The months after Gettysburg had hardly been quiet—filled with skirmishes, cavalry clashes, and plenty of marching. Nonetheless, 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 have quite 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. Quickly, Meade 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 Robert Orrison and Bill Backus 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.
"…an excellent short summary of a complex but often overlooked period of the Civil War. The tactical stalemates of Bristoe and later Mine Run led to the reorganization of the Union war effort in the East and the subsequent Overland Campaign of the Spring and Summer of 1964". (Civil War News)
Rob Orrison and Bill Backus both researched and led the interpretation for the Bristoe Station battlefield.
Rob Orrison has been working in the history field for more than 25 years. Born and raised in Loudoun County, Virginia, Rob received his Bachelor’s Degree in Historic Preservation at Longwood College (now University) and received his Master’s Degree in Public History from George Mason University. Currently Rob serves as the Historic Site Operations Supervisor for Prince William County. Outside of work Rob serves on the Board of Directors of the Mosby Heritage Area Association, Board of Directors of Virginia Civil War Trails; and serves as the Vice President of the Virginia Association of Museums. His published works include: A Want of Vigilance: The Bristoe Station Campaign; The Last Road North: A Guide to the Gettysburg Campaign 1863 and In A Single Blow: The Battles of Lexington and Concord and the Beginning of the American Revolution, April 19, 1775. He currently lives in Dumfries with his wife Jamie and sons Carter and Grayson.
Bill currently works as a historian at a 19th century
historic site in Northern Virginia.