The Culpeper - Centreville Express


Union Soldiers Marching by JoAnna Lapati

“Union Soldiers Marching”  by artist JoAnna Lapati, used with permission.  View more of her work here.
Artist JoAnna Lapati's high-contrast scratchboard art has a gritty quality that  captures the monotonous drudgery of a long march in tight formation.  It suggests a single-minded purpose, a determination to get somewhere and get the march overwith as quickly as possible.  It symbolically sums up the essence of the Bristoe Campaign for the Soldiers of the 13th MA.  For others there was some fighting to do, but for them, it was hurry forward, hurry forward.

Table of Contents


Alfred Waud sketch of the burning railroad bridge over the Rappahannock on Oct 13 1863

“Burning of the Rappahanock Railroad Bridge, October 13, 1863” by artist A.R. Waud.  When General Meade discovered General Lee's Army was trying to flank him, he ordered the Army of the Potomac to Centreville.  The Orange & Alexandria railroad bridge over the Rappahannock River at Rappahannok Station was burned at the start of the risky retreat.

Campaign Overview

Following a tedious night march during the wee hours of October 10th, the 13th MA was poised to cross the Rapidan River at Morton’s Ford.  They were to connect with General John Buford’s Cavalry Division, when ever he showed up and proceed with the rest of General John Newton’s 1st Corps to Orange Court-House.  But the advance was cancelled.  Plans  suddenly changed.

Campaign Map for Introduction

General George G. Meade knew that his opponent Robert E. Lee had ordered Confederate infantry out of the fortifications along the south side of the Rapidan river, and shifted the troops west toward Madison Court House.  An extensive network of mountain top lookouts kept the Union commander in the know.  Under pressure from the Lincoln administration to do something, Meade surmised the Union army could now cross to the south side of the Rapidan river without heavy opposition.   But whether Lee was planning to move south, or north to begin another belligerent flank march, Meade did not know.  He shifted his troops to be on guard in case the latter scenario transpired. And, this turned out to be the case.

Very early on the morning of October 10, Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart attacked Union Cavalry and infantry pickets along the Robertson River near Madison Court-House.  They pushed forward in force to James City, west of Culpeper Court-House.  The 3rd Corps Division of  General Henry Prince was positioned close by to aid General Kilpatrick’s Cavalry in case of just such an emergency, although Prince’s  presence did more than his actual support, to halt the Rebel Cavalry’s advance.  Now, Meade knew something was up.  He had to re-organize his spread out army in response to Lee’s flank march.  Meade alerted his corps commanders at 9 a.m. to prepare for a move back to Culpeper.  This post-poned the intended advance of the 1st, 5th and 6th Corps across the Rapidan river to Orange Court-House.  Meade tried to recall General John Buford’s cavalry reconnaissance, but it was too late.  Buford’s 2 Cavalry Brigades had already crossed the Rapidan and would have to fight their way back to safety alone and without help the next day, October 11.

By mid-morning it seems General Meade had decided to withdraw the Army of the Potomac to his previous stronghold on the north side of the Rappahannock river.  At 10.25 a.m.  Meade warned his generals to be vigilant  since the enemy might follow them closely during tomorrow’s retreat.  At 4 p.m., October 10,  the army wagon trains were put in motion. The corps commanders were instructed to begin moving at dark;  the 13th MA and First Corps included.  That evening they broke camp, marched a few miles north, and bedded down for a few hours near Stevensburg.  This allowed the wagon train to pass.

Meade’s uncertainty about Lee’s movements was closely scrutinized in Washington.  Hourly dispatches from General-in-Chief Henry Halleck and President Lincoln, brought questions about his intentions.  To placate the administration, Meade sent a noon dispatch to General Halleck, explaining the plan to advance upon Orange Court-House,  but, he added, the enemy was maneuvering on the army’s right flank, with every indication that they are in heavy force, and that matters were still undeveloped.  A follow up telegram at 5.30 p.m. explained his decision to pull back.

Meade gave Lee the slip.  His hasty retreat actually thwarted Lee’s plans. The Federal army began its move the afternoon and evening of October 10, and completed the march on October 11.  That same day, when the Confederate Army concentrated at Culpeper there was no enemy to attack.  Lee had to decide what to do next.  He decided to try again and continue the offensive.

Abraham Lincoln, 1863

Under pressure from Halleck and President Lincoln, General Meade decided to go on offense.  From the safety of his new strong line behind the Rappahannock river, he ordered 3 of his corps back into Culpeper County  to give fight on October 12.  Now it was their turn to learn the enemy was no longer present.  Where did Lee go?  Meade wondered.  He  suspected another flank march was afoot.  Eventually, during the evening of October 12, word reached Headquarters apprising them of General David M. Gregg’s Cavalry encounter with a heavy Confederate column in the hills north of Culpeper at Jeffersonton and White Sulphur Springs.  This confirmed Lee was again trying to move around the western flank of the Federal Army and catch part of it off guard.  It was a repeat of Lee’s successful strategy against General John Pope in August 1862.

With proof Lee was again trying to flank him, Meade again decided caution was the best policy.  He labored under the mistaken assumption that Lee's army was much larger than his.   He recalled his 3 advanced corps from Brandy Station, back across the Rappahannock river, and ordered the entire army to fall back to the defensive stronghold at Centreville, close to Washington.  It would be a long march.  Speed and co-operation would be necessary.  The various corps commanders would have to keep within supporting distance of each other while on the march.  The contest was now a race to see if Meade’s army and wagon train could reach Centreville before Lee’s army could cut them off.  And, Lee got a head-start.

In this maneuver the First Corps was in the unusual position of leading a retreat.   For them the campaign was just a long fast march. They were the first troops to reach Centreville, at noon October 14, followed by the 6th Corps an hour later.   Throughout the campaign they witnessed or heard some of the fighting that was following close on their heals.  The cavalry and the 2nd Corps, who were bringing up the rear, did most of it.

Whats On This Page

This page outlines some of the more prominent  skirmishes, among the many, that defined the Bristoe Campaign.   It is also somewhat of a photo-essay.  It begins with the 13th MA lying around on October 10, after a hard night-march of about 5 miles toward Morton’s Ford, waiting for orders to cross the Rapidan River and advance to Orange Court-House with the cavalry.  Suddenly in the early evening, they are told to move north.  They march a few milles and stop.  After a pause near Stevensburg to let the wagon train pass they resume the march to Kelly’s Ford on October 11.  From there, they begin a 40 mile march to Centerville starting on October 13th.  They often heard the sounds of battle closely following them along their route; the cavalry skirmished at Morton's Ford, Stevensburg, James City and White Sulphur Springs.  The 2nd Corps, bringing up the rear of the Army of the Potomac had a fight at Auburn and at Bristoe Station on October 14th.  Summaries of those engagements are outlined.

The 13th MA is represented on this page mostly through journal entries of  Private Sam Webster, Co. D, and Private Calvin Conant, Co. G.   Sergeant Austin Stearns, Co. K, provides a few memories.  An incomplete letter of Charles Manning, Co. B, offers some color.*    Further details about the marches come from other regiments in the same brigade, and Col. Charles Wainwright’s always colorful journal entries.  Wainwright was Chief of Artillery for the 1st Corps, and occasionally bivouaced at head-quarters.

The 13th MA soldiers put their thoughts about the campaign into writing after the hard march was over.  These materials will be posted on the next sequential page of this website.

The narration on this page, may seem repetitive at times, but events moved quickly, and it can be hard to keep the time frame in mind, so periodic re-caps are provided.


*I am grateful to Daniel Stowell and Seth Kaller, of Seth Kaller, Inc.,  for sharing a digital copy of Calvin Conant's diary with me.  It is an invaluable contribution to this website as regards 1863 source material.  The Charles Manning letter is incomplete.   The auction house offering it  refused to share scans or full transcriptions with me.

I used the following two books for reference.   The Maps of the Bristoe Station and Mine Run Campaigns, by Bradley M. Gottfried, 2013, Savas Beatie LLC, California. And,  A Want of Vigilance, The Bristoe Station Campaign, October 9-19, 1863;  by Bill Backus and Robert Orrison, Savas Beatie LLC, 2015.  I also referenced the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series 1:  Volume 29, Parts 1 & 2.

  Thank you to Gary H. & Lionel R., for guiding me around the Bristoe Station battlefield on Wednesday, October 14, 2020.  Lionel pointed out that Brigadier-General William Kirkland was kicked out of West Point but through family connections managed a 2d Lieutenant's commission in the United States Marine Corps.  He resigned when war broke out to fight for the Confederacy.  The only Marine to hold Confederate command.

PICTURE CREDITS:  All  images are from the Library of Congress Digital Collections with the following exceptions:  Signalmen & Charging Cavalry illustrations are by Edwin Forbes, from his work "Thirty Years After, An Artist's Memoir of the Civil War"  LSU Press, 1993;  Wounded man sharing canteeen is by artist Frank Beard, accessed online from one of teh digital CW books authored by Charles Carleton Coffin;  The Howard Pyle illustration, "They Awaited The Order For The Charge Across The Open," was found at the New York Public Library Digital Collections; The colorized photograph of General David McMurtrie Gregg is with perission by Jordan J. Lloyd and his company,;   Graphic of White Sulphur Springs Resort is from University of Virginia Historical Collections at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, accessed at ]; The Harpers Weekly engravings of White Sulphur Springs, Sept. 19, 1863 issue, and the Battle of Bristoe Station, November 7, 1863 Issue, are from;   Circa 1910 Silver Print of Confederate General John Rogers Cooke was found at, []; Illustration of Dead Horses on the Bristoe Battlefield is from, "Frank Leslies illustrated History of the Civil War, (circa 1895)" accessed at;  Austin Stearns portrait is from "Three Years in Company K" by Sergeant Austin C. Stearns, deceased, edited by Arthur Kent, Associated University Press, 1976;  Appleton Sawyer is courtesy of  Joseph Stahl;  John B. Noyes is from the Massachusetts Historical Society.   All Snapshots & Maps are by the author & webmaster, Bradley M. Forbush.    ALL IMAGES have been EDITED in PHOTOSHOP.

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Ping Pong with Washington

The following series of telegrams between General Meade and the Lincoln Administration reveal the pressure Meade was under to advance, and also his efforts to discern if Lee's shift in troops proposed a threat or an opportunity.

Thoroughfare Mountain

Picture of Thoroughfare Mountain, near Madison;  A Federal Lookout Post.  View looking North, from Thoroughfare Road.

General Meade to General Halleck

October 9, 1863 — 7 p.m.,
(Received 7.45 p.m.)

Major-General Halleck:

A movement on the part of the enemy has taken place to-day.  His force guarding the Rapidan has been visibly diminished.  A column of cavalry, artillery and infantry has been seen moving from Gordonsville to Madison Court-House.  What his intentions are is as yet uncertain.  Whether falling back from the Rapidan, or making a flank movement against me by way of Madison Court-House and Weaverville, I am unable to say.  I have directed one division of cavalry to cross the Rapidan, if practicable, at Germanna, [Buford] and follow the enemy if in retreat.  Another division of cavalry [Kilpatrick] is posted to watch and meet any movement from Madison Court-House.  The rest of the army will be held in hand to meet either contingency, to urge in case Lee is withdrawing, or meet his flank movement in the event of such proving to be his intention.

The enemy’s pickets were overheard to say last night that the Yankees would soon find out that more troops had been sent to Bragg, and it is reported three brigades from Ewell’s corps have been recently sent.

GEO. G. MEADE,     
Major-General, Commanding.


War Department,
Washington, October 10, 1863—10.30 a.m.

Major-General Meade,
Army of the Potomac:

When King Joseph wrote to Napoleon that he could not ascertain the position and strength of the enemy’s army the Emperor replied:

“Attack him and you will soon find out.”  Telegrams from the west say that additional troops from Lee’s army are arriving there.

H.W. HALLECK,          

General Meade to General Halleck

Headquarters Army of the Potomac,      
October 10, 1863 — 12 noon.   
(Received 12.40 p.m.)

Major-General Halleck:

Your telegram of 10.30 received.  Orders were last night given for a division of cavalry to cross at Germanna Ford and the two infantry corps on the river were ordered to cross as soon as the cavalry had effected the passage on their left.  No intelligence has yet been received from the cavalry at Germanna.  On my right, the enemy’s cavalry, in force, have crossed Robertson’s River, from Madison Court-House, and are now engaged with my cavalry.   Every indication would lead to the conclusion that the enemy’s cavalry attacking me are supported by a large force of infantry, and there are some reasons to believe there is a movement into the Shenandoah Valley.  As yet matters are undeveloped, but I am quite positive no troops have left Lee’s army for the West, unless so very recently as to have precluded the possibility of their arrival there being announced by telegraph.

GEO. G. MEADE,         
Major-General, Commanding.

Abraham Lincoln to General Meade

October 10, 1863 — 4.55 p.m.     

General Meade:

Am interested with your dispatch noon.  How is it now ?

    A. LINCOLN.           

General Meade to General Halleck

October 10, 1863 —5.30 p.m.   
(Received 5.50 p.m.)

Major-General Halleck:

The enemy have succeeded with their cavalry in forcing back my cavalry and infantry support, and seizing Thoroughfare Mountain, on which was posted my signal officer.  This has enabled them to cover their flank movement.

From a deserter and prisoners I learn that A.P. Hill’s whole corps and part of Ewell’s are turning my right flank, moving from Madison Court-House to Sperryville.  Long wagon trains and beef cattle accompany the column.  I have no news from the cavalry on my left, although firing has been heard in that direction.  As it will be impossible for me to maintain my present position with so considerable a force of the enemy threatening my rear and communications, I shall, to-night withdraw to the north side of the Rappahannock, and endeavor, by means of cavalry, to find out what the enemy propose.  My belief now is that his movements are offensive.

Major-General, Commanding.

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We Might Expect Active Work Again

A noticeable shift of Confederate troops away from the river fords in front of the 1st Corps, caused General Meade to plan an advance at that place.   Also aware that the Confederate shift  indicated a flanking move on his right, Meade at the same time alerted Kilpatrick's Cavalry Divison supported by the 3rd  Corps, to watch for signs of the enemy in that direction.  Meanwhile he planned a move across the Rapidan toward Orange Court-House to flank General Lee.  General John Buford was to initiate the move by crossing at Germanna Ford and riding with his cavalry division east to Morton's Ford.  At Morton's Ford the 1st Corps Infantry would cross to the south side of the Rapidan and join Buford for an advance upon Orange.  The 6th Corps would aslo cross in support at Raccoon Ford.  That was the plan.  Accordingly the 1st and 6th Corps shifted positions in the dark morning hours of  October 10th so as to be in position to cross.

Orders for the Cavalry Corps, October 9, 1863.

Headquarters Army of the Potomac,
October 9, 1863––6.30 a. m.

Commanding Officer Cavalry Corps:

The commanding general directs that you order General Gregg to concentrate as rapidly as possible and march day and night until he reaches Culpeper Court-House.  He will leave one regiment to aid General Terry in guarding the railroad.

General Kilpatrick will be directed to watch the Madison Court-House and Woodville road, as well as the roads leading to Culpeper Court-House which he now watches, and if the enemy moves in force on the Woodville road he will attack him and impede his progress to the utmost.

General Buford will, as soon as possible, force a passage at Germanna Ford, pursue the enemy, and endeavor to uncover Morton’s Ford, communicating with General Newton, commanding First Corps, who is instructed to force a passage there also.  This being effected, he will continue to follow the enemy, reporting his progress.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    A.  A. HUMPHREYS,     
Major-General, and Chief of Staff.

General Newton Acknowledges his Orders

Headquarters First Army Corps,      
October 9, 1863.  

Major-General Humphreys:

General:   I will be in the neighborhood of Morton’s Ford to-morrow morning by daylight with the First Corps.  Any communication from General Buford or others will find me there.

Very respectfully,

JOHN NEWTON,         


Copy sent to General Pleasonton, with instructions to forward to Buford.

From the Journal of Colonel Charles Wainwright :

October 9, Friday.  Reports came in from our cavalry on the left this morning that the rebels had entirely withdrawn from the river bank opposite to them:  while the infantry reported that they had withdrawn most of their pickets along our whole front.  Of course this gave us to understand that we might expect active work again.  Orders have just come for this corps to be at Morton’s Ford at daylight tomorrow morning, beyond which I have not yet been informed;  but presume it means crossing.  We start at 2 o’clock making a night march of it, & in order to avoid the chance of any sounds reach the other side, my command & the waggons are to go around by the foot of Poney Mountain.  Morton’s ford is something over two miles below Raccoon ford, & nearly opposite the Smith house, where we first camped on moving forward from Culpepper. It is said to be a good place for crossing, the banks on the south side being low.

Two more deserters are sentenced to be shot in this Corps on the 16th; one of them is a serg’t & deserted while in presence of the enemy.   ...General Newton's staff has just been increased by Lieut. Chas. Hamburg of the Swedish Army as topographical engineer,  He is not an engaging looking man, & speaks very little english.  He cannot be worse than "Rats" the Russian or Wilcox the American.

My cold has about all gone so I shall be ready to start in good order in a few hours.

Diary of Calvin Conant; 13th MA, Company G:

 Friday, October 9.   Pleasant day.  I am on Brigade Guard for the first time don’t like the Style at all    Stood 6 hours and we had orders to march at  2 o'clock with 8 days rations    drawed rations and got ready to march about 3  o’clock to below Racoon ford and halted in the woods about 9 o’clock.   Washed up and made a great dish of Coffee.  laid here all day as our march was early this morning.

The following is from the regimental history,“Three Years in the Army, 1861 - 1864;  The Story of the Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, July 16, 1861 - Aug. 1, 1864.” by Charles E. Davis, Jr., (p. 271):

Friday, October  9.   In an order received this day from brigade headquarters it was stated that “it has been observed that in most of the regiments of this brigade there is a deficiency of axes, axe-slings, hatchets, spades, etc., and, as a consequence, the men suffer.  Every company should have a proper proportion of these articles, besides those required by the pioneers.”  As we recollect, there was more suffering from a surplus of these articles than by reason of a deficiency.  At least it was so when we were marching.

View south across the Rapidan from Lime Church

View south across the Rapidan river, from in front of Lime Church, near Raccoon Ford.  For pictures of Lime Church see the “Advance to the Rapidan“ page of this website.

Communication from General Newton

First Army Corps,    
October 9, 1863.

Major-General Humphreys, Chief of Staff:

The following from Lieutenant Carrington, my aide-de-camp, received:

Appearances indicate that Colonel Prey’s [Col. Gilbert Prey, 104th NY Vols.] report is correct.  No guns are in sight opposite the church.  [Lime Church, near Raccoon Ford.]  The batteries opposite the church have been removed.  Not more than 5 of the enemy are in sight besides the picket.  The picket line is about as usual.  I see a regiment at Somerville Ford moving to the rear; at least 150 men.

Part of Colonel Prey’s report was telegraphed you as the general officer of the day.  The enemy’s batteries in the vicinity of Raccoon Ford, above and below, have been removed.  The enemy’s troop have been seen filing back over the hills.

This postscript is from the information of two staff officers whom I sent down there to investigate after hearing from the picket.

