On July 21, 1861, William L. Patterson and the 1st OVI participated in the First Battle of Bull Run at Manassas, Virginia. During the battle, the 1st OVI was posted with other regiments of Tyler’s Division at the Stone Bridge. The main army under General McDowell made a flanking movement to the right to Sudley Springs, and then into battle across Young’s Branch. Union forces were defeated and forced to retreat to Washington, D.C. The 1st OVI covered the Union retreat. During the battle, 1st OVI losses included three killed, two wounded, and two missing.
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