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Historic Preservation

The Battle of Bristoe Station

In the aftermath of Gettysburg, both the Union and Confederate armies returned to Central Virginia where they rested and refitted. With a break in fighting in Virginia, troops of both armies were sent west to Tennessee. In early October, Lee again went on the offensive, trying to repeat his successful 2nd Manassas Campaign. General George G. Meade, commanding the Union army, acted quickly and ordered his army into a hurried retreat north to the safety of the forts around Centerville. The campaign would be a race towards Centreville.

Unfortunately for the Confederates, General J.E.B Stuart and his cavalry were caught between two columns of the Union army while scouting near the small town of Auburn.  Stuart took his men to a small ravine outside the town and there they hid the night of October 13th while Union soldiers marched and camped yards away.  Stuart managed to get a courier to Lee informing him of his predicament. On the morning of October 14th, Lee sent Ewell's Corps to Auburn on a rescue mission to extract Stuart's cavalry. Between Ewell and Stuart however was the 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac commanded by of General G. Warren.  The 2nd Corps was attempting to rejoin with the rest of the army along the Orange and Alexandria railroad when Ewell's forces arrived on the field.  During the Battle of Auburn, Stuart was able to get around Warren's men and rejoin Lee's army, while the 2nd Corps was able to make it safely back to the Orange and Alexandria Railroad.

At noon on the 14th, hours after the fighting at Auburn, General A.P. Hill's column reached a hill near Bristoe Station.  Now the head of Lee's army, Hill looked towards Broad Run and saw Union soldiers in the process of crossing the stream.  Believing this the rearguard, Hill thought he saw an opportunity to strike a blow at the retreating Union army. Hill ordered his lead division under General Harry Heth to attack.  With Union soldiers retreating, the Confederates soon received reports of enemy troops along the railroad, out of view of Hill.  These soldiers proved to be the 2nd Corps. As Heth deployed his men, the right of his line came under fire from Federal skirmishers protecting the main column from danger.  Heth halted his advance and informed Hill of the presence of a Union force on the right, at which point Hill ordered Heth to wheel his division right and advance on this new threat.  Only two of Heth's three brigade's made the wheel, two brigades of North Carolinians.

Warren quickly deployed the units that had arrived at Bristoe Station along the railroad, using the embankment as cover and awaited the arrival of the rest of his force.  It was now a race for the railroad between Heth's North Carolinians and the rest of Warrens command.   Warren's men won this dash, and the North Carolinians were raked by an overwhelming fire from the naturally strong position along the railroad and from 16 guns on the hills behind the embankment.  By 4:00 the Confederates were streaming back over.  The charge at Bristoe cost the Confederates nearly 1,400 men killed, wounded, or captured against the 500 men Warren lost.  The battle, and the campaign, was over.  In a few weeks both armies returned to where they had started.


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