JOHN NEWTON,             

“A Muddled Night March to Morton's Ford, Early Morning October 10th, 1 a.m. - 2 p.m.”

Artist and War Correspondent, Edwin Forbes did a nice sketch of a night march, April 30, 1863, during the Chancellorsville Campaign. He later altered it, subsituting a battery of artillery for a wagon, and he removed some stretcher bearers in the lower left corner to replace them with more marching troops.  But the scenery is the same, and it gives a great eye-witness impression of a night march.  Considering the two consecutive night marches that took place on October 10, 1863, and the 39th MA description of the great fires used to illuminate the march, it seemed fitting to use the picture here.

Edwin Forbes Sketch of a Night March


The following is from the History of the 39th MA titled,“The Thirty-Ninth Massachusetts Regiment; 1862 - 1865” by Alfred S. Row, Worcester, Mass., 1914. (p. 110):

An explanation of the event of this and subsequent days is in place here;  by a singular coincidence,  just as Meade was beginning to do what Lee had been expecting of him, for several weeks, the latter began a move similar to that of the year before when he had hurried Pope across the Rappahannock; in other words, he flanked Meade’s right, thus making it necessary for the latter to end any southern plans that he may have formed, and to devote himself exclusively to heading off the Confederate leader.  While the entire Union army is in motion our interest centers in the Regiment whose story is in progress.  As originally proposed, the First Corps was to cross the Rapidan at Morton’s or Raccoon Ford, co-operating with the Cavalry which was to cross the river at Germanna Ford, and to assail the Confederate right; meanwhile the sixth Corps was to cross at a point further up the river and to attack Lee’s left.  An early attack was the motive for the very unseasonable start, though its purpose was largely negatived by the great fires with which the men had lighted their way through the night.

Charles E. Davis, Jr., (13th MA) continued:

Saturday, October 10.  Were in line shortly after 1 A.M., and marched at 3 o’clock to a point on the Rapidan, about a mile from Racoon Ford, a distance of five miles, though we did not reach the spot until 2 P.M., owing to frequent delays.

From the Diary of Sam Webster Diary:

Saturday, October 10th, 1863.  Turned out about 1 o’clock this a.m. rations were issued and we moved a few miles easterly to road leading to Raccoon ford, and about a mile from the ford.

Struan, the way to Morton's Ford

Pictured is the estate called Struan.”  On Civil War era maps this location is called the Robinson house.  The hills in the background are on the south side of the Rapidan River.  Morton's Ford is in front of this home, which is part of the estate's property.

From the Journal of Colonel Charles Wainwright :

Wainwright gives a good description of Morton's Ford where General John C. Robinson's 2nd Division of the 1st Corps was supposed to cross the following morning in support of General John Buford's Cavalry Scout.

October 10, Saturday.  I got off at two-thirty o’clock with my brigade, having a guide to show me the way.  The moon was still up when we started but very little of its light got through the dense growth of scrub oak and pine on this slope of the hill.  Our road was a very narrow and winding one, and my guide none of the best.  We had not more than fully got into the wood before he lost his way, and after two or three mistakes became totally confused at last.  I knew nothing of it myself, and it was too dark to see anything whatever.   Carriages got stuck in trying to turn around, horses got baulky, and my staff who I had sent to find the right road did not get back.  I kept moving most of the time, but where we went to I have no notion at this time.  As the day began to break we found our way out, and pushed on as fast as possible.  I was in a great worry at having got so much behind time when everything might depend on exactness;  I was therefore much relieved when I found that but one division of infantry had got to the neighborhood of the Smith house before me.  This made it full two hours after sunrise by the time we were in a position to act.  Fortunately no harm was done this time, as it was not in contemplation to force an immediate passage.

Morton's Ford, January 2017

General Buford with his division of Cavalry went down the river yesterday to Germania ford about 6 miles below this, where he was to cross & work his way up the river;  the 6th Corps crossing in the same manner at Raccoon ford.  Meantime our main work was to keep them close, but ready  to second or assist Buford so soon as we heard from him.

Morton’s ford on examination presented anything but a good place for crossing in my opinion.  To be sure the land is nearly level on the other side without any of the steep bluffs that line the south bank above.  But the low land is surrounded by a regular horse shoe of low crests covered at their summit with woods and crowned with rifle pits all around.  This line of works is drawn with a radius of about a third of a mile around the ford & makes a perfect “cul de sac.“  The banks of the river are low on both sides, & look as if it had a muddy bottom & insecure footing on both sides.  We saw but very few rebels on the other side;  not more than a dozen during the whole day.  Our own men were kept tolerably well hid behind the woods, but had the rebels had any force they would easily have made out that something was the matter.  With Gen’l Newton I examined the ground around the ford so far as the posting of batteries was concerned should we have to cross, & then I pointed out to Breck, Cooper & Stewart, whose guns stood in the road just within the woods exactly what they were to do.

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General Kilpatrick's Cavalry Skirmish at James City, October 10

A small community of buildings called James City once existed on the road to Culpeper Court-House southwest of the town. It was a stop on the stage-line, which in 1863 was home to about 100 residents. Today Highway 29 cuts off the village, and the remaining buildings, some from the Civil War era, stand in a state of decay.  James City is privately owned and fenced off but a historical marker and small parking area provide visitors a chance to contemplate what once was.  On the morning of October 10, while the 13th MA were completing their night march to Morton's Ford, in preparation for an advance across the Rapidan river, General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick's 3d Cavalry Division was attacked and pushed back beyond James City.

James City
James City, view up the old street James City

General Lee's army marched upon Gen. Meade's right flank west of Culpeper.  Lee's plan was to surprise and attack en masse a portion of Gen. Meade's extended line.   General J.E.B. Stuart's Confederate Cavalry assumed its usual assignment of screening the movements of Lee's infantry.  For General Meade, the first indication of Lee's suspected flank march,  came the morning of October 10th, when Stuart's cavalry pushed Kilpatrick's scouts away from the Roberston river at dawn, and pressed them back to James City.  This  cleared the roads north from Madison and screened the Confederate Infantry's march.   Kilpatrick's clash at James City confirmed Genl. Meade's suspicions that Lee was threatening his flank, so he decided to post-pone the advance of the First Corps at Morton's Ford.  By 9.30 a.m. General Meade alerted his corps commanders to be prepared to move back closer to Culpeper Court-House.  He ordered his wagon train east to the north side of the Rappahannock river that afternoon.

Map of the James City skirmish, Oct. 10, 1863

While General Stuart was fighting with Kilpatrick's Cavalry Division, the Confederate army marched north.  General General A.P. Hill's Corps led the army's march northwest.  He headed his column to Criglersville, arriving at 8 a.m.  He split his column in two and marched it around Mitchell's Mountain.   They "went into camp at Woodville and Slate mill on either side of the Hazel River."   General Richard Ewell's Corps headed to Griffinsburg.  His 3 divisions spread out at night to camp on the road, ranging in location from a few miles north of James City to a mile north of Griffinsburg.*  They were now easily within striking distance of the right flank and rear of General Meade's lines.

Click here to view the map larger.

*The Maps of the Bristoe Station and Mine Run Campaigns, by Bradley M. Gottfried, 2013, Savas Beatie LLC, California. (p. 36.)

Civil War Trails Historic Marker

Civil War Trails James City Marker

Virginia Civil War Trails


Opening Battle of the Bristoe Station Campaign

On October 10, 1863, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, anticipating an offensive that became known as the Bristoe Station Campaign, sent a division of Confederate horsemen led by Gen. J.E.B. Stuart north from Madison on a raid.

Confederate Gen. James B. Gordon’s brigade drove Union Gen. Judson Kilpatrick’s troopers from the Robinson River to Bethsaida Church.  Stuart attacked and drove Kilpatrick from the field.

Stuart pursued Kilpatrick to James City while a Confederate detachment was sent to shut down a Union signal station atop Thoroughfare Mountain.

As Stuart entered the village, he encountered two of Kilpatrick’s brigades and French’s infantry division which commanded six pieces of artillery.  As Stuart approached, the Union troops withdrew to a position across Crooked Run in Culpeper County.  They drew up in line of battle on a hill overlooking James City, with their artillery ready to confront Stuart, should he advance.

Throughout the remainder of the day, the opposing batteries engaged one another.  About 4 p.m. the Union cavalry charged to within 200 yards of Stuart’s line, when deadly fire from Confederate sharpshooters cut them to pieces.  Artillery fire continued until nightfall, leaving the inhabitants of James City caught in the crossfire.  Smoke and fire settled over the village.

The Union troopers withdrew during the night, ending the battle.

This was the only instance during the war when Stuart led a force completely without Virginians.

View of the Ruins of James City Today

Yours Truly, in front of James City ruins

Pictured above, yours truly, standing in front of the ruins of James City, February, 2020.

Colonel Lockwood's Stand at Bethsaida Church

The 120th New York Volunteer Infantry, commanded by Colonel Abram Lockwood supported the cavalry pickets along the Robinson/Robertson* river.  They were later placed in position at Bethsaida Church where the 211 troopers made a brave stand against Confederate cavalry.  J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry attacked them head-on and on both flanks.  Though Col. Lockwood does not mention the church specifically in his report, his 114 reported casualties reflect the outcome of the one-sided fight.

*It is frequently referred to as both.  I believe the name changed over time from Robertson, to Robinson.

Bethsaida Church near James City

Pictured above, Bethsaida Church, view from the west looking  east.

Report of Captain Lockwood, 120th NY Infantry

Report of Captain Abram L. Lockwood, One hundred and twentieth New York Infantry, of skirmish at James City.

Headquarters 120th New York State Volunteers,     
October 13, 1863.

Captain:    I have the honor to submit the following report in regard to my brigade, until Sunday, 3 a.m., the 11th instant, when it returned:

Upon the arrival of our division to within about three-fourths of a mile from James City, in the afternoon of Thursday, the 8th instant, I was ordered by Colonel Brewster, commanding Excelsior Brigade, to report with my regiment to General Kilpatrick.  I marched the regiment to James City, and was there met by Lieutenant Whittaker, of General Kilpatrick’s staff, who conducted me to a position between 4 or 5 miles distant from James City, on the road leading to Russell’s Ford, on Robertson’s River.  About 200 yards in my rear was stationed about two companies of cavalry, and a cavalry picket in my front at the ford.  My instructions were that I was to support the cavalry in case of an attack by the enemy.

On Friday afternoon, I was informed by Lieutenant Whittaker that the enemy had appeared in large force on the other side of the river, and that I must be on the alert.  He informed me that in case the enemy crossed in force information would immediately be given to the cavalry, and before the enemy could be upon me a cavalry force would be up to my assistance.

About daylight on Saturday, the 10th instant, a lieutenant of cavalry notified me that Stuart’s cavalry had crossed the river in large force and were advancing.  I immediately made such disposition of my command as I considered best to check the advance of the enemy.  The cavalry pickets were soon driven in, the enemy advanced upon me in heavy force, attacking on both flanks and in my front.

No support coming to my assistance, I was forced to order my regiment to fall back, skirmishing, as the only means of preventing our being captured in a body.  We fell back, keeping up a skirmish fire until we emerged from the woods in sight of James City, where  I got a position behind a fence, and checked the advance of the enemy.  From here I sent an orderly to General Prince for instructions, who returned with orders from General Davies (commanding a cavalry brigade) for me to retire immediately.  I then reported with my command to General Kilpatrick, who ordered me to the support of a flying battery.  After remaining here for about two hours, Colonel Burling, who was in command of two other regiments, ordered me to fall in with his command, and move in position to support a battery that was under his command.

About 3 or 4 o’clock we again got in line, and Colonel Burling conducted us about 3 miles to the rear, and there received orders to move back to the field again.  We formed again in line and stacked arms.  Had orders from Colonel Burling to be ready to move at daylight.  It was now dark.  A short time after I had orders to fall in, and we moved beyond Brown’s Store, and formed in line in the woods and stacked arms again.  About 11 p.m. Colonel Burling ordered me to fall in and move back to join the division at our old camp, which I did, and reached the brigade between 2 and 3 o’clock on Sunday morning.

Our regiment numbered 211 when we marched out.  Our loss was, 2 assistant surgeons, 1 hospital stewards and 10 sergeants missing; 2 sergeants wounded, 11 corporals missing, 2 corporals wounded, 1 private killed, 5 privates wounded, and 80 privates missing; total, officers and men, 114.

    A. J. LOCKWOOD.   
Captain, Comdg. 120th Regt. N. Y. State Vols.

Capt. J. P. Finkelmeier,
            Assistant Adjutant-General.

Another View of Thoroughfare Mountain

Thoroughfare Mountain from Route 29

View of Thoroughfare Mountain which was a Union Signal Station. Picture taken  from modern hiway 29, down the road and slightly south-west of James City; view looking southeast.

Report of the Signalman, Captain Taylor

Report of Captain Peter A. Taylor, U. S. Signal Corps.

Edwin Forbes engraving, Signalmen

Watery Mountain Signal Station,   
Near Warrenton, Va., November 2, 1863.  

Captain:   I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of the party under my charge for the month of October, 1863:

October 1. –– On station, Thoroughfare Mountain, party consisting of Lieutenant Warts, myself, and 5 flagmen –– communicating by flag with Pony Mountain, Cedar Mountain, and General Kilpatrick’s headquarters, 3 1/2 miles northeast from the mountains.

From the 1st to the 7th, inclusive, nothing of importance transpired along the enemy’s lines. “All quiet, no change,” was invariably reported by the station.

October 8. –– On the morning of this day, it was discovered that the enemy had the night before stealthily withdrawn a portion of his forces from General Meade’s front, which fact I at once reported to General Meade through you, and to General Kilpatrick, commanding cavalry forces on the right flank of our army.  A close watch was now kept upon our front for any development of the intention of the enemy.

October 9. –– At 12 m. a general movement on the part of the enemy became apparent to us.  A long wagon train and column of infantry was seen moving toward Madison Court-house on the Gordonsville pike, and an hour later another column, moving in same direction, on the Orange Court-House road.  Reports of the movement were at once forwarded to General Meade through you, and to General Kilpatrick.

October 10 –– On the morning of this day, the enemy’s columns, which had halted outside Madison Court-House, were seen moving through that town toward the extreme right of our army, which information was immediately forwarded.   The enemy soon after came up with General Kilpatrick’s pickets on the Robertson’s River, drove them back, and moved in strong force on James City and Thoroughfare Mountain, with the evident intention to clear the Springville road for his moving columns, and to possess the mountain, from which to watch the movements of our forces.

My party, with guard of 15 men, left the mountain when enemy had gained the summit from direction of James City, and were advancing across the point threatening to cut us off from the east side, the only path left open for escape.  We succeeded in taking away all public property in our charge.  Leaving the mountain, I reported the state of affairs to General Custer, near Wayland’s Mills, who gave me to understand that he had too much to attend to, to spare a force sufficient to take the mountain and hold it.  I then reported to General Kilpatrick, who said he had ordered General Custer to report to him, and when he came up, would have him retake and hold the mountain.

Edwin Forbes engraving, Signalmen leaving the mountain

Being satisfied in my mind that the movement of the enemy would necessitate the falling back of our forces, and that the mountain would no longer be required as a signal station, I reported to you at headquarters of the army at Culpeper, leaving Lieutenant Warts with General Kilpatrick to re-occupy the station should General Custer come up and take it in my absence.

Received orders from you to order Lieutenant Warts in at once, as the army moved back to the Rappahannock the following morning.   I feel confident in saying that first intimation of movement on part of the enemy, together with information of actual movement reached the general commanding, through Thoroughfare Mountain Signal Station, twenty-four hours earlier than through any other source.

[The report continues on subsequent events.]

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Captain, Signal Corps, U.S. Army.

Capt. L. B. Norton,
Chief Signal Officer, Army of the Potomac.

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1st Corps March to Stevensburg; Evening, October 10, 1863

Map of the early morning march  October 10, 1863

To recap the two marches on October 10th, 1863:  In the wee hours, between 1 a.m. until about 2 p.m., the First Corps marched from their campground near Mitchell's, as Sam Webster described it, (#3a. on the map) a few miles east to near Morton's Ford.  General Newton's headquarters were located at the J. Vaughn house, (#4 on the map) and from here, Col. Wainwright's artillery marched around Pony Mountain to the new position, (#5 on the map).  This new camp was close to the J. Smith homestead, where they were bivouacked September 24th;  (#2 on the map). 

The objective was to cross the Rapidan River at Morton's Ford.  The soldiers laid around in camp all afternoon waiting for orders to cross.  This was to happen when General Buford's Cavalry reconnaissance on the South side of the Rapidan reached the ford.  But on the morning of October 10th, while the 1st Corps was marching, General Meade's right flank was attacked at James City, tipping him off that Lee was on the move.  Consequently orders were changed and in the afternoon, the First Corps was ordered back to Stevensburg.  This provoked another night march beginning at dark, and ending about 11 p.m.   The next day, October 11, they were ordered to Kelly's Ford.  

Click here to view  larger map.

A BACKWARD MOVE (continued)

The following is from, "The Thirty-Ninth Massachusetts Regiment; 1862 - 1865";  by Alfred S. Row, Worcester, Mass., 1914. (p. 110 - 113).

All day long the troops awaited the approach of Buford and his troopers before crossing, but no cavalry appeared; night approached and preparations for repose were afoot when the command came to pack up and be off.  Evidently the purposes of Lee had been disclosed and an “About Face” was only preliminary to “Forward March.”  The night was memorable to those concerned in its exactions, not so much for its length as on account of the difficulties encountered.  Along a narrow road, infantry and artillery jostled each other, frequently the former having to take to the fields, many of them low and marshy, or to lie along the roadside while the cannon had the thoroughfare.

Blackjack Road.  This is probably the road Robinson's Division took during the night

Pictured is Blackjack road, Culpeper County, which leads down to Morton's Ford.  This photo is taken a little less than 1/2 way between the ford and Stevensburg.  View looking south.  The troops likely took this route on their night march.  They would be marching toward the viewer.

39th Mass. continued:

At last the top of the hills near Mountain Creek, where the first camp south of the Rappahannock had been pitched, was gained and an unparalleled scene broke upon the vision of those sleepy and wearied soldiers.  As far as the eye could reach the entire landscape was starred with campfires, and it began to look as though we were to sleep on our old campground.  Every conceivable noise saluted the ear; the stroke of axes as they cut up rails for fuel, the clamor of teamsters endeavoring to get their teams through difficult places and the incessant hum of human voices raised for a thousand reasons.  It was midnight, however, before the Thirty-ninth was ready to commit itself to sleep, and even then not for long, since at 2 a.m. of the 11th, the call to arms was heard by the tired and sleepy men.

