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The Battle of Bristoe Station – 14th October 1863

The battles and skirmishes in the months after Gettysburg and General Lee last offensive campaigns in late 1863 are not well known. Until the last couple of years, I did not know much either until a read a couple of great books for the period. The battles during the Bristoe Station and Mine Run campaigns are full of great cavalry battles and numerous small scale battles, which can suit any gamers ACW collections….unless like me you lack Union Cavalry. Our battle last weekend focused on The Battle of Bristoe Station, which was an encounter battle on the afternoon of the 14th October 1863 between The Union 2nd Corps under the command of Major General Gouverneur K. Warren and the Confederates under the command of Lieutenant General Ambrose P. Hills, Third Corps. The setup and brigade deployments came from page 66/67 Cooke and Kirkland Attack 3:00 -3:15 pm of the Maps of Bristoe State and Mine Run Campaigns book.

As mentioned above our battle started with both sides already deployed for battle Cooke and Kirkland’s Brigades were already deployed across the small hills to the north and the Union brigades of Owen, Makkon and Heath were deployed along with the Orange and Alexander R.R and in Bristoe Station. The Union boys had good cover from the railway cuttings and would be well protected from the small arms fire from the confederates.  There were also two farms out to the front which would help break up the Confederate attack – Dodd farm to the north of the station and T.Davis farm to the south of the station. The Confederate attack would have to come down the hill and across open ground to assault the Union position.

Brigadier General Joshua Owen (commander of the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division) surveys the ground to his front and makes final adjustments to his line.

Brigadier General W. W. Kirkland deploys skirmishers and encourages his North Carolinians to attack the Union line.

On the far right of the Union line is Colonel Francis Heath’s Brigade

Colonel Heath makes a few final adjustments to his line and prepares to move forward with his brigade in order to bring the battle to the Confederates.

Colonel James E, Mallon also makes a few final adjustments to his line before advancing. I am not too sure why the Union commander (Terry Moran) did this but it certainly made for a more interesting battle.

The battlefield of Bristoe Station. The two Confederate brigades of Cooke and Kirkland are advancing across the heights towards Bristoe Station (the two buildings in the top centre of the images) and the three Union Brigades are deployed along the Orange and Alexander R.R. I placed a few more fences on the table just to make it look a little less open as the battlefield actually was on the day.

Confederate skirmishers advance in front of advancing line

And take up a good defensive position behind a rail fence.

As soon as the Confederate line crossed over the hills they came under small arms and artillery fire from the Union line.

Union boys from Mallon’s Brigade advance through Bristoe Station

The whole Union line advances out of the defensive cover of the railway cutting and into the open ground…crazy!!

Skirmishers from the 1st Minnesota contest the open ground with Confederate skirmishers between the two advancing lines.

Both lines close…this is going to be a stand up battle.

Colonel Heaths’ brigade moves into position around the Dodd Farm.

Cookes’ North Carolinians (NCs) attack the Union troops around the Davis Farm to the south of Bristoe Station.

However, the Union troops of Owens’ Brigade make the first charge of the day, pushing back the rebel skirmishers and charging the 48th NC.

The 48th NC hold firm on the fence line and deliver a withering volley which stops the 125th NY in their tracks.

Three regiments of Mallon’s Brigade advance towards two regiments of Kirkland’s Brigade.

The battle intensifies, small arms fire and small regimental charges across the line of battle are conducted with no real gain to either side but mounting casualties.

The Confederate Brigade of Cooke halts and delivers a few well aimed volleys at the Union line but fails to halt their advance.

The fight around the Davis Farm is long and hard with both side hold the farm grounds for sort periods of time.

But under overwhelming numbers the 15th NC are pushed back from the farm after taking heavy casualties from Union fire.

The battle rages on and the Confederates are desperate to push the Union line back and gain victory this day, so Cooke foolishly joins the 48th NC in charging the 19th MA….he falls mortally wounded and is taken from the field. The Colonel of the 46th NC takes command.

The battle also rages around the Dodd Farm with the 47th NC charging and pushing back the 19th ME. Colonel Kirkland also joins this attack and he is wounded and taken from the field. The battle is not going well for the Confederates with both Brigade commanders out of the battle.

With the Confederates commanders out of the battle and regiments falling back across the line General Heth tries to hold the line with the deployment of McIntoshes Artillery Battalion.

The 12 guns of the Confederate Artillery Battalion deploys across the heights in hope of stemming in the tide of Union blue. Both to come under small arms and artillery counter battery fire.

There is no hope for the Confederates attack to succeed now 2/3s of their regiments have suffered over 50% casualties or have been routed from the field and support is still yet to arrive. The battle is lost and again history repeats itself with a Union Victory.


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