsemen” and adds four rebels were killed by Pennsylvania pickets on July 4, 1861.
President Abraham Lincoln, who had called a special session of Congress for July 4, uses the occasion to declare that the war is a struggle for maintaining a form of government whose object is to preserve national unity and “elevate the condition of men.” Lincoln tells Congress that 500,000 more men are needed for the Union forces. Congress authorizes the large-scale troop mobilization.