By August 1862 General Robert E. Lee and a new Federal commander, John Pope, held both their forces opposite each other in Virginia. Lee decided to send Jackson in a long march around Pope's right flank into Northern Virginia. Jackson would cut the Orange and Alexandria Railroad at Manassas and then reunite with Longstreet's wing somewhere around the Manassas area. If the opportunity to strike Pope presented itself during these maneuvers, Lee would take it. On August 25th, Jackson's 24,000 men began a march of 52 miles to within striking distance of Manassas. Jackson knew that Manassas was fortified and a small number of troops could hold the junction against Jackson. Rather than lose precious time and men, Jackson decided to send his force to cut the railroad at Bristoe Station.
Defending Bristoe station was a small infantry company of approximately 50 men and a company of cavalry. Jackson's column made short work of the Federal defenders and the station belonged to the Confederates within minutes. As night fell Confederate soldiers managed to derail two trains, completely blocking Federal access to the railroad. After the destruction at Bristoe, Jackson ordered General Richard Ewell to remain in the area to defend against Union excursions from Warrenton. Jackson took the rest of his command to Manassas, where on August 27th they consumed, pillaged and burned the massive Federal depot.
After sending part of his army towards Bristoe, Pope realized that rather than a small raid, a large part of Lee's army was now in his rear. Soon orders were sent to his entire army to move by towards Manassas. A division under the command of General Joseph Hooker was to travel along the railroad and recapture Bristoe Station. Hooker executed the orders, and by 2:00 p.m., his division crossed Kettle Run and engaged Ewell's men, who were positioned south of the station. Holding back Hooker for nearly two hours and with his mission complete, Ewell decided to fall back and reunite with Jackson. The Battle of Kettle Run was over.
The Battle of Kettle Run, while small, was still deadly for the soldiers engaged. The Union lost 330 men killed or wounded with some units taking nearly 50% casualties. Confederate losses were smaller, with Ewell losing 176 men killed or wounded. The Battle of Kettle Run was the initial engagement of the Battle of 2nd Manassas, one of the Confederacy's greatest victories.