Tag Archives: Bristoe Station

Engagement at Bristoe Station

October 14, 1863 – Parts of General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and Major General George G. Meade’s Federal Army of the Potomac clashed as Lee tried flanking Meade in northern Virginia.

Federal Maj Gen G.G. Meade and Confederate Gen R.E. Lee | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Early on the 14th, Major General Jeb Stuart and two of his Confederate cavalry brigades remained hidden near Auburn, as they were cut off from Lee’s army by Federals. Stuart, expecting the Confederate infantry to rescue him, began firing his seven cannon but received no support as the Federal troops advanced and nearly overwhelmed him. The Confederate horsemen fought their way out, but they had to take a long detour to rejoin Lee’s army.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant General Richard Ewell’s Second Corps of Lee’s army marched to the sound of Stuart’s guns and approached Federal Major General Gouverneur K. Warren’s II Corps as it tried crossing Cedar Run. Warren reported, “To halt was to await annihilation, and to move as prescribed carried me along routes in a valley commanded by the heights on each side.” To Warren’s good fortune, Ewell’s attack was delayed, enabling him to withdraw the Federals to safety along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad.

The rest of Meade’s army continued pulling back north toward Centreville and Manassas Junction, while Lieutenant General A.P. Hill’s Confederate Third Corps moved east. Hill’s advance had been delayed, giving Meade time to avoid being flanked. As the Confederates approached Broad Run near Bristoe Station, Hill saw Federal Major General George Sykes’s V Corps falling back to the north and east. Thinking this was the Federal rear guard, Hill deployed two brigades from Major General Henry Heth’s division to attack. They did not reconnoiter the area beforehand.

As the Confederates advanced, Warren’s II Corps approached their right flank from the south, following Sykes on the northward retreat. Hill’s men traded shots with Sykes’s Federals, and then turned south to assault Warren, who placed his men behind the railroad embankment near Bristoe Station. Two Confederate brigades were ordered to charge Warren’s defenses.

The Confederate charge was easily repulsed, as the brigades were no match for an entire Federal corps. Both brigade commanders–Generals William W. Kirkland and John R. Cooke–were badly wounded, and both brigades were decimated (Kirkland lost 602 men and Cooke lost 700). A second Confederate attack, this time with Major General Richard H. Anderson’s division, was also repelled.

This 40-minute engagement cost the Confederates nearly 1,900 men (1,400 killed or wounded and 450 captured), while the Federals lost just 580. The Army of Northern Virginia had not sustained such a sharp defeat since the Battle of Mechanicsville during the Seven Days Battles of June 1862. Warren kept withdrawing north following this clash, avoiding Ewell advancing toward his left flank to reinforce Hill.

This campaign of maneuver had been a Confederate success, but it ended with a sharp Federal repulse that gave Meade time to prepare defenses around Centreville. Lee’s opportunity to move around Meade’s right and rear was lost. When Hill informed Lee of the Bristoe Station engagement, Lee said, “Well, well, General, bury these poor men and let us say no more about it.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 19145; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 333; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p.  793; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 360; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 6440-52; Jaynes, Gregory, The Killing Ground: Wilderness to Cold Harbor (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 26-28; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 422

The Second Bull Run Campaign: Manassas Junction

August 27, 1862 – Confederate troops under Major General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson descended on one of the largest Federal supply depots in Virginia, between the rear of Major General John Pope’s Federal Army of Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson | Image Credit: Bing public domain

Leaving a force under Major General Richard Ewell at Bristoe Station, the remaining Confederates under Jackson and Major General Jeb Stuart arrived at Manassas Junction after midnight on the 27th. The “Foot Cavalry” had marched an amazing 60 miles in two days, and they found the vital railroad supply depot barely defended.

The Confederates captured over 300 prisoners, 200 fugitive slaves, eight artillery pieces, hundreds of horses and tents, and enormous quantities of commissary and quartermaster’s stores such as bacon, corned beef, salt pork, pickled oysters, flour, oats, and corn.

As the hungry Confederates gorged themselves on cakes, canned goods, meats, and candies, Jackson ordered the wine and liquor kegs destroyed, saying, “I fear that whiskey more than I do Pope’s army.” General George Taylor, leading a Federal brigade in the Army of the Potomac, believed that only Confederate cavalry were raiding Manassas Junction and led his men to take the depot back.

The Confederates positioned their guns in Taylor’s direction and awaited his advance. They overwhelmed the Federals first with cannon fire and then with cavalry attacks on their flanks. Taylor’s men withdrew after sustaining heavy casualties.

Meanwhile, Pope ordered General Joseph Hooker’s division from Major General Samuel P. Heintzelman’s corps (Army of the Potomac) to advance on Bristoe Station from Warrenton Junction. Hooker knocked back Ewell’s skirmishers, and the Confederates took cover in the railroad embankment. The Confederate guns held the Federals in check while Ewell’s troops fell back in accordance with orders to go to Manassas Junction if attacked.

The Confederates cut telegraph wires as they went, disrupting communications between Pope, Major General George B. McClellan at Alexandria, and General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck at Washington. When the line was restored, Halleck was bombarded by messages from both generals until he finally replied, “As you must be aware, more than three-quarters of my time is taken up with the raising of new troops and matters in the West. I have no time for details.” Halleck directed McClellan to coordinate the efforts of the two armies “as you deem best.”

Pope ordered more Federals to go to Bristoe Station, but then he changed his mind and decided to concentrate at Manassas Junction. He ordered the two corps under Major Generals Franz Sigel and Irvin McDowell to turn east from the Gainesville area and head that way.

Moving Sigel and McDowell left Thoroughfare Gap undefended. Jackson had used this path to get into Pope’s rear, and now General Robert E. Lee intended to send the rest of his Army of Northern Virginia through there to join forces with Jackson. Lee learned that Jackson was positioned perfectly as he received a message from President Jefferson Davis:

“Confidence in you overcomes the view which would otherwise be taken of the exposed condition of Richmond, and the troops retained for the defense of the capital are surrendered to you on a new request.”

At Manassas Junction, the Confederates burned what they could not take with them, including several thousand pounds of food and other supplies. As Federal forces closed in that evening, Jackson’s men began assembling at Stony Ridge, a wooded hill along the Warrenton Turnpike about seven miles away, on the northern edge of the 1861 Bull Run battlefield. Pope continued concentrating his army, still confused about Jackson’s intentions.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 83-84; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17186-95; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 207; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 629; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 197; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4388-4400; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 474-79; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 53-54; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 255-56; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 526; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 450-51; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 129-34; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 94-95, 328-29; Wikipedia: Northern Virginia Campaign