Edwin Forbes Sketch, Going into Camp at Night

All may have heard the call, but all did not obey at once.  Some of them had been known to ignore parental rising calls at home and, on this occasion, they were the happy, lucky ones, since six o’clock arrived and still no orders to move forward, though the right of the corps had been long on the march. The many and rapid changes of the last thirty-six hours have brought about some hitherto unexperienced trouble.  Many of the Regiment had been left on picket and one of those, performing this at present hazardous duty, records the following in his diary, “About nine (p.m.) receive orders to pack up and leave; march to our old camp and get some rations; then start again for Pony Mountain.  About 3 a.m. (11th) arrive at our old campground, where we first stopped (Aug. ) after crossing the Rappahannock and, I was just ready to lie down when we were ordered back about a mile to our Regiment.”  Not all, however were so fortunate.  Though under the command of that sterling veteran, Captain John Hutchins ( C ), owing to the darkness of the night, some of the men lost their way and thirteen were captured by closely following rebel cavalry;  seven of the captives being  “ E,”  the Somerville company...

The soldier’s time honored privilege of grumbling had free course this afternoon, since it was between 10 and 11 a.m. that the lines finally moved.  The hardened campaigner understands that no one in the regiment is responsible for unseemly hours of turning out; it means just the same for shoulder straps that it does for men in the ranks; the enemy is near; exactly when or where he may appear no one knows, but all can be ready to respond immediately to the first command. The chances are that not even Colonel Davis was aware that to him and his regiment was to be entrusted a considerable part of the safety of the rear of the retreating army.  Yet such was the case, and when the fact became apparent not over pleasant memories of their former experience in a similar duty were recalled;  happily in this case the wagon trains had been hurried forward and the coast was comparatively clear all the way to Kelly’s Ford, passing on the way all that was left of the hamlet of Stevensburg.  Further down the river was a pontoon-bridge over which other troops were passing but, as the enemy was near, there could be no delay and at 5 p.m., or thereabouts, the men marched through the water being about waist deep and, in chilly October, anything but agreeable.  With all possible precautions taken for defense against the closely following foe, and with great fires to dry their saturated garments, the soldiers were soon comparatively comfortable.

Sam Webster Diary, continued:

Saturday, October 10th, 1863.
       After lying round until near night pitched tent, and went to considerable trouble to make a nice bed of cedar.  Had been fixed about an hour when, just at dark, we had again to take the road.  Brought up to the west of Stephensburg, and near Pony Mountain, about 11 oclock.

Charles E. Davis, Jr., (13th MA) continued:

         Saturday, October 10. (cont'd.)     A cavalry reconnaissance disclosed the fact that the enemy are making a flank movement, so we moved to the rear and camped near Stevensburg about 11 P.M.

Calvin Conant, Company G,  Diary:

 Saturday, October 10.   pretty warm day.  we are now near the ford below Raccoon's ford  on the Rapidan [Morton's Ford]  ordered to go into Camp    got all fixed up for the night — when about 7 get orders to pack up   it is quite dark and we are on the march and like to be all night.

Rose Hill

Rose Hill Plantation, Stevensburg

The soldiers would have passed by Rose Hill Plantation, on their march, see map below for the location. The house still stands and is still owned by members of the Ashby family, whose family bought the property in 1853 from Phillip Nalle, son of the original owner.  It was built in the early 1800's before 1820.  Today the property is a game preserve.  In just a couple of months time, the home would be occupied by General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick and staff, and designated 3rd Cavalry Division Headquarters.  During this occupation, the Ashby family's living quarters were moved to the  basement.  Several photos were taken of Kilpatrick and others on the front porch.

Colonel Charles Wainwright Journal

Grumpy Col. Wainwright complained about the slow moving infantry of John Robinson's Division during the march!

Charles Wainwright Journal, (October 10th, cont'd.): ––

We remained in this state of waiting all day expecting every hour news from Buford, either by the officer he was to send so soon as he got across, or by hearing his firing as he pushed up the river on the other side; but we received no word from him whatever, & produced no sort of demonstration on the other side of the ford.  I do not suppose that there were any of the enemy over there save a few cavalry videttes.  At Raccoon ford there was more of a force; & a few shots were fired.

About sunset and just as I had got my command settled for the night we received orders to fall back to a point near our old camp between Culpeper and Stevensburg.  Men and animals were very tired, having been under such close restraint all day.  The infantry straggled terribly and made awful slow work.  Robinson would not let me pass his division without a written order from General Newton, which at last I rode ahead and got, and was able to get into camp about ten P.M. totally fagged out.  Corps headquarters are at Colonel Slaughter’s house;  the night is raw, chilly, and disagreeable.  Just as I was turning in orders came to move from here at three o’clock for the north side of the Rappahannock. It is said that Kilpatrick who held our left in the vicinity of James City was driven in this morning and that Lee is trying to re-enact the Pope campaign of last year.

View of the fields at Col. Slaughter's House, looking south to Stevensburg

View of the fields looking south toward Stevensburg from the site of Colonel Slaughter's home.  Pony Mountain would be visible in the distance if the picture was a bit wider, to the right.  The road on the left, continues north to Brandy Station.  Part of the First Corps camped in these fields for a short while around midnight, while the wagon train passed.  In the morning on October 11th, the 1st Corps resumed its hurried march to Kelly's Ford, and safety, on the North side of the Rappahannock River.

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1st Corps' Continued March to Kelly's Ford, October 11, 1863

This map follows the route of march of the 13th Mass. Vols. from Stevensburg to Kelly's Ford on October 11.   In the lower left corner is the Rose Hill estate the regiment would have passed on the previous night march.  Above that is the home of Col. Slaughter, where Division Headquarters was established.   Sam Webster (13th MA, Company D)  says the regiment camped  just west of Stevensburg in the early morning hours of October 11.

Map of the March, October 11, 1863

Map of march Oct. 11 1863

The red dots on this map represent the approximate locations where I took photographs along the route as seen below.

Charles E. Davis, Jr., (13th MA) continued:

Sunday, October 11.
        We were turned out at 3 A.M. to march, but were delayed until 9 o’clock by the passing of other divisions, after which we pointed our noses in a northerly direction, crossing the Rappahannock at Kelly’s Ford, which we waded about 3 P.M., the water being up to our waists.  We then camped on the heights, within sound of the cavalry fighting at Stevensburg.  The march was ten miles.

Calvin Conant Diary:

Tuesday, 11 [Calvin is traveling with headquarters–– B.F.]
    Warm day.  We are now near our old camp near Stevensburg having come here last night got to here about 12 and had to halt to let the Wagon train pass.  was told we would start again about 3 hours   am sleepy and tired   was waked up about 3 1/2 o’clock  got ready to march stayed up in the cold some time and then went to bed again   layed till sunrise  got up and got Coffee   and much signs of leaving to day I think packed up at eleven & marched to Kellie’s ford on the Rappahannock, and Went into the trenches on the North side   had to ford the river which was up to my ass in water.

General Newton Refuses Aid to Buford

Charles Wainwright gives a good summary of what was happening.  Once again General Newton let down General Buford and failed to offer the intrepid Cavalry Commander any aid at a time of need.

Charles Wainwright Journal:

Kelly’s Ford, Sunday, October 11.––   We got but two hours’ sleep last night, and were ready to start, according to orders, at three this morning.  With the hour however came orders for us to hold on, and we were kept hanging around until nearly eleven o’clock.  I know nothing worse than this being ready to start a couple of hours before daylight, and then detained until near noon.  I cannot lie down and go to sleep as many can, so that smoking is the only resource left to me.  Some of Buford’s officers came up before we started, and informed us that they reached Moreton’s Ford at sundown and camped on that side for the night.  The officer sent to inform Newton of their crossing got lost on his way up, and did not reach us until midnight.  Buford met with no opposition yesterday, there being no force opposed to him.  He picked up quite a number of prisoners (rebel stragglers), waggons, and so on.  It is queer that we should not have seen anything of his advance before we left the ford.

This morning he crossed to the far side; but meantime the Sixth Corps having been withdrawn like ourselves, the rebels pushed a brigade of infantry across at Raccoon Ford and took post between him and Culpeper –– obliging Buford to fall back on Stevensburg.  As my batteries at the rear of our column went through that place, one of Buford’s came into position on a knoll right alongside of the road, while his other guns were blazing away quite lively not over half a mile off; this battery opened before we were all out of the village, and a number of wounded cavalry joined our column.  I fully expected to come in for a share of the scrimmage, but General Newton only hurried us off.   I know noting about how pressing and exact the General’s orders may have been, but it seemed to me a shame that such an opportunity to bag a thousand rebels or so should be lost.  From the way they pushed on the cavalry they evidently did not dream of a corps of infantry being so near; while the country afforded lots of places to have hid the corps until Buford could have decoyed them into the trap.

The Road to Kelly's Ford

The old road to Kelly's Ford has been altered considerably.  At this intersection there used to be a dog-leg bend in the road.  See #1 on the map above.  The original road followed the horizontal fence line among the trees in the right middleground, (which is a driveway to day) and then continued easterly on the gravel road in the foreground (left to right).  The intersecting highway is a different road. View looking south.

The road continues across the intersection

The Road Continues north-easterly, across the intersection.  This is a picture of the gravel road in the foreground above, looking east toward Kelly's Ford, still a long way off.

The Road to Kelly's Ford

One more view of the road to Kelly's Ford, (approximately #2 on the map above) on the way to Paoli Mills, view northeast.

Wainwright, continued:

Our road was good and straight; the men marched along steadily, very few straggling to the rear, for though the rebels did not follow us up at all the firing about Stevensburg had a salutary effect.  At Paoli Mills, where we crossed Mountain Run, I got a couple of batteries into position until all had passed over;  but we were not disturbed at any time, and were all safely to the north of the Rappahannock an hour before sunset.  The day has been very fine, and after we got started I rather enjoyed the whole thing;  there was just enough excitement to make it pleasant, while the selection of positions for my guns in case of necessity at different points gave me plenty to do.

They threw the deployment of the Division on the south of the river at this point; as also the posting of some of my guns: –– their gradual withdrawal across the stream, & new positions taken on this side to cover the withdrawal of the rest.

The country is open, the ground & positions good, while the soft light of the setting sun has made it a really pretty military show.

All the other Corps, I understand, are also on this side of the river, without having had any fighting, at different points above us.   The cavalry did not get off so well, & kept up an outrageous cannonading all day.  I have not yet heard what the result of it all was.  Buford, who made for Brandy Station from Stevensburg, was at one time in a tight place I know for he sent Capt. Keogh, of his staff, over to ask Newton to send him a Brigade at least.  Keogh, with whom I talked, thought it doubtful if they would be able to get through to join Pleasanton without heavy loss.  Gen’l Newton would not do anything;  his orders were to push for Kelly’s ford; & he is terribly afraid of assuming any responsibility.  Had Reynolds been in command things would have been very different.  Some of us feel very badly that the Corps should have refused assistance when asked especially to old Buford.  –– I believe he got through finally, but I want to hear whether he lost any of his guns.  Tomorrow I shall probably learn all about it.  Now for a good long night’s sleep, after two of watching.

Sam Webster Diary, continued:

Sunday, October 11th, 1863
Got up early but, waiting for other division to move, did not get started until late, near 9.  Passing over the hill at Stephensburg we could see the smoke rising, back on the road we came over at night where the Cavalry were having a fight.  We took the road to Kelly’s Ford, crossing Mountain Run at “Viola Mills,” [Paoli Mills] where I fell in and got ducked.  Had to wade the Rappahannock at Kelly’s, the other two divisions being fortunate enough to have a bridge to cross on.  They seemed afraid of the rebel cavalry, but they followed ours on the Brandy Station road.

Mountain Run at Paoli Mills

Mountain Run at Paoli Mills

Mountain Run at Paoli Mills, where Sam Webster got ducked.  The soldiers had to cross this stream on the march to Kelly's Ford, and most of them mention it.  Sam Webster fell in.  Wainwright posted his batteries to protect the men while they crossed.  This image is taken where the road crosses today, #3 on the map above.  View to the north.

Sergeant Austin Stearns:  Fording the Rappahannock at Kelly's Ford

From “Three Years With Company K,” by Sergeant Austin C. Stearns, edited by Arthur Kent, Associated University Press, 1976.

The rebs were again in motion after the departure of the 11th and 12th Corps to reinforce the western army, consequently they were trying their old game of flanking the army.  As we were not large in numbers and a good ways from our supplies, a retreat was ordered; the rebs finding we were on the move quickly followed.  I remember how close they followed us as we went toward Kelly’s Ford.  We were the rear guard of infantry and the cavalry constantly skirmished all the way.  We reached the Ford at dusk and as there was but one pontoon bridge and that was being used by the teams and artillery, we had to ford it.  The water to a short man like myself came to my waist and I had to hold my cartridge box up to keep it dry.  After crossing we were halted on the banks and were not allowed any fire; the nights were cold, and with our wet clothes and no coffee we passed a very uncomfortable night.  Towards morning, with others, I went for wood, and after a half mile we found a fence and with each taking as many rails as he could carry, we went back and built a fire. The reason we were not allowed a fire earlier was, they were afraid of shells.

Kelly's Ford

Kelly's Ford, view to the South east from the bridge; #4 on the map above.  All the soldiers said the water was about waiste high when they waded through.

Charles Manning Letter; Partial Transcription

Charles Manning, Company B, was traveling with 2nd Divsion Headquarters.  I believe he was a teamster.  The General he makes reference to is probably 2nd Division commander Brigadier-General John C. Robinson.  A large batch of Manning's letters came up for sale some time past, but the dealer would not share scans or transcriptions with me.  Some of the letters sold, so the collection was broken up.

This letter transcription was very difficult to decipher.    Consequently I relied on the dealer's partial scans and typescript. By reversing the letter scan I was able to decipher some of the writing on page 2.  Charles wrote in ink and his clear penmanship showed through the paper, but it was not always legible.  Charles had a distinct cursive script though, which helped with figuring out the writing, and I believe I captured it accurately.

The content is a bit confusing regarding time, so I added dates in parenthesis to clearify. Doing so brougth the narrative into focus, ––and it conformed to Wainwright's account, and others.  I offer it here, but be aware it was not transcribed under the best of circumstances.  Perhaps the letters will appear for sale again one day, and complete transcriptions can be made of the letters.

Head Quarters 1st Army Corps.     
Near Kellys Ford, Rappahannock   
River, Va. Oct 12th 1863.

Dear Brother

            I received your kind letter the 10th and was much pleased to hear from you all once more.  when I got your letter we were on the march, making another grand Retreat  which I will tell you about if you will wait patiently a few minutes.  last friday night [October 9th] we received the orders to be ready to march at 2 O’clock the next morning, at 2 [Saturday morning 2 a.m., Oct. 10th] we were routed out, got our grub  cooked and eat, and ready to strike the Genl’s tents whenever he said the word, but at daylight the Genl and all his Staff left, telling the Sergt to strike the tents and have everything packed up at 12 O’clock [Saturday, noon, October 10th] the Corps moved out to the Rappadan and the 5th Corps took our ground as a support for us.  we stayed  with the teams

(page 2)

until 4 o’clock [Saturday, 4 p.m.]  in the afternoon when we received the orders to go with the Hd. Qrtrs. teams and join the Corps train laying down by Pony Mountain   we did not know what in the least was up but the most of the boys thought it was another trip to Manassas

we has not more than got started to the train when they got the order to be ready to move at 3  o’clock [ 3 a.m. Sunday morning, October 11th, (same as Wainwright)]    they got off and then they, told us that we was going to stop there with the Corps who was expected that way   while we could hear wagons going all night and by day light the most of them were out of sight

started at 9 o’clock in the morning [Sunday morning, October 11th] taking the road to Kellie’s Ford …we heard that the Reb cavalry and ours are fighting in …Stephensburg [where] we had passed through only about an hour before …they are following us pretty close as they always do.   The 3rd Division of our corps was formed in line of battle on each side of the bridge while our teams crossed the river.  We pitched tents about a  mile the north side of the Rappahannock

…when I think of how the Army of the Potomac is used, how many times they have got just so far and then shoulder their ass and streaker to Washington …sometimes it makes me laugh and again it makes me swear …on the whole though … I have sworn more then I have laughed

…you say …Col Leonard …he has got the softest job that I have heard of for a long time.  He can give himself a leave of absence and go up home …but the 13th don’t care much where he is so long as he aint with them …Tom Buffum…came back with about 6 or 7 men of my Company that were taken prisoners at Gettysburg, but poor [Pvt William Wallace] Sprague is still in Richmond [Belle Island] with 3 more of my Company    Buffum was as pleased to see me as if I had been his own brother…

        Chas. W. Manning

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General John Buford's Fight on October 11th

Meade's change of plans left Buford's Cavalry expedition high and dry as Col. Wainwright suggests in his last journal entry.  Buford had to fight his way from Morton's Ford to Stevensburg, alone.  And then ride to Brandy Station, closely followed by they enemy.  At the latter place he linked up with Kilpatrick's Cavalry Division which was engaged in a fighting retreat from Culpeper.  United, the cavalry finally rode  back to the safety of the Union lines north of the Rappahannock River.  It would be a desperate and eventful day for the brilliant Cavalry Commander.

Edwin Forbes Cavalry Engraving with effects

General John Buford's Official Report of the Engagement at Morton's Ford

Headquarters First Cavalry Division          
November 14, 1863.  

Colonel:   On the morning of October 10, while at Stevensburg, I received the following instructions, viz:

Hdqrs. Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac,
October 9, 1863 –– 7.20 p.m.,

Brigadier-General Buford,
        Commanding First Cavalry Division:

General:  You will force a passage at Germanna Ford as soon as possible, pursue the enemy, and endeavor to uncover Morton’s Ford, communicating with General Newton, commanding First Corps, who is instructed to force a passage there also.  This being effected, you will continue to follow the enemy, reporting your progress frequently.

Very respectfully,

Major-General, Commanding.

Bufords Fight at Morton's Ford

These instructions were handed to me after sunrise, and found the division without a particle of forage. The train was at Culpeper awaiting its supply.  It, with every available empty wagon was ordered to be filled and instructed to cross at Morton’s Ford and join the division.  At 8.30 a.m.  the command, composed of Colonel Chapman’s (First) brigade, with Williston’s battery, and Colonel Devin’s (Second) brigade, with Lieutenant Heaton’s battery, with three days rations, without a particle of grain, was in motion, and reached Germanna Ford about noon, where preparations were made to force a crossing.   At 1 p.m. this was most handsomely effected, in the face of a small force of the enemy, by the Eighth New York Cavalry, and followed in haste by the whole division.

The command next marched over the rough country near the river until it reached the enemy’s intrenchments in rear of Morton’s, capturing the different pickets at the fords from Germanna to Morton’s, arriving at Morton’s after night, and having driven the enemy out of his exterior intrenchments.  The command bivouacked for the night, leaving the enemy in considerable force to hold his interior works and the ford.  The next morning about 7 a.m. I learned that the First Corps had retired during the night, and that the commanding general had changed the programme.

