On this day in 1863, at the Battle of Bristoe Station, the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac had their first major encounter since the stinging Confederate defeat at Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863). After Union commanders dispatched two corps to fight in the West, Confederate general Robert E. Lee attacked, but a blunder by A. P. Hill led to two Confederate brigades being destroyed by Union forces concealed behind a railroad embankment; as a result, Confederate general Carnot Posey was killed. Although a nominal Union victory, Bristoe Station led to troubling conclusions for both sides. Hill’s poor performance added to concerns in the Confederate high command that he and Richard S. Ewell had been promoted beyond their abilities. (The two were given corps commands following the death, in May 1863, of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.) Union general George G. Meade, meanwhile, failed to take full advantage of Confederate missteps, strengthening perceptions in Washington, D.C., that the Army of the Potomac needed a new and more aggressive leader.
IMAGE: Harper’s Weekly images of the battle, November 7, 1863