About the Topic: Certain battles enjoy wide recognition. References to Gettysburg, Antietam, and Manassas abound in American history textbooks and popular and scholarly Civil War titles. But what about smaller, lesser known battles? Join historian Bill Backus, author of A Want of Vigilance: The Bristoe Station Campaign, October 9-19, 1863, to learn about Robert E. Lee’s last offensive campaign of the Civil War.
Indeed, the months after Gettysburg had hardly been quiet; they were filled with skirmishes, cavalry clashes, and a lot 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."
A Want of Vigilance also includes: a foreword by J. Michael Miller; and appendices about, among other topics, the 1st Maine Cavalry by John R. Tole; the Battle of Rappahannock Station and Kelly’s Ford by Michael Block; the First Battle at Bristoe Station by Jay Greevy; and the Fall of ’63 by Chris Mackowski.
About the Speaker: A native of Connecticut, Bill Backus graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a bachelor’s degree in Historic Preservation. Mr. Backus is currently working for multiple Civil War sites in Northern Virginia, including the Prince William Historic Preservation Division (alongside his wife Paige). He is the Historic Site Manager at Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park, as well as the Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre. Mr. Backus has also worked for the National Park Service at Vicksburg National Military Park and Petersburg National Battlefield. Bill an Paige (and their dog, Barley) reside in historic Brentsville, Virginia.