Thomas C. DevinBeing without instructions, and my train having been ordered to recross the Rappahannock, I was at a loss to know what course to pursue.   At this point a messenger arrived with instructions, of old date, for me not to cross the Rapidan at all, but to return and recross the Rappahannock at the station or Kelly’s.  I immediately started to recross the Rapidan at Morton’s, driving with ease the enemy from his inner works.  He retired toward Raccoon, and finding that he was not followed, and receiving re-enforcements, soon returned to retard my crossing.  The ford was bad and had to be repaired, which caused some delay.  During this crossing the enemy was very active on my left flank, skirmishing, and in crossing the river above at Raccoon.  This latter movement was discovered in time to foil his plan, and Colonel Chapman, with all of his brigade that had crossed, was sent to check him while Devin crossed his command.  Colonel Devin (pictured) was sorely pressed, as his forces on the enemy’s side decreased, but he, by frequent dashing and telling charges, and the two batteries by their fire from the north side, kept the enemy from closing on his rear.  Colonel Devin’s command on this occasion was beautifully handled, fought too bravely, and consequently suffered quite severely.

Captain Conger, Third [West] Virginia, by his courage and hard fighting won the admiration of all who saw him.

George H. ChapmanWhile Colonel Devin was doing so well, Colonel Chapman, (pictured) with his brigade, had made his preparations to meet the force that had crossed at Raccoon, and a very warm reception he gave them.  He found a superior force of cavalry formed and ready to charge.  He speedily made his dispositions, and as soon as completed, down came this overwhelming force of cavalry upon him, not to stay, however, but to be hurled back dismayed, in confusion, and terribly punished.  Shortly after the rout of this cavalry, its support (infantry force)  advanced, and Colonel Chapman withdrew from his position directly toward Stevensburg.  When near Stevensburg, the Second Brigade connected, each line still followed closely by the enemy.  Seeing a number of wagons passing along the road from Culpeper, through Stevensbug toward Kelly’s, I determined to make a stand until they were all safe.  Here the division fought the enemy’s cavalry until its support came up with its long-range muskets.

  Map; Buford's Fight at Stevensburg

Buford held off Confederate Cavalry until the 1st Corps Wagons were safe.  Col. Wainwright remarked that Buford requested the aid of a brigade of infantry from Gen. Newton, who refused it; ––Newton once again letting Buford down.

The division then withdrew, making an obstinate resistance at Stevensburg, until everything was safely across that nasty stream, Mountain Run, after which it leisurely retired to Brandy Station without a deal of molestation from the enemy, although closely followed by him.  To my surprise, at Brandy I found the rear guard of the Fifth Corps passing through to cross the Rappahannock.  I knew nothing up to this time of how extensive this retrograde movement of our army was, and here learned that General Pleasonton, with the Third Division, was still in rear of the Fifth Corps. Arrangements were immediately made to make a stand until the Third Division should arrive.

The enemy seeing the Third Division across the open country, and being out of my sight, turned their column in that direction.  The Third Division soon made a connection with my right.  As soon as this was accomplished, the Sixth New York charged, followed closely by the Ninth New York, and soon regained the advantage that the enemy supposed he had.  It was a very severe hand-to-hand fight, Devins’s troops using the saber.  The enemy pressed my left closely in retiring, and made several feints in my front, but by 8 p.m. the division was across the Rappahannock.  During the night we found our forage and went to sleep.

Map, Buford's Fight 3

The next day, the 12th, I received the following instructions, viz:

 Headquarters Army of the Potomac,
October 12, 1863 –– 10.30 a.m.

Major-General Sedgwick will, in addition to his own corps, take command of the Fifth Corps and Buford’s division of cavalry, and advance immediately to Brandy Station and take position at the heights there, driving the enemy and holding the position.  He will report his progress to the commanding general, and also the force, position, and movements of the enemy.

By command of Major-General Meade:

S. WILLIAMS,      
Assistant Adjutant-General.

Headquarters Cavalry Corps,      
October 12, 1863.

Official copy furnished for General Buford’s information.
        By command of Major-General Pleasonton:

C.C. SUYDAM,      
Assistant Adjutant-General.

At 12 m. the division was across the river again and in motion.  After advancing about 2 miles, the enemy’s pickets were driven in, and the advance commenced skirmishing with the enemy.  Finding his force insignificant, a general advance was ordered, and he was driven to within 1 1/2 miles of Culpeper.  The object of the expedition being accomplished, the division returned and bivouacked on the left of the infantry near Brandy.

Every man of the command seemed gratified at having again passed over their old fightingFrank Beard Illustration of wounded man ground, because they were enabled to recover the bodies of some of their comrades who had fallen the day before, and to administer to and remove several wounded men who had been neglected and who would undoubtedly have perished but for their timely assistance.  It was truly gratifying to be able to recover these wounded men, and to bury the men that had been stripped and abandoned by the enemy.

At 12 that night the infantry withdrew beyond the Rappahannock, my division bringing up the rear, and recrossed by daylight on the 13th.

[This report continues through October 16. ––B.F.]

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October 12, 1863; Planning The Next Move

October 9 - 12; Recap from the 9th NY

Historian George Hussey, of the 9th New York, gives a good recap of where we are at now in this campaign.  Meade's Army is a dozen miles away from Lee, who is at Culpeper.  Both commanders had to decide their next move.

The following text is from, “History of the Ninth Regiment, N.Y.S.M. -- N.G. S.N.Y. (Eighty-Third N.Y. Volunteers)  1845-1888” by historian George A. Hussey, Editor William Todd; New York, 1889.

General Meade had now determined to advance against the enemy, and it seems that General Lee had made up his mind to do the same thing.  On the 7th the Union Signal Corps, posted on top of Cedar Mountain, discovered that the enemy was moving large bodies of troops;  their signals had been interpreted also, and Meade was soon informed of the movement against him.  Inasmuch as Lee had moved first, Meade was compelled to assume the defensive.  Lee’s plan seems to have been well laid –– it was to move Hill’s corps to the northwest and cross Robertson’s river, the north fork of the Rapidan, near its source, and approach Culpeper from the north, while Ewell’s column should advance by way of James City on the southwest.  The success of this plan would compel Meade to fight a battle in order to regain his communications, and as the Union army was somewhat scattered, Lee was hopeful of being able to accomplish his design.  The withdrawal of the enemy’s pickets from the south side of the Rapidan, on the morning of the 9th, led Meade to believe that Lee was retreating, and he ordered an advance across the river.  Meanwhile, news of the enemy moving around the right flank of the army was received;  Stuart’s cavalry had already struck the outposts and approached James City near enough to shell the town, seven miles from Culpeper.  Hill had reached Griffinsburg, five miles northwest of Culpeper.  During the 10th Meade seemed to be at a loss just what course to pursue, but the developments of the day made it necessary for him to fall back and in the evening he ordered the army to retire behind the Rappahannock.

[Oct 10] At nine o’clock in the night the NINTH was in line escorting the wagon train.  The march was in an easterly direction;  Stevensburg was passed, and the column pushed on, crossing the Rappahannock at Kelly’s Ford; thence striking north and reaching Bealton at noon on the 11th.  The Union cavalry had an arduous task to perform during the retreat of the army, and manfully did they execute it.

Lee was not aware that Meade had fallen back, and when his troops were in position –– as he thought –– to strike the Union army at Culpeper, that army was a dozen miles away.

Gen. Meade Considers an Advance; Gen. Lee Begins a 2nd Flank March

 The army reached the far bank of the Rappahannock on Sunday October 11th.  Finding that the Confederates did not press the retreat, General Meade ordered three corps and Buford's cavalry back over the river toward Culpeper on Monday in hopes he could give fight to the enemy, and satisfy the authorites in Washington who were pressuring him to be more aggressive.    They found no heavy force there.  Where was General Lee?  If the enemy's army was marching north again, Union Cavalry scouts patroling the mountains would send word.  Meade impatiently waited all day, but the message he needed would not arrive until evening.   Meanwhile the soldiers of the 13th MA and the 39th MA of Colonel Thomas McCoy's Brigade, sat in trenches along the Rappahannock river waiting for something to happen. 

Edwin Forbes sketch of Kellys Ford, Feb. 1864

Correspondent Edwin Forbes did this sketch of Kelly's Ford in February, 1864.

The following is from the History of the 39th MA titled, “The Thirty-Ninth Massachusetts Regiment; 1862 - 1865"; by Alfred S. Row, Worcester, Mass., 1914. (p. 114).


The white frost that greeted the eyes of waking soldiers in the morning of the 12th was quite as cold as any that New England could present, and campfires never were more appreciated.  A hurried breakfast was prepared and eaten when the brigade was ordered into hurriedly made rifle-pits, where the day was spent with the understanding that trouble might arise at any moment.  This was the day in which Meade was looking for Lee.  While there were sounds of activity elsewhere, [Gen. Gregg's Cavalry Fight at Jeffersonton] nothing disturbed the Thirty-ninth, some even writing letters as the hours passed on.

Howard Pyle Illustration of soldiers in trenches waiting to charge

Famous illustrator, Howard Pyle, founder of the Brandywine School of Artists, modeled this painting on a famous photograph.  I used it here as an apt representation of how the 13th MA & 39th MA spent the day.

From the Diary of Sam Webster Diary:

Monday, October 12th, 1863
        The 13th and 39th Mass moved from where we lay last night, back and down to the ford, and are placed in what seemed to be the bed of an old canal.  Some of the woodwork of an old “lock” still remains.  Query; where did it come from, or go to.  Cold, and heavy frosts.

Calvin Conant Diary:

Monday, October 12
        Warm day  We are behind the rifle pit with one Company of  Sharp Shooters.  Can hear heavy firing up I Should judge in the vicinity of Waterloo.  the Pontoons come up.  we draw fresh Beef.

General Gregg's  Cavalry Fight at Jeffersonton & White Sulphur Springs

The firing Calvin Conant heard was up near Waterloo, at White Sulphur Springs to be precise.  [Waterloo Bridge is just a few miles up river from Sulphur Springs.]  General David McMurtrie Gregg’s 2nd Cavalry Division was scouting General Meade’s far right flank to the west, searching for any signs of a Confederate march.

General Lee had pushed his main column from Culpeper Court-House toward Warrenton, in another attempt to get his army behind Meade's line.  But General Meade had not yet heard of any Confederate infantry marches from his Cavarly Scouts patroling the mountains to the west. Where did Lee go?

On Monday morning, October 12, General David McMurtrie Gregg's 2nd Cavalry Division did encounter a heavy enemy column marching north  at Jeffersonton.  He fought Confederate Cavalry and Infantry several hours falling back to  Fayetteville.  General Gregg's sent a message to General Pleasonton, his commanding officer at 4.50 p.m. but General Meade received no word until 9 o'clock at night. Still, Meade must have had an idea of what was happening, if sounds of skirmishing could be heard in the mountains to the west.

General David M. Gregg and Staff,  Colorized

Nicely Colorized Photo of General David McMurtrie Gregg (seated) & Staff, 2nd Cavalry Division. Colorization was done by Jordan J. Lloyd  and his company, Dynamichrome.  Permission to use this is generously granted from same.

General Gregg's Dispatch, 2 a.m., October 11

Headquarters Second Division, Cavalry Corps,               
October 11, 1863 –– 2 a.m.

Colonel:   I arrived at Sulphur Springs at 9 o’clock last night.  Colonel Taylor’s brigade got here a few hours before  As yet have found out nothing of the enemy. Have parties out to Gaines’ and Newbyy’s Cross-Roads, and to Waterloo,  None of these have yet returned.  A very few scouts on the road which I came.

Yours, respectfully,

D. McM. GREGG,   
Brigadier-General of Volunteers.

Col. C. Ross Smith,
                Chief of Staff, Cavalry Corps

  A detachment of Union troopers began skirmishing with Confederate Cavalry near Jeffersonton, a country crossroads town.  J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry was leading General Richard Ewell’s Infantry division in a  flank march to Warrenton.  Both sides brought up reinforcements.  General J.E.B. Stuart  accompanied by infantry kept Greggs’ men occupied while sending a force of cavalry around his lines to attack from the rear.   Fighting swirled around the Jeffersonton Baptist Church located on a hill with a  commanding view of the area.

Colonel J. Irvin Gregg, commanding the 2nd Brigade described the fighitng:

“About 10 a.m., information having been sent me that the pickets of the Thirteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, which had been left at Jefferson to watch the roads leading to Culpeper and Amissville, were being driven in, and that the enemy were advancing in force, I ordered the Fourth Pennsylvania Cavalry to recross the river to support the Thirteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, recrossed myself and proceeded to Jefferson. When within half a mile of the town I found the Thirteenth retiring in good order, and the enemy in possession of the town.  I immediately ordered Major Kerwin to advance and re-occupy the town, which was done in gallant style, and one squadron off the Fourth Pennsylvana, under command of Captain Duncan, coming upon the gallop on the right, complete possession of the town was obtained and the enemy driven to the woods beyond. The enemy extended his skirmish line so as to outflank me both right and let, and I was obliged to deploy my entire force except one squadron of the Fourth Pennsylvania in order to watch his movements.  This he was enabled to do without deploying his force, and it was not until late in the afternoon that I was enabled to ascertain the character of the force against which I had been contending.”

Jeffersonton Baptist Church

Jeffersonton Baptist Church

Cavalry fighting swirled around the Jeffersonton Baptist Church.  The hill this church sits upon has a commanding view of the area.

Brigade commander Colonel J. Irvin Gregg, continued:

“About 3 o’clock p.m. I observed a column of cavalry moving on the Culpeper road, which for its length must have been a very large brigade, and as I felt confident I was contending against a much superior force I determined to retire, and orders were issued to that effect, and it was only when the movement commenced that I became aware how fearfully superior the forces of the enemy were.  They charged impetuously in front and on both flanks with infantry and cavalry, and we were driven into the woods, where for half an hour the fight raged furiously.  At this juncture information was brought to me that the enemy had possession of the road in my rear, and that we were surrounded. This information having found its way to the men created some confusion, and it became impossible to reform the command, and I was compelled to retire in some confusion, fighting, however, every foot of the ground.”    [Oct. 25 report, OR, Series 1:  Vol. 29, Part 1, Reports.]

View of the Crossroads from the Church Grounds

Jeffersonton Crossroads

Jeffersonton Crossroads intersection of Virginia State Routes 802 & 621.  View to the west.

Map of General Gregg's Fight at Jefferson

Once surrounded, most Union troopers cut out for the nearby Rapphannock river crossing at White Sulphur Springs.  A few remained to fight around Jeffersonton.   Many were captured.  General Gregg concentrated his force on the hills above the river crossing and positioned a battery for support.  But the Federals were out numbered and of insufficient strength to prevent Stuart and Ewell from forcing their way across. Col. J. Irivin Gregg's report continues:

“…The Tenth New York Cavalry had been sent across the river to my support, but did not arrive in time to render me assistance.  It, however, suffered heavily from a flank fire, by which it was compelled to fall back behind a hill on which it had been posted, and re-crossed the river covering my retreat.”

The Road from Jeffersonton to the River

Road from Jeffersonton to Sulphur Springs

The flat road in the middle ground is the road from Jeffesonton to the Rappahannock River.  The road up the hill is a driveway.  Jeffersonton is about 3  miles to the left, the river less than a mile to the right.  Soldiers of both sides moved this way toward Sulphur Springs.

High Ground Across the Rappahannock River near Sulphur Springs Bridge

High ground across the Rapp RIver near Sulphur Springs Bridge

Turned 180  from the above photo, this picture shows the higher ground in the distance across  the Rappahannock River which runs along the low tree line.  The road to the bridge is out of view, just to the left of the field of vision.  View looking east across the river from the fields just south of Springs Road.

Oct 28, 1863.  Report of Gen. D. McMurtrie Gregg, (excerpt):

“After the recrossing of all the regiments to the east side of the river, I lined its banks above and below the bridge with sharpshooters.  The enemy advanced with a long and strong line of skirmishers, but were checked by the fire of our carbines and one gun placed near the river, which, at that range, gave them rapid discharges of spherical case.  At this time I saw long columns of infantry marching northward, on the opposite bank.  Upon these columns the fire of my artillery was directed.  The enemy now opened upon my position with twenty pieces of artillery, and under this fire the cavalry advanced to, and forced a crossing at the bridge.  I directed Colonel Gregg’s brigade to fall back slowly, toward Fayettteville, and sent an order to Colonel Taylor, whose brigade was posted on the road to Warrenton, to resist the advance of the enemy in that direction, and if compelled to fall back, to do so upon the road leading from Warrenton to Fayetteville.” 

The Bridge over the Rappahannock at Sulphur Springs

The Bridge over the Rappahannock at Sulphur Springs

Fighting next swirled around the once stately resort hotel of White Sulphur Springs.  The site had seen action before, in 1862 during General John Pope's Summer campaign.  Confederate sharpshooters advanced and occupied some of the estate buildings and pressured Gregg’s tired cavalrymen.  About sunset Gregg retreated to the south east.  Most of his losses were in captured men. Colonel Gregg closed his 2nd Brigade Report stating his losses as …“Six enlisted men killed, 54 wounded, 382 missing.  A large number of the missing are supposed to be killed and wounded.”

White Sulphur Springs Hotel, Fauquier County

Fauquier White Sulphur Springs

Pictured are the idyllic grounds of the stately Fauquier White Sulphur Springs resort.  The hotel was destroyed in 1862.  A Golf Club occupies the grounds today.  The site was ruined during General Pope's Summer Campaign of 1862.

Fauquier Sulphur Springs in its ruined condition during the war

Although the ruins of the hotel were photographed during the Civil War, the negatives have too much contrast and the white columns of the ruined structure aren't clearly defined against the white sky.   This engraving better illustrates the condition of the grounds during the war ––  From the September 19, 1863 issue of Harper's Weekly.

Trooper's Description of the Grounds

Trooper Pell Manning does a good job describing the place in late August, 1863. The letter resides in the University of Virginia Library; Special Collections.

White Sulphur Springs WVa.          
August 25th 1863  

My dear George,

        Your kind letter arrived safely day before yesterday.  Right glad to hear from you my boy also that you are well, enjoying yourself and in good spirits. – You will see by the above, that we are near the Springs. they being two miles distant on our left. – We have been here since the 12th inst doing picket duty, guarding one of the fords across the north branch of the famous Rappahannock – No signs of the rebs. here save aplenty of guerrillas, who are prowling about through the mountains and the whole vicinity in general – These springs you know are celebrated as a watering place of years gone by, where I suppose many a gay, hot-headed rebel has passed the summer months away, cooling perhaps his fevered [brow] and ruminating over the events then about to happen, and which are now progressing –The hotel in its prime was capable of giving accommodation to three thousand visitors, but no longer ago than last year was battered down by Sigel, or [Gray] and is now one mass of ruins “from turret to foundation stone.”  The massive granite pillars are still standing, and although begrimed with smoke & heat, show that the building was one of no small nature. – The premises about are shaded by magnificent shade trees, mostly chestnut & walnut. – The Springs are situated in a basin about thirty feet in diameter, the flooring of which is composed of white marble, and you descend some seven granite steps to [come] [within] springs themselves. – here you can drink sulphur water smell sulphur, and taste sulphur, to your hearts content. – I drank about a pint which was just enough for me, as I was not very ill at the time and came away contented. – The water is very blue, about the regulation color of our pants .…

Sincerely Yours                 Pell

View of the Grounds Today

Fauquier Country Club, Hot Springs Grounds

Pictured are the grounds of the Fauquier Springs Country Club which occupy the site of the former Hot Springs.  This view is taken from the hill in front of the Country Club building looking east towards the road.  The original hotel probably stood behind the viewer at the site of the modern clubhouse.

