Saving History Saturday: 22 Acres to Save at Bristoe Station

Bristoe Station battlefield is bordered by development. In fact, a compromise between developers and preservationists are the only reason the park exists. Chances to preserve this battlefield are few and far between and become more difficult frequently.

The 22 acres the American Battlefield Trust is attempting to save is at the core of both battles fought at Bristoe Station: the first on August 27, 1862 and the second on October 14, 1863.

During the earlier battle, commonly called the Battle of Kettle Run as part of the Second Manassas Campaign, Richard Ewell’s division slowed the Federal advance towards Stonewall Jackson’s men looting Manassas Junction. After a close quarters fight of a couple hours, John Pope’s Union soldiers drove Ewell back. In the withdrawal and on this 22 acre parcel, a struggle ensued for the colors of the 60th Georgia Infantry. Though briefly captured, the Georgians carried their colors off the field.

Bristoe Station

In 1863, Federal troops occupied the parcel. A.P. Hill’s Third Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, launched an assault towards the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. Joshua Owen’s brigade of New Yorkers, recently redeemed from their reputation as the “Harpers Ferry Cowards,” charged down an open slope to seek the cover of the railroad embankment. As they did, they came under fire from Confederates across the tracks. “The bullets flew about our heads like hail,” remembered a veteran of Owen’s brigade. Owen claimed there was “considerable loss in killed and wounded” during the advance under enemy fire. Owen’s men reached the embankment and repulsed the Confederate attack but suffered more casualties than any other Union brigade engaged at Bristoe Station.

Following the 1863 battle, Rev. Joseph Hopkins Twichell, a survivor of the 1862 battle, visited the recently dug graves from the October 14 action. “Twice baptized in blood for Liberty’s sake, it will be a place to which in after times pilgrimages will be made by those who reverence the glorious, though suffering, past,” he wrote of Bristoe Station. There is no better way to remember the past at Bristoe Station than saving this ground for future generations to walk.

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