The Map of the Bristoe Station and Mine Run Campaigns
Author, Bradley M. Gottfried
Review by David Lady
This book is the latest of the Civil War Campaign Maps series (Savas Beatie, publisher). It covers the fighting between the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac in the months after Gettysburg; fighting that lasted into the winter of 1863. These campaigns began along Virginia’s often fought over ‘Dare Mark,’ the Rapidan-Rappahannock River Valleys, from where Confederate and Federal armies had and would launch attacks over three separate campaigning seasons: 1862 (Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run), 1863 (Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Bristoe Station, and Mine Run), 1864 (Wilderness and Spotsylvania).
Generals Robert E. Lee and George Meade led armies not yet recovered from the losses of the Gettysburg Campaign, both weakened further by detachments to the western theater, the South Atlantic coast, and even New York City. Efficient and well-seasoned leaders such as Longstreet, Hancock, Jackson, Reynolds, Hood, and Slocum were no longer with the armies. Their places had only been recently ‘filled’ by unproven or undistinguished successors. These less capable lieutenants would miss opportunities and both Lee and Meade’s offensives would end without significant results.
The author, Dr. Bradley M. Gottfried, is a career educator with a PhD in Zoology who is currently the President of the College of Southern Maryland. He is a prolific and esteemed Civil War historian who has authored nine histories including Roads to Gettysburg, Kearney’s Own: the History of the First New Jersey Brigade, and three earlier volumes of the Civil War Campaign Maps series (First Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg). These three previous map series works have each received a good deal of praise for making extremely complex battles much clearer for the modern reader.
In this book, Gottfried does a very good job relating the goals and plans of the army commanders, as well as depicting the maneuvers and actions of the two armies. His technique is to carefully break the two campaigns into ‘map-sets,’ each comprised of at least one and as many as twelve ‘action-sections.’ Each action section consists of a map depicting the action and, on the facing page, detailed text explaining the action; the text describes the movement, combat, personalities and units involved, and includes quotes from the participants. These action-sections are heavily footnoted and exhaustively researched, utilizing the Official Records, personal memoirs, and well-regarded secondary sources.
This book fills a gap in Civil War scholarship: The Bristoe Station and Mine Run campaigns are among the least-studied in the eastern theater. Given their inconclusive outcome this is understandable, yet the campaigns contain a number of interesting episodes: Large cavalry battles such as Second and Third Brandy Station , Jack’s Shop, Buckland; audacious infantry assaults at Bristoe Station, Rappahannock Station, and Payne’s Farm; the very unusual rear guard fighting at Auburn, where Ewell and Stuart attempted to catch II US Corps on the march, missing their opportunity to destroy this organization by failing to carefully coordinate their attacks against very competent Federal opponents.
After one of the most notorious ‘non-battles’ of the war along the Mine Run Creek, both sides finally entered winter quarters in December, 1863. The armies finished the year where they began it, on the opposite banks of the Dare Mark. General Meade had tried three times to take the offensive during these campaigns, but was each time thwarted by Confederate counter-moves. He knew that he had lost President Lincoln’s confidence and expected to be relieved. He was not relieved, but before the next campaigning season President brought the Union’s most successful general to Washington in order to manage the war effort and command the eastern as well as the western armies.
By contrast, General Lee retained the confidence and support of President Davis, despite Lee’s being only able to “…derange the [Federal] plans of campaign and prolong the conflict.” [Quote of COL Walter Taylor CSA, ADC]. He was deeply disappointed with his own failing health and with not being able to do more to damage the Army of the Potomac.
Some errors will be noted by careful readers, due to incongruities between the text and a number of the accompanying maps: A particular incident will be mentioned in the text and given a reference number, to guide readers to a particular spot on the facing map; yet the number does not appear. Apparently some of the text was edited after the facing maps were developed, and the particular action-section was not given a final reconciling edit. Otherwise the text is generally clear, and most engagements and movements are accurately indicated on the maps.
I recommend this book for students of the eastern theater of the Civil War with an interest in operational (that is to say Army and Corps level) maneuver, and for those interested in combat tactics detailed down to brigade and regimental level.
Sava Beatie publishers plan for this series to cover all of the major eastern campaigns; the next by Mr. Gottfried will be the Maps of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Campaigns.