Colonel Taylor's First Brigade Fight by the Springs

General Gregg's report summarized the First Brigade's action:

“Two regiments and a section of artillery were sent forward by Colonel Taylor to meet the enemy.  A daring charge of the First New Jersey Cavalry drove back the advance of the enemy upon the main body of infantry.  The first New Jersey, although at first successful, suffered severely.  Rejoining its brigade, Colonel Taylor took position on the road leading from Warrenton to Fayetteville, the Second Brigade at Fayetteville.  The wounded of the division were here cared for and sent to Bealeton.  Both brigades were entirely out of rations and forage; of the latter, the First Brigade had had none for about four days.  During the night the enemy continued crossing at the springs and moved on the road to Warrenton with infantry and cavalry.”

General Ewell’s infantry repaired the bridge over the river and crossed into White Sulphur Springs where they spent the night.

Before the fighting had ended, General Gregg dispatched a message to his commander, Major-General Alfred Pleasonton, that the Confederate army was now moving on General Meade’s rear, and flank.

General Gregg's Message to Cavalry Headquarters

Headquarters Second Division, Cavalry Corps,
                                                                        October 12, 1863 –– 4.50 p.m.

Colonel:    We have been fighting all afternoon.  This morning at daylight I sent a regiment to make a reconnaissance toward Little Washington.  I  placed a regiment at Jefferson to support the reconnaissance.  The enemy forced the crossing at Rixeyville, and columns of infantry and  cavalry crossed and advanced upon Jefferson.  I got three regiments across to resist the advance of the enemy, but their force was so overwhelming that, after a stubborn resistance, the regiments were driven back and effected a crossing under my guns.  A column of infantry is now moving up the west bank.  The officer commanding my brigade near Warrenton reports columns of the enemy moving up the west bank toward the mountains.  The columns of infantry moving in plain sight are large.  I am much concerned for the safety of the regiment sent to Little Washington.  The loss in the regiment engaged to-day is very heavy.  I cannot give it yet.  The enemy have opened with twenty pieces of artillery, and are driving me from my position at the springs.

Very respectfully,

D. McM GREGG,                    
Brigadier-General of Volunteers.    

Col. C. Ross Smith,
                Chief of Staff, Cavalry Corps.

Boston Evening Transcript, October 15, 1863

The fight was accurately reported in the newspaper.  I've added dates to the text to keep things clear.





Washington, 14th.  The Evening Star says the whole of General Gregg’s division was ordered from Bealton Station Saturday, toward Culpepper, and arrived there at 4 P.M.; thence the 2d brigade of the 2d division was ordered to Far Mountain to support Gen. Kilpatrick, but finding that he did not need them the brigade left him Monday morning and rejoined the division at Culpepper.  (12th)  On Sunday night Gen. Gregg moved to Sulphur Springs, arriving at about 9 P.M. (11th).

Monday A.M., (12th) two regiments the 4th and 13th Pennsylvania, were sent forward to Jefferson, five miles from Sulphur Springs, and the 1st Maine were sent out toward Little Washington to reconnoitre.  The last named regiment encountered a large force of rebels, and were surrounded, but they cut their way out and crossed the river about twelve miles above Sulphur Springs.  On Monday A.M., the rebels advanced upon the 4th and 13th Pennsylvania, when our cavalry, seeing that the rebels outnumbered them, fell back slowly, contesting the ground, to a large forest, where Gen. Gregg dismounted a portion of the two regiments and sent them out as skirmishers.

After stubbornly contesting the ground for over two hours they were ordered to fall back slowly, and as they were doing so a heavy rebel infantry force was discovered on each flank, and at the same time three regiments of cavalry, having made a wide detour, attacked them in the rear.  At this time the 10th New York were sent to support Gen. Gregg, and Reed’s battery [4th U.S.] opened on the rebel cavalry, but owing to the short range of the guns no serious damage was inflicted on the rebels.

The 4th and 13th were now pressed severely in front and our centre broken, and at the same time they were attacked in each flank and in the rear.  Our men cut their way through and escaped across the river, with heavy loss.

The 16th Pennsylvania was now dismounted and thrown out along the river banks as skirmishers, while the 8th was also dismounted and ordered to support the battery, which had only four short range guns, and the rebels opened on us with twenty pieces of artillery, but our troops gallantly held their ground for several hours, repulsing the charges of the enemy, and gradually fell back to the Fayetteville road, the rebels following.

Gen. Gregg had but two aids with him, Lieuts Marvin and Cutler,  and both were wounded.  Lieut. Adams of the 4th Pennsylvania, Major Wilson of the 8th Pennsylvania, Lieut. Col. Rittier of the 1st New Jersey, and Major Russell of the 1st Maryland, were wounded.

The loss of the 2d brigade will amount to 450 killed, wounded and missing.

It was to the skill and bravery of Gen. Gregg that the 4th and 13th fought their way out of a precarious situation.

During the engagement the rebels charged the battery and captured one gun, but the 1st New Jersey cavalry charged back and recaptured the piece.

Our cavalry yesterday held the enemy in check, and there was some little skirmishing, one man being wounded. 

Today a train arrived from Catlett’s station with 189 sick and wounded.

Exaggerated rumors were in circulation today of fighting on the south side of the Potomac.  There seems to be no doubt of skirmishing among the cavalry, but nothing of the character of a general engagement.

Up to 8 o’clock tonight no special despatches had been received concerning the military movements of today, hence there is no reason to believe that we have met with any serious disaster.

An interesting side note to the above story, is that Major  Russell of the 1st Maryland Cavalry, mentioned as wounded,  was [13th MA, Company D] Sam Webster's especial friend.  It was Russell's Cavalry Company that Sam initially sought to enlist in, December, 1861, at Williamsport  but when he caught up to the recruiting officer on Dec. 28, he was told it was already full.  Sam joined the 13th MA instead, then in camp at Williamsport.

Sam meets up with Major Russell on this march.  It is mentioned in his October 13th journal entry, below.

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October 13, 1863;  Retreat to Centreville

The news from General Gregg's scouts that a large force of the enemy was moving toward Warrenton on Monday October 12, caused General Meade to order a long retreat.  He wrote in his official report of the campaign,  “As it was too late when the intelligence reached me to attempt to gain Warrenton in advance of the enemy, the army, on the 13th, was withdrawn to Auburn and Catlett’s Station, and on the 14th to Centerville.”

Map of 1st part of march, October 13, 1863, Kellys Ford to Warrenton Junction

A newspaper article wrote:  “Quietly, during the reconnoissance of Monday (12th) General Meade had prepared his trains and got them en route rearward, and during Monday he had withdrawn his troops from the Culpeper reconoissance destroyed the railroad bridge abuttments, and sent pontoons eastward before daylight on Tuesday Morning.

Sunrise saw the whole army well on their way toward Catlett's Station and that vicinity, the cavalry and light batteries protecting our rear and right flank.”

The 13th MA moved out around midnight.   On this day the First Corps will march 29-31 miles along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad and reach Bristoe Station, still 12 miles south of Centreville, their destination.

The blue line on the adjacent map indicates their route of march.

This section is a continuation of the photo-essay theme of this web page;  showing images of various points along the railroad where the First Corps marched.

It was a rather uneventful campaign for the Corps, who were usually at the front whenever the army advanced.  Now they were in front of a retreat.

Diary of Calvin Conant, Company G:

Tuesday, 13
        Packed up at 12 o’clock last night and marched to Warrent [Warrenton] Junction arrived about 10 Stopped and made Coffee and had a good breakfast    wagon train going by on the road    Rebs close to our heels  went to Catletts - Station & on to Bristoe - stopped about 2 miles beyond Bristoe marched to day about 23 miles got into Camp at 9.

From “Three Years With Company K,” by Sergeant Austin C. Stearns, edited by Arthur Kent, Associated University Press, 1976.

  We laid at the ford [Kellys] two or three days when  one morning before light we started back, coming out to the Orange and Alexandria railroad near Bealeton.  Heavy firing had been heard by us all day up at that old familiar place Rappahannock Station.  When we crossed a ridge and came in sight of Bealeton, there was a sight that I shall never forget, for in the park, covering acres of ground and as far away as the eye could see, were the white covered wagons of the army.  The whole train of the army had been in park here, but were now starting and winding their way, not in single file but three or four abreast towards Bristoe, Manassas, and Centerville.  I had no idea that there was so many teams, for we had never been so near the rear before, and it came very near being the front this time and that accounts for our presence here...

Wagon Park Brandy Station

Sergeant Austin Stearns Continued:

...It was now a foot race with the rebs and us to see which would get to Centerville first.  How we marched !  The weather was fine, and we were in good spirits, although we could not exactly understand this movement, yet we were determined that no Johny Reb could beat us in marching over such old and familiar ground.

Bealeton Station

McCoy's Brigade didn't actually pass through Bealeton Station on this march, rather they went around it and struck the railroad a little ways north, probably at today's Midland.

Edwin Forbes Sketch of Bealeton Station; October, 1863

Artist Edwin Forbes did this sketch of Bealeton Station on October 1, 1863.  There is not much of a view there today.  There is a cluster of buildings and some houses, but nothing picturesque.  The intersecton of two major thoroughfares nearby makes it a busy crossroads.

Midland, near Licking Run

Midlands, south of LIcking Run

Pictured is a field between the railroad tracks in the tree line on the horizon, and an old road-bed in the foreground, near Midlands, VA., a little bit south of Licking Run.  The view is to the south.  This is about where Sam Webster wrote the troops struck the railroad and followed it north to Bristoe, a distance of 14 1/2 miles.  The wagons took the road.  The army would have been marching north, (right to left).

Tracks looking north towards Warrenton Junction

Railroad Tracks about a mile south of Warrenton Jctn.

About 12 miles into the march this day, the troops moved north (right to left) following this rail line.  This is taken about a mile south of Warrenton Junction.

Warrenton Junction Today

Today Warrenton Junction is Calverton, Va.

Warrenton Junction

Picture of Warrenton Junction today, looking south.  The 13th MA reached this vicinity about 10 a.m., formed a line of battle and paused for two hours before moving on.  Calvin Conant says he cooked up a good breakfast while Sam Webster took a snooze.  The wagon train continued moving up the roads along side the tracks.

Warrenton Junction, 1862

Alfred Waud sketch of Warrenton Jctn, 1862

Artist Alfred Waud did a rough sketch of Warrenton Junction in 1862.  Note the split in the track.  A finished engraving of this sketch appeared in Harper's Weekly, December 13th of that year, but the engraver embellished the scene.

Fields along the railroad, north of Warrenton Junction

Fields along the railroad near Warrenton Junction

The troops likely walked through these fields (left to right) along the railroad tracks which run in distant tree line.  This photo is taken about 3/4 a mile north of Warrenton Junction, looking to the north on the east side of the railroad track.

The 2nd Part of the March; Warrenton Junction to Bristoe Station

After a short pause, about 2 hours, the men resumed the march north.

Map of 2nd part of the march, October 13, 1863

There was another 10 1/2 miles to go this day, on the 2nd part of the march from Warrenton Junction to Bristoe Station.

Bridge Over Cedar Run Near Catlett's Station

Alfred Waud Sketch of Cedar Run Bridge near Catlett's

The railroad bridge over Cedar Run near Catlett's Station was constantly in danger of being destroyed.  J.E.B. Stuart tried to set it afire during his 1862 raid around General Pope's rear to Manassas Junction in 1862.  This sketch by correspondent A. R. Waud, done the same year captures the scene at Cedar Run much as Sam Webster described it in October 1863.  The wagons of the Army of the Potomac are scrambling to get across before Confederates positioned at Warrenton (northwest) can attack.  The run can be seen on the map just below Catlett.

Catlett's Station, 1862

Catlett's Station as it appeared in Harper's Weekly, December 13, 1862

Catlett's Station as sketched  by correspondent Alfred Waud in 1862.  It was near here that General George Lucas Hartsuff moved the camp of the 13th Mass,  from a swamp to a high windy hill in May, 1862.   Catlett's was mile 21 of the days long trek.  There were  another 8 miles to cover before making camp.

Catletts, Today

Catlett's Station Today

Pictured is the railroad crossing at Catlett's today.  The building in the center behind the railroad crossing gate bears some resemblence to the building in Waud's 1862 sketch, (without the gable) but I have no idea if any of these builings are period.  The tracks run north-south.  The view is looking to the west.

Rairload tracks at Catletts loking north.  So they had 8 more miles to Bristoe...

Railroad tracks heading north from Catletts

From this point there was another 8 miles of marching along the railroad tracks from Catlett's to Bristoe. View looking north.

Wagons Crossing Kettle Run South of Bristoe, During the Retreat

Edwin Forbes Sketch of the wagons crossing Kettle Run

Artist Edwin Forbes did this beautiful sketch of Union Teamsters crossing Kettle Run just to the south of Bristoe Station.  He seems to have had a little trouble with the tricky perspective while capturing the scene.  The soldiers in the foreground appear smaller than those just behind them.  The sketch was made during the Bristoe Campaign.

The Fields East of Bristoe Station

Fields East of Bristoe Station

Pictured is the ridge behind the railroad tracks, (in shadow in the foreground) south of Brentsville Road at Bristoe Station Battlefield. The 13th MA camped near here, but north of the road, closer to Broad Run.  My battlefield guide told me the soldiers would have camped there because it was closer to fresh water which was always very important  for a bivouac or camp site. That spot would be about 1/2 mile to the left of this image.  There was not a real good vantage point to capture a photograph of the camp site area.  View looking east.

From the Diary of Sam Webster:

Tuesday, October 13th
        Routed out at 12 — midnight.  Came out on road from Morrisville to Bealton, and following to within a mile or so of Bealton:  turn to right, striking the Railroad at Licking Run, and form a line of battle at Warrenton Junction, where we lay in April, ’62.  Had a snooze for a couple of hours.  At Cedar run [The Bridge at Catletts Station –– BF] we found most of the army wagons, all endeavoring to cross, but mostly below the bridge.  Bring up at Bristow station and camp for the night on a hill east of the Railroad.

Passed Major Russell* on the road.  He had been to Warrenton, with some New England cavalry and, coming back into one of his camps of some hours before, after dark, found the fires all burning up and a piquet stationed.  On being challenged he answered “the 12th,” — 12th what?  “Va.”  All right said the rebel piquet, and the major obliquing his command, came away, off round by Aldie.

The rebels were at Warrenton yesterday, and should have beaten us here.  The Major was going to the rear — the front really — to see what he could do.  Feel rather sorry I missed joining his company.

*Major Russell's 1st Maryland Cavalry belonged to Colonel John Taylor's Brigade, Gen Gregg's 2d Cavalry Division.  This is the first organization Sam Webster, (from Martinsburg, VA)  tried to enlist into, but the company he wanted to join was full, so he found his younger brother Isaac Webster in the 13th MA stationed at Hancock, MD, and with Ike's urging, Sam joined them instead.  Isaac was 14 years old, Sam was 16.

Second Cavalry Division commander, General David M. Gregg's mentions Taylor's brigade frequently in his report.  Regarding this specific anecdote of  Sam Webster's, Gregg reported: “Colonel Taylor, whose brigade was posted on the road to Warrenton, to resist the advance of the enemy in that direction, and if compelled to fall back, to do so upon the road leading from Warrenton to Fayetteville.”

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Battle of Auburn & 1st Corps March; October 14, 1863

The Road to Auburn from 3 Mile Station

Pictured is the road to Auburn from 3 Mile Station.  Wagons and men were bivouaced along this road the night of October 13.

The Battle of Auburn

The next day, October 14, the march continued.  The 13th MA Regiment had another 12 or so miles to go to reach Centreville.  They arrived between noon and one O'clock.  Once there the command was divided up and pickets sent out to hold various parts of the new battle line until the rest of the army arrived.   The 6th Corps was closely following the 1st, and arrived about an hour later.

Major-General William H. FrenchColonel Charles Wainwright commanding the 1st Corps Artillery said the march was sloppy, with many soldiers dropping out of line and straggling along the roadside.  The is the result, he wrote, of having, “a lazy, self-indulgent leader at its head, what else could be expected?”  Their safe arrival at Centreville ended the most arduous aspect of the Bristoe campaign for the 13th Mass.  They would yet be called out to Gainseville in support of a Cavalry fight on October 19th, but for now, they had reached safety and were not involved in the October 14th engagement for which this campaign is named.

The hard marching by General Meade's Army foiled Robert E. Lee's plans to overtake and attack the Army of the Potomac on its western flank.   Major-General A.P. Hill commanding General Lee's 3rd Corps did manage to cut off and attack the Union 2nd Corps at Bristoe before it safely caught up to the rest of the army, but the attack failed.

During the retreat, October 13th, Gen. G. K. Warren's 2nd Corps was closely following the 3rd Corps, General William H. French (pictured) commanding.  Orders from head-quarters were for Corps commanders to hurry their march, but  keep close up, so as to render support to each other.  The start to Warren's march was first delayed two hours waiting for Brigadier-General Henry Prince's tardy division to come up and pass him by.  Prince had to catch up to the rest of the 3rd Corps which had already pulled ahead.   Then General French's leading corps loligagged on the march causing Warren, who was closely follwong behind, much frustration.

Warren wrote:  “We were much delayed in our march by the slow movement of the forces in front of us, and on arrival at the Three-Mile Station I closed up and massed all my command, waiting for the Third Corps to move on, as it now occupied all the road.

“While waiting thus, Colonel Morgan, inspector-general, and Captain Hazard, commanding the artillery, reconnoitered in advance and discovered routes by which we could pass along the flank of the column of the Third Corps, and I again moved on till I reached the vicinity of Auburn, on Cedar Run, with the head of the column.  It was then dark and no crossing place of the stream was available not occupied by the Third Corps.  I therefore halted my command in an excellent bivouac, where they prepared their meals, rested and slept.”

Doubtless Warren (pictured) made clear his desire for the Third Corps to hurry over the crossing, but to no avail.  His report continued:

General G. K. Warren, Commanding 2d Corps

“The ammunition train, consisting of 100 wagons and 125 ambulances, together occupying 2 miles on the road, were left parked at the Three-Mile Station with Colonel Carroll’s brigade from the Third Division, as their guard.  Till late in the night the roads leading to Auburn were filled with the troops of General French’s and General  Kilbaptrick’s commands.”

Meanwhile, General Lee's army was  assembling at Warrenton just 5 miles away to the west.  A Rebel Cavalry scouting force was brushed away by General French's northbound infantry.  Unbeknownst to the Federal troops, two brigades of General J.E.B. Stuart's Cavalry, 2,000 men, got caught between two advancing columns of  the Union Army.   Stuart's men spent a tense night hiding in a swale surrounded by thousands of enemy soldiers camped just a few hundred yards away.  One soldier wrote: “did you ever try standing all night holding a mule by the halter, trying to keep him from braying, and trying to keep your sabre and spurs from rattling?”*

Warren knew that Lee's army was at Warrenton and that Confederate cavalry scouts had alerted him to the presence of Union troops nearby.   Warren wrote,   “My position now was one that caused me anxiety;” ––probably an understatement.

