Early & Gordon at Bristoe Station

Early & Gordon at Bristoe Station (HM2NAN)

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N 38° 42.456', W 77° 33.892'

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A Missed Opportunity

After the Gettysburg Campaign, Union Gen. George G. Meade's Army of the Potomac faced Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia across the Rapidan River. In October 1863, Lee attempted to outflank Meade's army and cut the Union supply line—the Orange and Alexandria (O&A) Railroad. In response, Meade withdrew the Army of the Potomac east to protect Washington, D.C., with Lee in pursuit.

As Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill, at the front of Lee's army, neared Bristoe Station on the O&A, he thought he saw the Federal rear. In reality, Hill saw the rear of V Corps. A gap had opened between it and H Corps, which the elevated railroad bed screened from Hill's vision. As Hill attacked, II Corps crossed Kettle Run and fired into Hill's right flank, inflicting heavy casualties. When the battle shifted onto the railroad corridor, some II Corps units moved west to Kettle Run to protect the Union left flank.

Confederate Gen. Richard S. Ewell ordered Gen. Jubal A. Early's division, following Hill, to attack across Kettle Run and outflank II Corps.

"As we descended the hill toward Kettle Run the air above us rang with the whistle of minie bullets, and athwart the creek appeared the advancing enemy [Gen. John B. Gordon's brigade] pressing to cut us off."
—Chaplain Henry R. Pine, The

History of the 1st New Jersey Cavalry

Early directed Gen. John B. Gordon to form a battle line and wait, but Gordon impulsively charged across Kettle Run to attack Federal cavalrymen. Early was surprised when he "found Gordon unexpectedly gone." By then, II Corps had marched on, leaving Early—missing a third of his manpower with Gordon chasing Union cavalry—"no enemy to attack in the direction I had been ordered to move." Because of Hill's and Gordon's ill-considered attacks, Meade's army escaped by nightfall. Lee's opportunity for inflicting a heavy blow was lost near Kettle Run.
Series This marker is part of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad series, and the Virginia Civil War Trails series.
Placed ByVirginia Civil War Trails
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Sunday, December 1st, 2019 at 7:02am PST -08:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 276976 N 4287452
Decimal Degrees38.70760000, -77.56486667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 42.456', W 77° 33.892'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 42' 27.36" N, 77° 33' 53.52" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling South
Closest Postal AddressAt or near , ,
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