Described by John Esten Cooke, of JEB Stuart’s staff, as “one of the liveliest episodes of the late war” the Bristoe Campaign was a small and seemingly unimportant event sandwiched between the battle at Gettysburg and the Wilderness bloodbath. Bristoe receives scant attention from historians, despite being an attempt by Lee, to seize the strategic initiative. Marking the decline in Confederate leadership, Lee’s inability to compensate, and the growing Union confidence and capability. The campaign outcome was significant; being the turning point of the war as Lee was now on the defensive and from now on, the Union forces held the initiative.
The author, a keen military historian, has been reading, studying and visiting the battles and battlefields of the Civil War, for more than 20 years. Increasingly examining the periods between major campaigns, Adrian read various descriptions of the Bristoe battle, which usually amounted to a one page summary, or a cursory “there was some manoeuvring in October”. So he began to study the campaign, from primary sources, which steadily grew and grew. The research expanded following a visit to the Bristoe battlefield park and other key points such as James City, which led to the decision to write this book.