The 2nd Corps did not cross Cedar Run on October 13th due to French's negligent management of the 3rd Corps' march.  Adding to his errant behavior, once across the run, French did not keep his corps within close supporting distance of Warren.  French continued marching five miles north, as ordered, and bivouaced at Greenwich, too far away to support Warren's men, who were bottlenecked south of the Cedar Run crossing, with the entire Confederate army a short distance away.   By 2 a.m. the crossing was clear of other troops, and General Caldwell's 3rd Division of Warren's Corps proceeded to the north side.  Just before dawn they were across the run and posted facing west, on a hlll commanding the bridge.Battle of Coffee Hill  A heavy mist hung over the scene.  The men built large fires to brew their coffee.  J.E.B.  Stuart's cavalrymen, thinking they might be able to inflict severe damage upon the enemy, prepared artillery to target the bonfires.

Stuart planned to attack the 2nd Corps from the east, once he knew that Lee's help from Warrenton arrived.  When he heard a smattering of rifle fire south of the run, Stuart's battery opened fire. Without warning shells suddenly exploded among Caldwell's Infantry.  They came from an unexpected direction, to their rear.  One shell tore into the flesh of 7 men killing them instantly.  Another 4 were killed.  Twelve men were wounded. Fortunately most of the other shells overreached the mark and exploded far off in the woods.

The engagement at Auburn is also called The Battle of Coffee Hill as it was noted that most of the men of Calwell's Division were brewing their coffee when shells started falling around them.  John Noyes, former member of Company B, was there with Caldwell's Division, now serving as a 1st Lieutenant in the 28th MA.  He wrote,   “Leaving our bivouac – camp at Auburn early A.M. where I had slept before a fire on a borrowed rubber blanket in the open air, we halted about half a mile away and set about cooking.  I had coffee in my dipper and was setting it before a fire, when whiz came a shell over our heads. Confusion seized the men, but checking it as best I could, I emptied my dipper and fastened it upon my haversack, and put everything on me just in time to march off with the regiment to a safer place a few rods to the rear.  None of my company left their guns, but some their haversacks, and one or two their knapsacks.  It was some little time before I had the men under hand but I succeeded in doing it.  In this scare the horses broke loose and many were lost.  Our Adj’t. and Capt Burke of the 88th N.Y., and another Adj’t. of the Brigade and other officers lost their horses, blankets, pistols, and all.  The rebel battery was captured by our cavalry with its support.”  The entire letter can be read below, on this page.

General Caldwell quickly ushered his troops off the crest of the hill to the downside of the western slope, which protected them from futher injury.   Some of General Hays' division had crossed Cedar Run by now, and were moving toward Stuart's battery.  Hays sent out a skirmish line in the direction of Stuart's artillery, but it was repulsed by Rebel cavalry.  Caldwel, in response to the shelling, quickly got his posted batteries turned around to silence the enemy guns.  This was done most effectively and swiftly.  Stuart's battery was forced to withdraw.

Map of the Battle of Auburn

South of the run to Warren's left, his cavalry escort was skirmishing with lead elements of Confederate Infantry approachng to rescue Stuart from his predicament.  Warren reported:  “It was a trying situation.  The teams were prepared to move forward or back as necessity might require.  Colonel Carroll’s brigade was directed to regain and hold the crossing of Cedar Run by occupying the wooded height on our left of it.  Orders were sent to General Hays to move forward on the road with all his force  and clear away all obstacles, and to General Webb with his division to pass the train and follow to the support of General Hays.”   Hays, when his skirmishers were repulsed “Moved forward the entire regiment of the One hundred and twenty-sixth New York Volunteers, commanded by Lieut. Col. J. M. Bull, supported by the Twelfth New Jersey Volunteers.  In a short time our force came in conflict with the rebels.  It was short but very decisive.  The rebel cavalry, led by Col. Thomas Ruffin, charged furiously upon the deployed One hundred and twenty-sixth and were most gallantly repulsed, with the loss of their leader, who was mortally wounded.”

Stuart had directed Ruffin's 1st North Carolina Cavalry to make the sacrificial charge so the rest of his command could escape.  The costly plan worked and the Rebel troopers & horse artillery galloped away to the southeast.

This cleared the route of escape for the 2nd Corps.   “General Hays’ movement was not again checked, and the train and General Webb’s division continued to follow him.  All our wounded were put in ambulances, and our dead buried.  As soon as General Gregg’s division could be withdrawn across Cedar Run, Colonel Carroll’s brigade was withdrawn and sent along the road to Catlett’s Station.”**

The situation at Auburn provided General Lee with the opportunity he had been seeking; a chance to destroy an isolated part of Meade's army.  But the early moring march from Warrenton was considered a rescue mission to save Stuart's cavalry and nothing more.  The Confederate attack was not aggressive.  General Ewell took a long time to set up his troops, which gave the 2nd Corps the freedom to keep moving.  Later when General Early's Division arrived north of the run in support, they encountered Warren's rear guard, which skillfully carried out a fighting withdrawal. It seems General Lee missed his 1st opportunity to accomplish one of his primary campaign objectives.

General Caldwell dis-engaged from the Confederates and retreated south.  Ewell's Corps turned north and followed the route of General French's retreat.

Bridge over Cedar Run at Auburn

Bridge over Cedar Run at Auburn.  The ground sloping upwards beind the house with the red roof in the background is Coffee Hill.Click here to view larger.

*“The Maps of Bristoe Station and Mine Run Campaigns”, Bradley M. Gottfried, 2013, Savas Beati, California. p. 48.
**General Warren's Official Report; OR, Series1:  Vol.  29, part 1.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The March of the First Corps, October 14th

The First Corps was one of the leading Corps on the move to Centreville.  They camped at Bristoe on the 13th, 11 miles from Auburn, and they heard the sounds of battle errupt in the direction of Catlett's Station the next morning.  Charles Wainwright notes, that the corps paused about 1/2 an hour before pushing onward.  Perhaps that was the length of the artillery duel; the battle at Auburn began at first light.  General Warren's troops were clear of the enemy at by 10 a.m.

Stone Bridge over Bull Run Creek

Pictured is the famous Stone Bridge over Bull Run Creek, Manassas National Battlefield Park.

Unlucky Ground

From “Three Years With Company K,” by Sergeant Austin C. Stearns, edited by Arthur Kent, Associated University Press, 1976. (p. 222-223).

Sergeant Austin Stearns

We slept a few hours at Bristoe, and then forward was the word.  The wagons of the army filled the roads and the troops the fields.  When nearing Manassas our regiment was thrown out as flankers and thus we toiled on to Centreville.

Masassas, Bull Run, and Centreville were to us unlucky ground;  twice had a battle been fought there, and twice had we been thoroughly whipped.  Were we again to try our fortunes in a battle that had such an unfavorable omen for us?  We formed a line of battle on the western slope near Cub Run and awaited events.   No enemy appeared, the teams were being parked at Centreville and beyond, other corps began to arrive, and we breathed freer then we had for several days.  The day after our arrival, the rebs foiled of their plans but hoping to inflict some loss upon the army, attacked the rear division of the 5th* Corps at Bristoe. The General formed his line in a cut in the railroad which served for a breastwork, [and] they were repulsed with slight loss.  We stood under arms while it lasted.

*Note:   [ It was the 2nd Corps, commanded by General G. K. Warren that was attcked, and it was on the same day Stearns arrived at Centreville.  Since Warren later commanded the 5th Corps, at a time when the 13th MA was part of it, Stearns naturally confuses Warren's 2nd Corps command at Bristoe,  for the 5th Corps. — B.F.]

March of the First Corps

Diary of Calvin Conant, Company G:

Wednesday, 14
        Started a little after Sunrise and marched to Centerville   my Regiment was used as flankers    got in here about one o’clock stopped and was ordered to Pack up after we had got something to eat and some had pitched their tents    my Regiment deployed as Skirmishers and we advanced about 3 miles toward Bull Run     halted a little after dark and Stacked arms    laid down     ordered to be ready to start at a moments notice    I am tired as a dog.

From the Diary of Sam Webster:

Appleton L. Sawyer, Company K

Wednesday, October 14th, 1863
        Start early, the 13th marching as “flankers.”  Have a little rest  at the same old ford over Bull Run, and get into Centerville about noon, beating the 6th Corps about an hour, from the time we both left the run.  From the heights, looking back to Bristol we could see the smoke and hear the sound of a tremendous fight going on, but could only guess at results.  Was going to put up a tent, but Sawyer wouldn’t get his out, as an “Aid” was flying around;  and about 3 1/2  o'clock we were ordered to pack up.  [Appleton L. Sawyer, pictured]  Took the “Stone Bridge” road over which I had “skedaddled” in ’62, and just before reachng Rocky Creek the 13th — which was in the rear of the brigade, — was hurried forward and thrown out as skirmishers.   Got to Bull Run after it was quite dark; no fires allowed; no noise to be made, and great anxiety as to the meaning of two large fires towards Gainesville.  Great fears as to how Meade got that wagon train from the south side of Cedar Run.  Great many say they “will blow for Meade,” if that train is saved.  They don’t blow, now, for anyone unless he earns it, and scarcely then.

Charles Wainwright Journal:

The Journal of Colonel Charles Wainwright gives a good description of the sloppy march today.

Centreville, October 14, Wednesday.  When the day broke this morning we were already astir; but though I went around to all the divisions, and did move some of my batteries a short distance, I could learn nothing of our surroundings in consequence of the heavy wet fog which lay close to the ground over the whole of this part of the country.

Our pickets reporting no signs of the enemy any where about we started soon after sunrise; but were stopped by a lively firing in the direction of Catlett’s Station, [2nd Corps battle at Auburn] which showed that all the army had not got clear as well as ourselves.  It did not last over half an hour however, & we then had orders to push on.  Some parts of the two armies had found themselves nearer together as the fog lifted than they had supposed.  We pushed along jollily on the left side of the rail-road meeting with no detention until we overtook the Artillery Reserve, which had passed us during the night; here there was some debate about the right of way, & cutting of columns in the narrow wood roads ( until Newton came across Tyler, when they gave way & we shoved on.

Brigadier General John Newton, commanding 1st Corps

Our men did not march so well today;  there was a good deal of straggling to the side of the roads.  About two hours after starting we fell in with the head of the Sixth Corps on the other side of the railroad.  They were marching beautifully, company front, well closed up, and gaining on us, though we still had two divisions ahead.  I felt ashamed of the way our men were marching, and so did General Newton, but he had no right to expect discipline and vigilance in the corps when its head is so lazy and self-indulgent.  I had five batteries in a body opposite the head of the Sixth Corps, which I closed up to section front so soon as we struck open ground, and marched them so, with the cannoneers at their posts, the rest of the way whenever I could.  Were the country more open I would always march section front.  As it is, the constant lengthening and closing of the column, caused by narrow bridges and other obstacles, is a great objection.  This does not hold with a column of infantry, however, for they do not stretch to any greater length when marching by the flank, and when in company front at full distance.

At Bull Run the infantry delayed long enough in crossing to enable me to feed & water my horses.  We crossed at  –––   & the 6th Corps at –––  Ford.  [Orders were for the 1st C. to cross at Mitchell's Ford and the 6th C. to cross at Blackburn's Ford. ––B.F.]   With two Corps here I felt that Lee’s attempt was virtually defeated.  Our Corps went into position on the Heights & formed in and around some old works. These have been somewhat improved since we were here in the spring but they are still very imperfect.  I placed my four rifled batteries, & one light 12 pounder Battery in position, keeping Stewart & Stevens in reserve.  The 6th Corps remained near the run.

At intervals during the day there had been a great deal of cannonading:  either the rebel cavalry hanging on our rear, or our own trying to detain the head of their column I suppose, for I have heard nothing concerning.  About an hour before sundown, however, we were all roused by a genuine fight, which made noise enough while it lasted.  It seems that quite a gap had formed between the rear of the Fifth Corps, and the head of the Second.  So that Hill got in between them at Bristoe Station, and was forming some of his command on the very ground we occupied last night as near as I can make it out, when Warren came out of the woods on the east of the railroad with his leading division.  Both were surprised, but Warren shewed the most gumption, for though both saw at once that possession of the railroad cut was the turning point, the rebs tried to gain it by a double quick, while Warren just hallowed to his Irish brigade, “run for the cutting.”  Paddy knew what that meant;  it was speaking in his own language.  The possession of the cut enabled Warren to get his line formed and three batteries (Ames being one), into position.  The serving of these batteries is said to have been something very fine and to have shaken the rebel line terribly;  a lively charge, immediately on getting his men formed, completed an actual victory;  and Warren marched on with 400 or 500 prisoners, and five captured guns.  Crawford was sent back to help him, but did not arrive  in time to do anything.  Soon after dark the whole army was safely on the north side of Bull Run  –– I saw Morgan, Inspector 2nd Corps, & Capt. Ames (“G” Company) as they came in this evening & got my information from them.)

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The Battle of Bristoe Station

Bristoe Station Battlefield Park

Warren’s Corps made good time to Catlett’s after escaping from the enemy at Auburn.  At Catlett’s Station he halted his army’s march for a couple of hours and allowed time for his rear-guard, Brigadier General John Caldwell’s Division, to catch up.  As soon as Caldwell arrived the march toward Centerville hurried forward.  The troops used the tracks of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad and the farm roads astride it.  Knowing the enemy was close, General Warren marched his column in line of battle.  About 1:30 p.m. General Alexander Webb’s lead division crossed Kettle Run 2 miles south of Bristoe.

When General Ewell’s Confederates disengaged from the fighting at Auburn his 2nd Corps turned north and marched toward Greenwich, following the route Union General French took the previous night.  But A.P. Hill’s Corps beat him there.  Hill’s Corps arrived at Greenwich about 10 a.m.  They had bivouacked on the Warrenton Turnpike the night before, about one mile north of the town. [Warrenton].  They resumed their march north, early the next day.  After marking 3 miles, Hill divided his force.  One division turned toward Buckland where Federal troops were reported to be moving, and from which direction the rumbling of wagons could distinctly be heard.  At Buckland it was learned only Federal Cavalry were present, and Confederate cavalry had already arrived to confront them.  The division retraced its steps and rejoined the rest of Hill’s Corps marching to Greenwich.

Brigadier General John R. Cooke C.S.A.

In Greenwich Hill’s men encountered evidence of General William French’s recent departure.  A soldier in the 27th North Carolina infantry wrote,  “the campfires of the enemy still burn and evident signs of their departure in haste …Guns knapsacks, etc., strewn along the road shoed that the enemy was moving in rapid retreat…it was almost like boys chasing a hare.”#1    Eager to attack a portion of Meade’s army before it could reach safety,  Hill’s infantry quickened their pace. They bagged about one hundred fifty stragglers from French's corps.  A few more miles down the road, they spied from high ground, a large Union force paused in the fields just north of Broad Run, resting at a crossroads village named Milford.   It was General George Sykes 5th Corps, anxiously waiting for General Warren’s troops to catch up, before they could depart for Centreville.

Brigadier-General John R. Cooke's veteran brigade of North Carolinians would lead a disastrous charge against the Federal 2nd Corps.

General Sykes' 5th Corps had orders to keep within supporting distance of Warren’s 2nd Corps.  In turn, General French’s 3d Corps was supposed to keep within supporting distance of Sykes 5th Corps.  But like he did with Warren, French disregarded that part of his orders and made quick time to Centreville, too far away to support Sykes.    Feeling vulnerable to attack, Sykes sent messages to Warren to hurry along, unaware Warren's delay was due to the Battle at Auburn fought that morning.   Just before Confederate General A. P. Hill came upon Sykes’ Corps at Milford, some riders were seen coming up the Orange & Alexandria Railroad track from the direction of Catlett’s.  Sykes interpreted this to be the head of Warren’s column and ordered a hasty retreat.   His men were just beginning to march when the Confederates attacked.

William Poagues' Artillery Battalion blasted shells into the midst of the 5th corps from a hill overlooking Broad Run.  Sykes’ troops scattered, and beat a chaotic hasty retreat;  quite a stampede.  A.P. Hill ordered forward in battle line, a force of three brigades, mostly veteran North Carolinians, about 5,000 strong, toward Broad Run to cut off the retreating Federals.  They were under the command of General Henry Heth.

While advancing his brigade toward Broad Run Brigadier-General John Cooke noticed an unknown Federal force on a parallel ridge about a mile off his right flank.  He sent word to General Heth who paused the battle line.  Heth sent word to General Hill, asking for instructions.  Hill waited 10 minutes for the lead elements of Major-General Richard Anderson's Division to reach the battlefield then sent word to Heth to continue his advance as originally ordered.    Hill  promised to send some of Anderson's men to deal with the Federals on the right.  So Heth continued his advance toward Broad Run.  Meanwhile Sykes'  Federals across Broad Run continued to scamper away.

The unknown troops on the Confederate right flank were General Webb’s Division of the 2nd Corps, just arriving at Bristoe.  Poague’s cannon blast at Sykes' Corps alerted General Webb, there was trouble one mile away to the west.  Webb sent out three regiments to reconnoiter while his two brigades deployed along the east side of the Orange & Alexandria railroad cut, using the embankment as a natural breastwork. The skirmishers went forward found cover, and fired into the right flank of John Cooke's advancing  Brigade.   The Rebels responded by turning the rightmost regiment, the 46th North Carolina, to battle with the Federal skirmishers.  But as Heth’s forward attack continued Federal artillery shells began to tear through the Rebel ranks.   It was impossible for Cooke's brigade to continue the strait ahead attack as ordered, and no supports had been forthcoming as promised.   He had to address the enemy fire on his flank.  He began to wheel his 2,500 man brigade 90  to the right, to face the new threat.  Brig. Gen. William Kirkland’s brigade on Cooke’s left, also began to wheel to the right to keep in line with Cooke.

General Warren was on the scene now, directing  2nd Corps troop movements.  Learning that General Sykes of the 5th Corps had abandoned him, he exclaimed with some serious oaths, “I will whip them alone then!”  In addition to the battery that fired upon Heth, two more batteries took strategic positions and gave the Federals the powerful advantage of a converging artillery fire upon the ranks of the attacking -Confederate infantry.

Alfred Waud Sketch of Gen. Warren at Ed Brown's Battery

When Cooke’s and Kirkland’s brigades completed the wheel, Warren’s artillery “literally blew them to pieces as they stood.”#2   One shell exploded in the middle of Kirkland’s line, killing and wounding 15 men of the 47th North Carolina.#3   After dressing their line the men of the 2 brigades rushed forward “to catch the Federal skirmish line on the hill above them before it could be moved off.”#4    A bullet smashed into General Cooke’s shin and he was taken out of the fight early.   General Kirkland went down about the same time with a hit that broke his left arm, leaving the attack force practically leaderless.

The charging Rebels seemed unaware of the enemy’s infantry line along the railroad.  They directed their fire at what they thought were unsupported Federal batteries on the ridge beyond the railroad, and the now retreating skirmishers. At this point in the battle Confederates outnumbered and overlapped the Federal line, but the arrival of General Alexander Hays' 3rd division changed that dynamic. The Tarheels shifted their fire to the troops of Hays' Division as they arrived on the scene and ran for the cut.

