Action at Bristoe Station, 14 October 1863

One of the most significant features of the aftermath to the Battle of Gettysburg (1-3 July 1863) was the relative inactivity of the victorious Union forces after the battle. Lee had been allowed to escape back into Virginia. General Meade slowly followed, eventually reaching the Rapidan River by mid-September. However, despite this apparent progress, Meade was still not ready to fight. At the start of October Lee attempted to turn the right flank of the Union army. Rather than standing and fighting, Meade decided to pull back, eventually reaching Centreville.

During this withdrawal there was one significant fight. On 14 October A.P. Hill thought he had a chance to attack part of the Union baggage train. However, instead he found himself attacking part of the Union Third Corps, which appeared to be in some disarray. Accordingly, he pressed his attack, but then discovered that a large part of the Federal rearguard, General Warren’s Second Corps, was hidden just out of sight.

They were in a very strong position. Hill’s assault was repelled with heavy losses (136 dead, 797 wounded and 445 missing, for a total of 1,378, compared to 50 dead, 335 wounded and 161 missing, for a total of 546 on the Union side). In his report on the battle, Hill said that “I am convinced that I made the attack too hastily, and at the same time that a delay of half an hour, and there would have been no enemy to attack. In that event I believe I should equally have blamed myself for not attacking at once.”

Despite this victory, Meade continued to pull back, stopping at Centreville. There he waited for Lee to attack, but now it was Lee’s turn to retreat and Meade’s to follow. Meade was more willing to attack than Lee, inflicting another 2,000 casualties on Lee’s army at the Rappahannock on 7 November.

Maps are being used with permission from publisher Savas Beatie LLC

Copies of The Maps of the Bristoe Station and Mine Runs Campaigns are available with a bookplate signed by author Bradley Gottfried directly from publisher Savas Beatie

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (24 January 2007), Action at Bristoe Station, 14 October 1863 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_bristoe_station.html

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