Wednesday, October 14, 1863
The Twentieth Massachusetts arose at 3:00 A.M in thick fog in response to reconnaissance that Confederate forces were advancing rapidly. General Governeur K. Warren, commanding the Second Corps, wasted no time in advancing to Catlett Station, as Confederate General James Ewell "J.E.B." Stuart's horse artillery fired upon their position. As the Second Corps approached Catlett Station General Warren received a communication from General Andrew Humphreys that the road to Bristoe Station, nearly six miles away, was clear, and that the Fifth Corps would support them as they advanced. General Warren advanced rapidly to Bristoe Station, protecting the Second Corps with coverage on all sides during the advance.
As the Second Corps neared Bristoe Station they observed a large band of Confederates pursuing the Fifth Corps. The Third Brigade of General Alexander Webb's Second Division, commanded by Colonel James Mallon of the Tammany Regiment, observed a looming railroad embankment ahead of them. Perceiving this high ground as a strategic advantage Colonel Mallon raced his Third Brigade, of which the Twentieth Massachusetts was a part, to the embankment.
Major Henry Abbott was concerned that the untested conscript recruits would break during their first encounter under fire. At 3:00 P.M. the Confederates neared the position held by the Twentieth Massachusetts, who received the order to load and fire at will. The Twentieth Massachusetts poured a blistering fire into the Confederates, who rapidly retreated. Major Abbott later reported that the new conscripts behaved as well as seasoned veterans.
As the Confederates retreated Colonel James Mallon arose from his position for observation and was wounded in the abdomen. Tragically, he died later in the afternoon in a field hospital. Colonel Mallon's death was a great blow to the Third Brigade. He was widely respected among his peers, and particularly by his friend Major Henry Abbott.
After nightfall the battlefield became silent. At 9:00 P.M. the Twentieth Massachusetts received orders to withdraw and began an eight-mile march to nearby Bull Run. The weary men of the Twentieth Massachusetts arrived at their destination at 4:00 A.M. Casualties from the battle were exceedingly light, with the Twentieth Massachusetts reporting one man killed and six men wounded.
1Richard F. Miller, Harvard's Civil War: A History of the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (Lebanon, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 2005), 294-302.