Alfred Waud's sketch shows General Warren watching Lt. Fred Brown's Battery, on the Union right flank, firing into the attacking Rebel line.

Warren directed General Hays’ two brigades into line by regiment as they came up.  Hays’ men had 300 yards of open ground to cover to get to the cut, a 5 minute run.  The Confederates were advancing.   One hundred fifty casualties, half of the entire tally for the 2nd Corps, were received by Hays' men during this run for the railroad.  Caldwell’s division of the 2nd Corps was still 30 minutes away.  Warren would meet the coming attack with the 4 brigades of Webb & Hays’ divisions that were on hand.

When they were ready, and in line along the railroad cut, the 4 brigades let loose in unison, a deadly volley at the approaching attackers just 200 yards distant.  Cooke’s brigade came to a sudden halt and dropped for cover.

Colonel Edward Hall took charge of the brigade after Cooke fell wounded.  Pinned down, and in a bad spot, Hall decided to try another advance under heavy fire.  Being an inexperienced commander, the regiments under his command charged piecemeal.  Hall’s own regiment advanced alone and reached to within 70 yards of the railroad cut before they could go no further.  They took cover among the abandoned buildings of the Davis farm.    The regiments that followed after them were pinned down 40 yards further back.

Picture:  100 Yards from the Track, Owen's Brigade

Rebel positions; 100 yards distance from the railroad tracks

View of the Bristoe Station Battlefield, 100 yards from the railroad embankment.  Troops of Joshua Owen's New York Brigade (Hays' Division) were in place behind the tracks at this place, south of the Brentsville Road.  Some attacking Confederate troops of John R. Cooke's North Carolina Brigade got as close as 70 yards from the track, which would be a little bit closer in than from where this photo was taken.  The picture was taken on Wednesday, October 14, 2020, about 2 p.m.

The rolling terrain north of Brentsville Road provided more cover to William Kirkland’s attackers and some of his regiments actually breached the Federal line in two different places.   Elements of the 11th, 52nd and 47th North Carolina Infantry overlapped the far right flank of  General Webb's troops along the railroad cut.  The Carolinians reached the cut but failed to hold their position or roll up the Yankee line.  From a ridge beyond the blue line, Lieutenant T. Fred Brown turned his four guns upon the left and rear of the Confederates and fired canister into their ranks.  The artillery blasts combined with heavily directed musketry fire from the 82nd New York, drove Kirkland’s Confederates back.

Brigadier-General William Kirkland, C.S.A. pictured.

General William Kirkland

A little further southwest, on the flat ground where the railroad track crossed the Brentsville Road, the 26th North Carolina Infantry also breached part of General Webb’s line.   The attackers struck the line where the 42nd New York was positioned.  That regiment contained a large number of recruits and drafted men who could not withstand the assault of the Southern Veterans.  The  42nd NY broke and the Rebels poked a hole in the Union line.  Colonel James Mallon, commanding the brigade, rallied his men and directed a heavy fire at the 26th which drove away the attackers.#5

When the Federal line was restored, more powerful volleys forced the Confederates to retreat.  They left in small bands.

On the run to the rear, the Confederates swept past the gunners of Major David McIntosh’s battery positioned on a hill very close to the Federal lines.  Too close in fact.  General A.P. Hill ordered McIntosh's battery forward to support the Carolina brigades in their charge.  McIntosh protested.  The position was too exposed.  But General Hill sent him in regardless, thinking the battery could blow a hole in the Federal formation.  While McIntosh’s guns were still unlimbering a convergence of fire from 14 Union cannon concentrated on him and created hell on earth for the gun crews.  Most of the battery's horses were killed, 44 total were reported disabled by McIntosh.  As the retreating men of Cooke’s battered brigade swept past the guns running for safety, the gun crews joined them, abandoning 7 pieces on the field.  The Confederate attack was spent.  General Warren sent out a detachment of 10 men from each regiment, or so it is reported in the newspapers,  to go forward and capture the enemy guns abandoned by McIntosh.  Colonel Thomas Smyth’s  brigade of Hays’ Division, went forward at the same time, over the railroad tracks, into the woods in  front, and aligned on the left of the detachment to “prevent the enemy in our front from moving to the rescue of the enemy’s batteries.”#6  The detachment sent out to capture the guns, gathered in roughly 500 prisoners, who judged it too dangerous to fall back, many of them still seeking protection around the abandoned Davis farm buildings.  The Federals found two of McIntosh’s guns too badly damaged to salvage.  They turned some of them that were still loaded, upon the retreating Confederates for a parting shot, then wheeled 5 of the guns back into their lines across the railroad embankment.  A loud cheer rang out in the ranks.  Meanwhile Smyth’s brigade encountered a heavy Rebel line in his front as he reached the edge of the woods.  They were two brigades of General Richard Anderson's Division.  These were the troops Hill had intended to use to guard Heth's right flank earlier.  But Anderson's arrival was just a little bit too slow for that purpose.   Meanwhile, Smythe ordered his men to fire at Anderson's fresh troops,  but he was no match for the Rebel force that out flanked him.  They returned fire at Smythe, who after a few minutes, ordered his men to fall back to the railroad.

Dead Horses and Casons on the Bristoe Battlefield

Dead Horses and Casons on the Battlefield of Bristoe, Frank Leslie's Illustrated History of the Civil War.

The attacks of Cooke and Kirkland failed, tallying up large losses for A.P. Hill, and not so many for General Warren.  Kirkland's Brigade lost 600, Cooke lost 700 reported casualties, killed, wounded or captured.#7   The assault lasted 45 minutes  from the start of the wheel.  At the start, Brigadier-General Henry Walker's Brigade followed behind Kirkland with orders to move to his left.  This was before the 90 turn.   But Walker was too far behind in woods to notice the wheel, and  continued straight across Broad Run as originally ordered.  His brigade was  eventually called back, but too late to take part in the charge.

A lull in the battle occurred between 4 & 5 o’clock as re-enforcements arrived for both sides.  Caldwell's Division and General Gregg’s Cavalry arrived, uniting Warren’s entire force.  General Ewell’s Confederate Corps arrived from Greenwich, with General Lee riding along.  A.P. Hill pointed out the vulnerability of Warren’s Corps, and the fact that the united Confederate army of 40,000 had the opportunity to deploy on the Federal's left flank and roll up the enemy's entire line.  The plan was agreed upon.

The first force deployed from Ewell’s Corps was John B. Gordon’s brigade.  From his position on the Federal left flank,  Gordon spotted Federal cavalry guarding a wagon train, and ordered his men forward to try and capture it.  By doing so he was no longer in his proper place in line.   He later realized he was facing a much larger force and was content to just skirmish with it.    It was getting late.  Darkness fast approached.  Gordon had been ordered to stay in place while his commanding officer, General Jubal Early went to bring up the rest of the division; another two brigades.  When Early returned, Gordon had moved, and to where, no one knew.  Without his largest brigade, Early did not want to begin the assault on Warren’s left flank.  General Caldwell  commanding the left of Warren’s Corps was also curious as to why the large enemy force built up on his flank did not attack.  Darkness settled over the field.  Nothing more was done.

Although General Meade ordered Syke’s 5th corps back to Bristoe to lend a hand to Warren, it was plain the two corps were no match for Lee’s entire army.  Very quietly in the night Warren’s 2d Corps silently slipped away across Broad Run towards safety.  By midnight all his men were over and on their way to join the rest of the Army of the Potomac at Centreville.

A.P. Hill accepted the blame for the Confederate loss.  General Lee in anger sharply criticized Hill for the blunders that had occurred.    Hill said it was his fault, to General Lee who is reported to have replied,  “Yes, it is your fault.  You committed a great blunder yesterday;  your line of battle was too short, too thin and your reserves were too far behind.”

The loss came at a high cost.  Confederates casualties are listed at 1,400 men, killed, wounded or captured.  The Federals lost 500.   The rage in General Lee seems mis-placed somehow.  Hill acted aggressively, whereas General Ewell did not, and twice during the campaign, at Auburn and Bristoe, Confederate opportunities to inflict serious damage to the Federal 2d Corps were lost.

#1.  Clark, Walter, Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina:  In the Great War 1861-1865. Five Volumes.  Wilmington, NC:  Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1996. (vol. 2, p. 440).  Found in Gottfried, Bradley M., The Maps of The Bristoe Station and Mine Run Campaigns, El Dorado Hills, CA:  Savas-Beatie, 2013.  (p. 194 note 2).
#2  Gottfried, p. 66.
#3  Gottfried, p. 64.
#4 Gottfried, p. 66.
#5  Bill Backus and Robert Orrison, A Want of Vigilance, The Bristoe Station Campaign, October 9-19, 1863, El Dorado Hills, CA:  Savas-Beatie, 2013.  (p. 81).
#6 Boston Evening Transcript,  October 17, 1863. (See below).
#7  Backus & Orrison, p. 95.

Map of the Battlefield

Jedidiah Hotchkiss Map of the Bristoe Battlefield

The late Stonewall Jackson's invaluable cartographer drew this map of the 1863 Bristoe Battlefield from the Confederate viewpoint.  I have cropped & enhanced it with a few details.  The field is bordered by 2 streams, Kettle Run on the south side, and Broad Run on the north.  The Orange & Alexandria Railroad runs diagonally through the field.  Click here to View Larger.

Engraving of the Battle from a sketch by A.R. Waud

Engraving of Owen's Brigade running for the railroad cut

The Title of this engraving declares it to be a depiction, captured by artist A.R. Waud, of General Joshua Owens 3rd Brigade, of General Alexander Hays' 3rd Division running for the railroad cut.  The troops of Webb's Brigade can be seen already in place along the tracks in the center of the sketch.  Hays' two brigades took 150 casualties during their sprint for the railroad.  This was half the tally for the entire number of 2nd Corps casualties.  The Union skirmishers can still be seen in front of the tracks with the attacking North Carolinians of John Cooke's brigade on the distant hillside. The windmill mentioned in the newspaper article below, can be seen in the right background.

Harper's Weekly, November 7, 1863

Artist A. R. Waud captured the battle in a rough sketch which was forwarded to New York where engravers fleshed out the details.  Note the Water Tower mentioned in the Newspaper Account Below.

A.R. Waud Illustration engraved, from Harpers Weekly

The Army of the Potomac –– General Warren Repelling Heth's Attack at Bristoe Station –– Hazard's Rhode Island Battery in the Foreground. –– Sketched by A. R. Waud.  Harper's Weekly, November 7, 1863.

Mr. Waud writes:  “General Warren was attacked by the rebels, already in position on the hills on the opposite side of the railroad.  The attack was made on his flank, while marching in the rear of the army.  The advantage thus gained by the enemy was of little use to them.  General Warren put his troops at once in the best position for a fight, the railroad embankment forming a perfect rifle-pit.  On a hill in his rear Arnold’s battery held a commanding position behind General Webb’s brigade –– seen beyond the wind-mill pump, in front of a deserted camp.  In the foreground is Hazard’s Battery B, Rhode Island artillery, which, though much exposed, did excellent service.  The two horses in front were killed by one ball.  Broad Run passes under the railroad at a point between the hill where Arnold took position and the trees this side of it.  The result of the battle was the capture of five guns, two battle-flags, and 450 prisoners, and the killing and wounding of 1200 men, besides the demoralizing influence of the affair on the minds of the men, who were led to regard the capture of our train as certain.  Our loss was about 200, a large proportion being wounded.”

The New York Herald's Description of the Battle

Several reports on the battles of the Bristoe Campaign appeared in the Boston Evening Transcript.  This one is a reprint of a report first published in the New York Herald.  It is evident the author was traveling with the 2nd Corps troops.  Interestingly enough, Lt. John B. Noyes, (formerly of  Company  B, 13th MA, now serving with 28th MA) wrote in the letter below, that,   “...At a halt near Brandy to the mess, of Capt. Wagner, Smith and myself, Cunningham the N.Y. Herald correspondent was a guest and we were able to set before him coffee, and milk, and oysters, crackers, butter, and cheese.  Sardines preserves & ham might have been added, but the bugle call cut our meal short as it was.”  This maybe Captain D. P. Conyngham, who would go on to pen a history of the Irish Brigade.  Perhaps Conyngham was the author of this Herald article.

 Boston Evening Transcript, October 17, 1863

[Correspondence of the New York Herald.]


Headquarters Army of the Potomac,    
In the Field, Oct. 15, 1863.      

Yesterday was a glorious day for the army of the Potomac, and especially for the Second corps thereof, who sustained the brunt of one of the fiercest onslaughts, which has characterized the attacks made by the rebels since the inauguration of the war.

Time is wanting to detail the retrograde movement of Gen. Meade’s army from the line of the Rapidan to its present position.  Suffice it to say that on Saturday night last the entire army left the vicinity of Culpeper on its homeward march.  We marched along the line of the railroad from that time until Wednesday morning, encountering the enemy at times, and skirmishing occasionally, avoiding a general engagement.  A general action might have been brought on at any time between the Rappahanock and our present position; but it was reserved for Wednesday to witness a renewed trial of the capabilities of our brave men in the field.

Brigadier-General Alexander Hays

In the afternoon the Second corps had been assigned the arduous duty of guarding the rear of the army, and on the morning of Wednesday, at daylight, took up its line of march in the following order:  Gen. Hayes’s Third division leading, followed by the First division, Gen. Caldwell, the rear being brought up by Gen. Webb’s Second division.

Brigadier-General Alexander Hays, pictured.

On reaching a point near the railroad, some three miles west of Bristow, the Second division took the lead, followed by the Third, leaving the First at the rear.  In this order they marched to Bristow, on the south side of the track of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, with flankers well out on both sides and skirmishers deployed.

In order to fully understand the character of the fight, I find it necessary to give the topography of the country in the vicinity of Bristow.  The Orange and Alexandria Railroad here runs in a north-easterly and southwesterly direction, over a broken and woody country.  The town of Bristow is non est.   But a few old chimneys point out where the village once was, just at the west of Broad Run, about three miles west of Manassas Junction, and half a mile west of the station.  There is a skirt of dense woods, undergrown with thick brush, through which, on either side of the railroad track, a tolerable road has been cut, both of which were used by our army on its march.  On the west side of Broad Run the country is hilly up to the woods and somewhat overgrown with brush.  The run crosses the railroad at right angles under a high bridge, at the eastern end of which a dilapidated windmill stands, formerly used for pumping water for the use of the road.  About three fourths of a mile west of Bristow is Cedar Run, a small stream;  but from its depth of mud and water, difficult to ford.  On the north side of the track, about thirty rods west of the bridge, is a solitary house, or rather shanty, which, though insignificant of itself, figures somewhat  extensively in the fight.  There are here also, just back of the shanty three quite prominent hillocks, or humps, upon which the rebels had planted batteries.

Also there were several like elevations on the south side of the track, upon which the batteries of our forces were located.  West of Broad Run, extending for a few rods, is low ground, rocky and brushy, affording excellent opportunities for sharpshooters.  On the east side of Broad Run, for a hundred rods, is an open plain, with a little point of timber jutting out perhaps twenty rods, and having its north border about eight rods south of the railroad.  The roads from the west run across Broad Run as follows:  The one on the north side of the track branches about forty rods west of the run, one fork crossing the run about a hundred rods north of the bridge, and goes to Centreville; the other fork crossing the track about twenty rods west of the bridge, and leading to the fork on the south side of the bridge.  The road on the south side of the track runs parallel with the railroad; but a branch makes off to the right at Cedar run, and crosses Broad Run about thirty rods south of the bridge.  East of Broad Run, about a hundred rods distant, is a belt of timber perhaps a quarter of a mile wide, east of which the country on the south side of the track is open to Manassas.

Brigadier-General Alexander Webb

Brigadier-General Alexander Webb, pictured.

About half-past twelve o’clock the advance of the Second corps (General Webb’s division) reached the eastern edge of the wood looking out toward Broad Run.  The rear of the Fifth corps was just crossing Broad Run by the northmost road, when, as suddenly as lighting, and as astonishingly as a thunderbolt from a clear sky, boom, boom, came a half dozen discharges of artillery, not a hundred yards away.  It was the enemy emerging from the woods north of the railroad by an obscure road, and firing upon the rear of the Fifth corps.  A few shells from the rebel battery killed four of the Pennsylvania Reserves and wounded eight others before they could be got over the run to a place of safety on the eastern side.  Then a line of rebel skirmishers appeared, cresting the hill on the north of the track, and running obliquely from the road to the upper crossing of Broad Run.

Gen. Warren immediately formed his plans, and right beautifully were they carried out. Gen. Webb’s division was thrown forward along the line of the south side of the railroad, with its right resting on Broad Run and its left at the wagon road.  Gen. Hayes’s division was marched by the right flank and took position to the left of Webb, while Caldwell faced the railroad and awaited action.

A section of Brown’s battery, Co. A. 1st Rhode Island artillery, was thrown across Broad Run, and put in position in the open field, where it could face the enemy and enfilade his skirmishers, the remainder being placed on the hill just west of the run and bearing directly upon the massing enemy.  On the hill to the northwest of Brown was Arnold’s famous battery ––the same which at Gettysburg did such terrible execution among the rebel infantry.  Then there were other batteries, but their names I could not learn; but they were not behind their compeers in the bloody fray.

As soon as the rebels discovered that the rear of the Fifth Corps had crossed to the east of Broad Run, and that Warren was preparing for a fight, they developed two batteries in the edge of the wood and commenced to send their respects to the Second Corps.  They were close by, their most distant guns being not over nine hundred yards from the line of Union infantry. They had the advantage of us at first, for they, knowing our position and having their batteries ready planted, were able to open upon us before our line could be formed or our batteries planted, and they knew and appreciated the advantage, and right heartily did they improve it.

For full ten minutes they rained their bullets and hailed their shells with demoniac fury;  but not a man of the gallant old Second quailed, not a gun was dropped, not a color dipped;  but like Spartans they faced their foe, as if each man felt that upon himself rested the responsibility of crushing the rebellion.

But the rebels did not long maintain their advantage, for Brown and Arnold lost no time in getting their batteries placed, which, when accomplished, made short work of all opposition.  Rebel lines of infantry skirmishers melted away like wax over a hot fire, and the rebel batteries died out like camp-fires in a heavy rain.  Simultaneously with the ripping, tearing, death-dealing artillery, the Union Infantry stood hiding their forms behind a bank of flame and a fog of smoke, cheering as they discharged their pieces and vainly begging to be permitted to rush over the track to the immediate locality of their adversaries.

Then came a lull in the awful music, for the enemy, unable to stand against the terrible storm, had fled to the woods for safety, leaving six of their guns upon the field, one too badly crippled to be brought away.  When the enemy ceased playing upon us, and the smoke had lifted so as to exhibit the field, and it was known that the enemy had retired, a detail of ten men from each regiment was made to bring away the deserted pieces.  With a cheer that could be heard for miles, the men bounded across the track and climbed the opposite hill, seized the pieces as best thy could, wheeled them into position, turned them toward the retreating demons, and fired a parting salvo with the ammunition which had been designed for the Yankees.  Then the boys dragged five of them away, shouting as they came to the south side of the track, and placed them in battery, the infantrymen acting as artillerists and doing wondrous works of carnage.

