Civil War Battles of Virginia

Federal soldiers at a Confederate fortification at Manassas, Virginia

Federal soldiers at a Confederate fortification at Manassas, Virginia

Manassas Gap (July 23, 1863) – As the Confederate forces returned south, the Manassas Gap Battle took place in Warren County, Virginia. Sometimes referred to as the Battle of Wapping Heights, the skirmish occurred after Lee’s army had re-crossed the Potomac River into the Shenandoah Valley. Major General George G. Meade crossed the Potomac River east of the Blue Ridge and followed Lee into Virginia. On July 23, Meade ordered the III Corps, under Major General William. H. French to cut off the retreating Confederate columns at Front Royal by forcing a passage through Manassas Gap. At first light, French began slowly pushing Major General Richard Anderson’s division of Walker’s Confederate brigade back into the gap. About 4:30 pm, a strong Union attack drove Walker’s men until Rodes’s division and artillery reinforced them. By dusk, the poorly coordinated Union attacks were abandoned. During the night, Confederate forces withdrew into the Luray Valley. On July 24, the Union army occupied Front Royal, but Lee’s army was safely beyond pursuit. The battle had claimed 440 lives.

Bristoe Campaign (October-November 1863)

This campaign was a series of minor battles fought in Virginia during October and November 1863, in the American Civil War. Major General George G. Meade, commanding the Union Army of the Potomac, began to maneuver in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Lee and his officers were disgusted with their lack of success. They had not achieved their primary objectives of bringing on a decisive battle or preventing the Western Theater’s Federal reinforcement.

Auburn (October 13, 1863) – Also called the Battle of Catlett’s Station or the Battle of St. Stephen’s Church, this engagement occurred in  Fauquier County. Confederate army concentrated behind Rapidan River in Orange County. The Federals advanced to Rappahannock River in August, and in mid-September, they pushed strong columns forward to confront General Robert E. Lee along the Rapidan River. Early in September, Lee dispatched two divisions of Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s Corps to reinforce the Confederate army in Georgia; the Federals followed suit, sending the XI and XII Corps to Tennessee by railroad in late September after the Battle of Chickamauga (September 18-20). In early October, Lee began an offensive sweep around General Meade’s right flank with his remaining two corps, forcing the Federals to withdraw along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad line. On October 13, Confederate Major General J.E.B. Stuart, with General Fitzhugh Lee and Brigadier General Lunsford L. Lomax’s brigades, skirmished with the rearguard of the Union III Corps near Auburn. Finding himself cut off by retreating Federal columns, Stuart secreted his troopers in a wooded ravine until the unsuspecting Federals moved on. The inconclusive battle resulted in an estimated 50 total casualties.

Auburn II (October 14, 1863) – Also called the Battle of Coffee Hill, this engagement also took place in As the Federal army withdrew towards Manassas Junction, Owens and Smyth’s Union brigades (Warren’s II Corps) fought a rearguard action against Major General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry and infantry of Brigadier General Harry Hays’s division near Auburn. Stuart’s cavalry boldly bluffed Union Major General G.K. Warren’s infantry and escaped disaster. The II Corps pushed on to Catlett Station on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. The inconclusive battle resulted in estimated total casualties of 113 men.

Bristoe Station (October 14, 1863) – Taking place in Prince William County, this battle occurred when Confederate Lieutenant General A.P. Hill
stumbled upon two corps of the retreating Union army at Bristoe Station and attacked without proper reconnaissance. Union soldiers of the II Corps, posted behind the Orange & Alexandria Railroad embankment, mauled Henry Heth’s division’s brigades and captured a battery of artillery. Hill reinforced his line but could make little headway against the determined defenders. After this victory, the Federals continued their withdrawal to Centreville unmolested. Lee’s Bristoe offensive sputtered to a premature halt. After minor skirmishing near Manassas and Centreville, the Confederates retired slowly to the Rappahannock River, destroying the Orange & Alexandria Railroad as they went. At Bristoe Station, Hill lost standing in the eyes of Lee, who angrily ordered him to bury his dead and say no more about it. The Union victory resulted in estimated total casualties of 1,980.

Buckland Mills (October 19, 1863) – Also called the Battle of Buckland Races or Chestnut Hill, this engagement occurred in Fauquier County. After the defeat at Bristoe Station and an aborted advance on Centreville, Major General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry shielded the withdrawal of General Robert E. Lee’s army from the vicinity of Manassas Junction. Under Major General J. Kilpatrick, the Union cavalry pursued Stuart’s cavalry along the Warrenton Turnpike but were lured into an ambush near Chestnut Hill and routed. The Federal troopers were scattered and chased five miles in an affair that came to be known as the “Buckland Races.” The Confederate victory resulted in estimated total casualties of 230 men.

Rappahannock Station II (November 7, 1863) – Taking place in Fauquier and Culpeper Counties, this battle occurred when the Union army forced passage of the Rappahannock River at two places. A dusk attack overran the bridgehead at Rappahannock Station, with the Federal soldiers capturing more than 1,600 men of General Jubal Early’s Division. Fighting at Kelly’s Ford was less severe with about 430 casualties, but the Confederates retreated, allowing the Federals across in force. On the verge of going into winter quarters around Culpeper, General Robert E. Lee’s army retired instead into Orange County south of the Rapidan River. The Army of the Potomac occupied the vicinity of Brandy Station and Culpeper County. The Union victory resulted in an estimated 2,537 casualties, including the 1,600 Confederate prisoners.

Mine Run Campaign (November-December 1863)

6th Corps returning from Mine Run

After the affair at Bristoe Station on October 14, 1863, the Union Second Corps under Gouverneur K. Warren retreated to Centreville, where it rendezvoused with the rest of the Army of the Potomac. President Lincoln and General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck insisted that Major General George Meade bring Lee’s army to battle, their frustration having grown in the months since Gettysburg. The campaign was an unsuccessful attempt, marked by false starts and low casualties. It ended hostilities in the Eastern Theater for the year.

Mine Run (November 27-December 2, 1863) – Also known as the Battles of Payne’s Farm and New Hope Church, these battles took place in Orange County, Virginia. Payne’s Farm and New Hope Church were the first and heaviest clashes of the Mine Run Campaign. In late November 1863, Major General George Meade attempted to steal a march through the Wilderness and strike the Confederate army’s right flank south of the Rapidan River. Confederate Major General Jubal A. Early, in command of Ewell’s Corps, marched east on the Orange Turnpike to meet the advance of Union General William French’s III Corps near Payne’s Farm. Union General Joseph Carr’s division attacked twice. Confederate Major General Edward Johnson’s division counterattacked but was scattered by heavy fire and broken terrain. After dark, General Robert E. Lee withdrew to prepared field fortifications along Mine Run. The next day the Union army closed on the Confederate position. Skirmishing was heavy, but a major attack did not materialize. General Meade concluded that the Confederate line was too strong to attack and retired during the night of December 1-2, ending the winter campaign. The inconclusive battles resulted in an estimated 1,272 Union casualties and 680 Confederate.

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