ECW Series: “A Want of Vigilance: The Bristoe Station Campaign” by Bill Backus and Robert Orrison

“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.” — Rev. Joseph Hopkins Twitchell, 71st NY Infantry

Vigilance-coverA Want of Vigilance: The Bristoe Station Campaign, October 9-19, 1863
by Bill Backus and Robert Orrison

Savas Beatie, Fall 2015
192 pp.; 10 maps; 141 images
ISBN: 978-1-61121-300-3

A Want of Vigilance ranks among the best entries in the ECW series to date and one looks forward to seeing more work from authors Backus and Orrison.” Civil War Books and Authors

*    *     *

About the Book: The months after Gettysburg had hardly been quiet—filled with skirmishes, cavalry clashes, and plenty of marching. Nonetheless, the Union commander, Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade, had yet to come to serious blows with his Confederate counterpart, Gen. Robert E. Lee.

“Lee is undoubtedly bullying you,” one of Meade’s superiors goaded.

Lee’s army—severely bloodied at Gettysburg—did not quite have the offensive capability it once possessed, yet Lee’s aggressive nature could not be quelled. He looked for the chance to strike out at Meade.

In mid-October, 1863, both men shifted their armies into motion. Each surprised the other. Meade quickly found himself racing northward for safety along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, with Lee charging up the rail line behind him.

Last stop: Bristoe Station.

Authors Bill Backus and Rob Orrison have worked at the Bristoe Station Battlefield, which is now surrounded by one of the fastest-growing parts of Virginia. In A Want of Vigilance, they trace the campaign from the armies’ camps around Orange and Culpeper northwest through the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and along the vital railroad—to Centreville and back—in a back-and-forth game of cat and mouse: the “goggle-eyed snapping turtle” versus “the old gray fox” pitted against each other in one of the most overlooked periods of the war.

*    *     *

A Want of Vigilance also includes:

  • A foreword by J. Michael Miller
  • Appendix A:”Bury These Poor Men”: Lee and Hill at Bristoe Station by Bill Backus
  • Appendix B: The Adventure-Filled Reconnaissance of the 1st Maine Cavalry by John R. Tole
  • Appendix C: “Miserable, miserable management”: The Battle of Rappahannock Station and Kelly’s Ford by Michael Block
  • Appendix D: “A Handsome Little Fight”: The First Battle at Bristoe Station by Jay Greevy
  • Appendix E: Remembering the Fall of ’63 by Chris Mackowski
  • Appendix F: A Chronology of Bristoe Station Preservation Efforts
  • Order of Battle
  • Suggested Reading

*    *     *

Read More About the Book:

Emerging Civil War correspondent Liam McGurl did an interview with Rob Orrison about the book on Dec. 7, 2015: “An Author of Vigilance: An Interview with ECW’s Rob Orrison

*    *     *

About the Authors: Rob Orrison and Bill Backus both researched and led the interpretation for the Bristoe Station battlefield. Rob, a contributor to Emerging Civil War, has been working in the history field for more than 20 years. He currently oversees the day-to-day operations of a municipal historic site program in Virginia. Bill currently works as a historian at a 19th century historic site in Northern Virginia.