Shortly after the Second Corps had gone into position the rebels tried their old tactics of massing and charging.   A dense gray body of men were seen forming between the east of the woods and the run on the slope of the hill, north of the railroad, upon which the artillery and infantry opened at once, driving the throng back into the woods at a double quick.  After this maneuver a second line of skirmishers was thrown forward to the brow of the hill skirting the river, and two regiments of North Carolina troops ––  the Twenty-sixth and Twenty-eighth – came charging on our extreme right, over the railroad near the bridge.

This post was held by Colonel Heath, commanding the brigade, which was the first of the Second division, and consisted of the 19th Maine, 15th Massachusetts, 1st Minnesota, and 82nd New York.  Our boys waited for their “erring Southern brethren,” who came on with a yell until they reached the track of the railroad, when a volley, and another, and another, sent them homeward at a pace which defies illustration.

The brigade of Carolinians, which was commanded by Brigadier-General Heth, [Kirkland--B.F.]  broke and fled, hiding themselves behind the rocks and bushes along the stream.  The brigade of North Carolinians was Pettigrew’s old brigade, and the men prided themselves on their prowess.  But the men opposed to them were too well versed in fighting to be intimidated, and they gave the lauded heroes the best turn in the shop.  It was laughable to see them extricate themselves from their dilemma.

They did not dare to rise from behind their cover when once hid; for no sooner would a head appear from behind a log, or rock, or bush, than a Minie would whistle it back to death.  Run they dared not, fight they could not, and the only alternative left them was to surrender at discretion, which they did by creeping out on all fours without their guns, and piteously asking our boys, like Crockett’s coon, “not to fire, as they would come in.”  The captured of this brigade numbered about five hundred, and General Heth will have to recruit before taking it into action again.

When the enemy found that the 2d corps was ready and able to hold its ground, and had no notion of leaving, a fact they discovered after about five hours’ hard fighting, they withdrew to the cover of the dense wood in the rear, only firing with their artillery when they could work themselves up to the fighting point sufficiently to enable them to thrust a gun out of the edge of the wood.  Then they would fire, and the flame and smoke would act as a target for our gunners; so the firing would be irregular and inconstant; now chiming in, peal on peal, like the reverberation of a thunder clap, then only a shot or two for several minutes.

Brigadier-General John Caldwell

The brunt of the fighting was done by Gen. Webb’s and Gen. Hayes’s divisions, with the artillery;  but it was only so because Gen. Caldwell, who was on the left, was employed in watching a heavy force of rebels which was massed in the woods across the railroad immediately in his front.

Brigadier-General John Caldwell, pictured.

At dark the fighting ceased, and darkness found us in full possession of the field, the rebels having fallen back to and beyond the woods, having suffered the loss of six pieces of artillery, two battle-flags, two colonels killed and one taken prisoner, probably five hundred killed and wounded, whom they left upon the field, and about seven hundred and fifty prisoners.

Among the rebel slain and left were Col. Ruffin of the First, and Col. Thompson of the Fifth, North Carolina cavalry.*  [Ruffin was killed in the charge of the 1st NC Cav. at Auburn, in the morning.]  The battle-flags captured were that of the Twenty-sixth North Carolina infantry, captured by the Nineteenth Maine, and that of the Twenty-eighth North Carolina, taken by the Eighty-second New York.  The battery captured consisted of one large Whitworth gun, two fine Rodmans, and three brass field-pieces.  One of these, however, was so badly broken up as to be worthless, and was left upon the field. The others were brought away, and today have been sent to Washington.

View uphill toward McIntosh's Battery

View up the hill, where McIntosh's five guns were captured.  Seven pieces were abandoned.  Two were too damaged to bother with. A piece can just  be seen on the horizon in the right third of the picture.  An interpretive sign is silhouetted also.

I ought not to pass over the capture of these guns without mentioning an incident which illustrates the valor of our men to a remarkable degree.  After the enemy had been driven from their guns by the artillery and infantry combined, Gen. Warren ordered a detail to be made of ten men from each regiment of the corps to bring off the pieces.  This was done in order to debar any one regiment, brigade or division from arrogating to itself the particular honor of their capture.  The work to be done was a hazardous one, but the boys shouted as they started at a double quick.  The woods in the rear of the battery were full of greybacks. who, in all probability, would attempt to prevent their pets from falling into the hands of the Yankee mudsills.  Our infantry and artillery would be powerless to help, as a shot from either would be as likely to kill one of our own as one of the rebel troops.  But the selected men went off in the direction of the prizes, reached them, turned them toward the foe, fired a parting salute from such as the enemy in his haste had left loaded, then commenced dragging them away by hand.

They had not gone far, however, when the rebels flocked out of the woods and came down at a charge toward them, seeing which, the boys dropped the artillery, grasped their smaller arms, and drove the butternuts back to the pines.  They then came back and dragged off their captures in safety.

I have heard some cheering on election nights around the Herald corner, but I never, there or elsewhere, heard such a yell of exultation as rent the air when the rebels’ guns, caissons and equipments, were brought across the railroad track to the lines of our infantry.

During the afternoon, while the heavy cannonading was going on, Gen. Meade sent the 5th Corps under Gen. Sykes, to reinforce the 2d, but they did not reach the field before dark, and then the fortune of the day was closed and they could be of no service.  Gen. Warren had won his victory and vindicated the wisdom of the power which made him a Major General. The victory was signal and complete.

I am reliably informed that the rebel Colonel Thompson stated that Gen. Lee’s object was to head us off before reaching Centreville, and supposed that when he made the attack upon Warren he was at the had of the entire army with his corps.  Consequently he only threw forward one portion of A. H. Hill’s corps, [A.P. Hill is correct––B.F.} numbering in all about 12,000 men, with four batteries of artillery, in order to hold us in check until the other corps of Ewell, together with the two remaining divisions of Longstreet’s corps, could come up.  [Longstreet's Corps was in Tennessee ––B.F.]  I presume the story is true; but they have found out their mistake.

After the fight had closed we buried all our dead, brought off all our wounded, and came over Broad Run in perfect order and safety.

We have not lost a dollar’s worth of property by capture.  Our forces are now safely and securely posted;  our trains all parked in convenient and safe retreats, and the army is in excellent spirits.

But the victory of yesterday was not unattended by loss on our part.  The brave and gallant Col. Mullen, of the 42d ( Tammany ) regiment, commanding the Third brigade of the Second division, was shot through the stomach, and died in half an hour.  Capt. S. N. Smith, Assistant Inspector General on Gen. Webb’s staff, was severely wounded in the shoulder.  Capt. Francis Wessels, Judge Advocate to Gen. Webb, was wounded in the thigh.  Orderly Sergeant Allman, as brave and true a soldier as ever lived was killed while bearing the flag of his general’s headquarters.  Capt. Cooper, Inspector General of the Third brigade, was wounded in the thigh.  The balance of General Webb’s staff are safe.  Lieut. M. Caste, of Gen. Owen’s staff, was killed.  Capt. Plumb, of the 125th New York, was killed.  Capt. Lemon, of the same regiment, was wounded.   Lt. Oleoner, of the same, was wounded, as was also Lieut. Lowe, of the 12th New Jersey, and Capt. J. Ball, of the 1st Minnesota.

Besides the rebels killed whom I have mentioned, there was Brig. Gen. Cooke, a son of General Philip St. Geo. Cooke, of the Union army.  His body was left on the field.*

Probably our entire losses in killed, and wounded will not reach two hundred, while those of the enemy will not fall short of five hundred, besides the prisoners captured.  We lost none in battle except the killed and wounded, though it is probable a few stragglers fell into the hands of the rebels or the Devil, and the sooner the better.  I can not learn that the enemy advanced since the fight came off, nor do I think he will;  but if he does he will have to fight us on ground of our own choosing.

The following are, as far as reported, the casualties in New England regiments in the skirmish at Auburn Ford and battle of Bristow Station:

Massachusetts wounded –– Lieut. Charles H. Stevens, 15th Regiment, slightly; E. H. Werryfield, 15th; [Francis H. Merrifield]**  J. Hoyle 20th; Sergeant D. C. Clark, 1st Cavalry; H. McElroy, do.;  Wm. Strong, 19th; J. Hogan, 28th.

The 15th Massachusetts lost two killed and eight wounded, and the 19th Maine one killed and twelve wounded.

*Cooke was wounded in the shin and sent to a hospital in Charlottesville to recover.

**15th MA Website. {] accessed Sept. 30, 2020.

Photo:  Railroad tracks on the Union Left

Position of Kelly's Brigade, along the rr tracks

The image above is the approximate position of Colonel Patrick Kelly's Irish Brigade, (which would be on the opposite side of the train tracks).  Caldwell's Division was on the left of the Union line.  The image was taken near the point in the Confederate line where Major-General Richard Anderson's Division deployed.  Lieutenant John B. Noyes whose letter follows, was with Kelly's Brigade.  The photo was taken Wedneday, October 14, 2020 at 3 p.m.  The same time of the battle on the same date & day.  This field was also fought over in August, 1862; when General Hooker battled General Ewell at Kettle Run.

Letter of John B. Noyes

Formerly a private in Company B, 13th MA, Lieutentant John B. Noyes, of the 28th Massachusetts Volunteers, an Irish regiment, was part of General John Caldwell's 1st Division of the 2nd Corps.  He gives a good description of the fighting on “Coffee Hill” at Auburn, already quoted above.  Caldwell's Division was not heavily engaged at Bristoe, still the letter is of interest.  A sidenote to the letter is his mention of the Herald Correspondent Cunningham, who was their guest for dinner at Brandy Station while on the march.  I believe this may be the famous David Powell Conyngham, author of  “The Irish Brigade and its Campaign.”  A September 27, 1896 article in the Sacramento Daily Union, on Civil War Correspondents, singles out Conyngham in particular for his many brave deeds.  The article said he had one of his employer's horses shot under him at Bristoe Station.

Bull Run, Va October 16th 1863
        Camp 28th Mass. Vols.

Dear Father,

Lieutenant John B. Noyes

In my last letter of Oct. 7th, I believe I acknowledged the receipt of your box. The luxuries there contained were very acceptable, and those that were obtained at no expense such as preserves and jellies were not the least enjoyed by me.

We left camp about noon of Sunday the 11th, and marched beyond Culpepper and Cedar Mountain.  News came to us that a New York Regiment of the 6th Corps has been captured entire and that an advance was threatened by the rebels.  We went into camp and for a wonder I was not detailed for picket, although nearly all our officers went out.  I was very much fatigued and prepared myself for a good night’s sleep.  But at 1 & AM. We were routed out and marched in retreat.  Leaving Culpepper behind us we passed Brandy Station [This should be Rappahannock Station––B.F.] where you will recollect the 13th had a three day’s fight last August on the hill we there occupied, supporting a section of Capt. Mathew’s battery, a fort now rises strengthened by sand bags. Crossing the river we marched to Bealton Station where we halted for the night.

The next day in the afternoon we re-crossed the river and marched about two miles and a half in line of battle towards Brandy Station.  At night we again fell back and re-crossed the river marching all night halting in the morning at Fayetteville to cook breakfast. There turning back we marched past Warrenton Junction to Auburn, a village which may not be on the map. 

Hector my servant having lost his way was not up with us, and a nigger Ike who led our horse lost it in the morning of the next day.  With my haversack and rubber blanket I started, leaving woolen blanket and tents & stock of eatables.  I was lucky in saving anything as I did not know that Ike was up till we were marching.  A can of oysters and the spices were all I list of your invoice as the march had made holes in the eatables.  I lived quite high on the march.  At a halt near Brandy to the mess, of Capt. Wagner, Smith and myself, Cunningham the N.Y. Herald correspondent was a guest and we were able to set before him coffee, and milk, and oysters, crackers, butter, and cheese.  Sardines preserves & ham might have been added, but the bugle call cut our meal short as it was.  Leaving our bivouac – camp at Auburn early A.M. where I had slept before a fire on a borrowed rubber blanket in the open air, we halted about half a mile away and set about cooking.  I had coffee in my dipper and was setting it before a fire, when whiz came a shell over our heads. Confusion seized the men, but checking it as best I could, I emptied my dipper and fastened it upon my haversack, and put everything on me just in time to march off with the regiment to a safer place a few rods to the rear.  None of my company left their guns, but some their haversacks, and one or two their knapsacks.  It was some little time before I had the men under hand but I succeeded in doing it.  In this scare the horses broke loose and many were lost.  Our Adj’t. and Capt Burke of the 88th N.Y., and another Adj’t. of the Brigade and other officers lost their horses, blankets, pistols, and all.  The rebel battery was captured by our cavalry with its support.    [This is “Coffee Hill,” see “Battle of Auburn,” above. ––B.F.]

In the retreat from Auburn my Company with Co. K. acted as flankers, that is as flank skirmishers.  At one place the whole brigade skirmished for the Division. We reached Bristow Station safely.

A battery there was hard at work.  At this station the R.R. embankment forms an admirable breastwork.  The rebel General with his whole Corps, indeed with half the rebel army had got to Bristow before us, and even within a short distance of the embankment where our Division filed in behind the embankment.   The rebels expected to take the battery, but when our triumphant hurrah arose they fairly staggered. They saw our long line advancing and saw not the end of it which was concealed in the woods.  Our battery made gaps in the line of the rebels, about 500 yards off.  Two rebel flags were distinctly visible from where I stood.  So dark were the coats of Ewell’s  men [They were A.P. Hill's Men] that I took them at first for our soldiers.  Twice did the rebel line advance and twice it was forced to retire.  The perfect rout of one brigade was greeted with loud cheers from our side. We feared an attack on our left flank and that a battery might be put in such a position as to enfilade our line of battle, which was now strengthened by a brigade of the 2d Division.  Our line was now four deep. The sharp skirmishing and heavy firing from a rebel battery led us to expect that we might be soon hotly engaged  It seemed however that we had some men on our left formed in a line nearly at right angles with ours, and they instead of us did the fighting.  [ Samuel Carroll's Brigade (Hays' Division) and some cavalry, Col. John Taylor's Brigade.]

Night coming on I went out in front of the Rail road on picket.  At about 10 P.M. our troups having all fallen back, I withdrew the pickets, re-crossed the R.R. and followed in the rear of the Army.  Not caring to remain there I pressed on till I rejoined the Regiment.  On we marched, passing Manassas Junction, till we reached Bull Run.

Crossing that stream we marched half a mile or so further when we halted for the night.  Here the Army of the Potomac was at rest in safety.  Early the next morning the several Corps were so posted as to appose an expected attack.  We had time to cook our breakfast before the ball opened.  At first a few opening shots were heard then skirmishers became lively, and soon the deep sound of cannon was heard. Nearer came the fray, but the rebels appeared to have the worst of it.  More rebel batteries were opened, and the shells began to fly round us in quite a lively manner.  We made up our minds that the 3d battle of Bull Run had indeed commenced.  But to the shots that came so near us two batteries answered with a cross fire. The roar of musketry also set in on our left, and reinforcements were coming up and fileing down to the post of danger.  But suddenly heavy guns are heard in the rebel rear.  The cannonading deepened and it was evident that quite a fight was going on some miles away.  What body was in the rebel rear we did not know, whether troups sent out from Centreville, or a larger body of Cavalry whose retreat in this direction had been cut off.  The rebel fire nearer us soon slackened, and finally ceased, and it was evident that the whole energies of the rebels were directed away from us.

It was now after 5 P.M. Picket firing ceasing we laid down to sleep on the field.  A rubber blanket over and under me and another officer we laid down.  In the morning it rained hard, but our blanket shed the water and we were quite dry.  A good breakfast and the absence of the enemy rendered the situation some what more pleasant.

Hector has now come up, and the horse has also turned up safe, so that we have the basis of a comfortable future, but our whole cooking kit has, I speak it in sadness, “gone up.”  No plates, Knives, forks, or spoons, and nothing as yet to hold provisions.  No tents.  But “wait for our wagons” and we will all have not a ride, but what is more to the purpose a tent.

We thought we had seen hard marching in the Gettysburgh campaign, but I must say I never marched so hard as on the march four miles beyond Culpepper to Bealton, the march from near Brandy to Fayettville and Auburn, in the night, and the march from Auburn and Bristow to Bull Run.  Certainly Meade has discovered a marching power in the Army, which before his accession to command was unknown.  I have lost three stragglers on the marches to this place.

We are now in line of battle where we were posted yesterday.  There has been no firing in front yet.  Where we shall move next I can not say.  Gen’l Lee commands the forces that followed us up, So states a prisoner, I carried along with my company nearly 24 hours who belonged to the 44th North Carolina Infantry, in Gen’l Pettigrew’s old brigade and Ewell’s Corps. [44th NC,  Kirkland's Brig. (formerly Pettigrew's) A.P. Hill's Corps ––B.F.]

In spite of the late night marches and the fatigue consequent therat I am now in passable condition.  October 14th I had no coffee, because I had no opportunity to cook any.  I do not know that I have failed to have that beverage, at least once a day, from that cause, during my whole military experience.  I have been on two or three retreats, but never before have I been where we were so hard pressed, where we had to cut our way through, as at Bristow Station, and indeed at Auburn.  Several times our Ambulance train was stopped, while we went ahead to cut a way for it.  What all the marches, and countermarches made by our Division meant I cannot understand, but Gen’l Meade doubltless knows what he is about.  Cy. Kennison a 1st Lieut., got his discharge at Fayettville or he was taken prisoner or struck the baggage train, and went with it I know not.

The election in Ohio, and Pennsylvania have gone in the right direction.  Let the people now come out to the war and we will put down the rebellion.  What must be the feelings of the copperheads of Massachusetts, Geo. L. Hill and, George Lunt, (Lunt is a newspaper editor ) not to speak of Geo. D. Noyes Esq. [ George is his brother–– B.F.]  that biggest Copperhead, Geo. B. McClellan also has shown himself in his true colors. The supporter of Woodward cannot now claim political neutrality.  Geo. B. is evidently opposed to the administration and the war because he is permitted no longer to control the Army.

Hoping to hear from you soon and apologizing for this sheet of paper which I picked up wet and dried by the fire, and covered with ink during a heavy shower, 5 in a tent,

    I am as Ever
                Your Aff. Son
                        John B. Noyes.

Oct. 17th  P.S.
          Nothing new.  The 2d Corps highly complimented in General orders for covering the retreat of the Army.  A private of the 116th Penn. was shot for desertion yesterday.

Battlefield Near Kettle Run

Kettle Run Battlefield

This is a picture of the Kettle Run Battlefield at Bristoe Station Battlefield Park.   It is also a picture of the fields in front of the railroad track in the approximate area where John Noyes' Brigade was positioned.  So accordingly, this may be the field he picketed during the night.  On the far right you can just make out a train on the rairload tracks. The White obelisk barely visible behind the center tree line is just in front of Broad Run, near the ground where the 13th MA probably camped the night before the battle.  View northeast.  Click here to view the image larger.

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Page Updated October 26, 2020.

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“Had to ford the river which was up to my ass in water.."