Bayard’s cavalry rode into Bristoe Station first, having completed their retreat safely from Thoroughfare Gap, only to find Porter’s Fifth Corps departed. Ricketts was yet again by himself with the entirety of the Confederate army nearby. The men were tired from several hours of marching, so Ricketts ordered a rest, but sent Bayard’s horsemen on ahead. Cannon could be heard from the direction of the old battlefield, and McDowell might need his cavalry.
Maxcy Gregg was a South Carolina Fire-Easter (fierce advocate of secession) who pursued eclectic scientific pastimes. At the moment, though, he was in command of the center of Hill’s line along the railroad. Gregg had been ordered to post his brigade of South Carolinians on a little knoll, from which they watched Sigel’s men advance down the turnpike.
Pope had established his new headquarters in Centreville and was busy urging on the men of Hooker’s division of the Third Corps, Army of the Potomac, who were turning onto the Warrenton Turnpike [US 29] at the town, when a staffer reached him and delivered the first news of King’s withdrawal from Brawner’s Farm the night before. Dumbfounded that his order to hold the ground had been ignored (in fact, it had never been received), Pope dashed off orders to McDowell--who he assumed had been the one to ignore the order--to hand over King’s division to Fitz John Porter at Manassas Junction, who should then turn around and march to Gainesville.
The order had barely been sent when John Gibbon arrived personally and launched into an impassioned speech about how important the ground his men had spilt their blood for at Brawner’s Farm was to the battle. Pope repeated the order he had just sent to Gibbon, who turned around and headed back to Manassas Junction to deliver it.
Sigel’s attack kicked off in earnest. Schenck’s two brigades, with Milroy’s brigade extending to their right began advancing down the Turnpike. Confederate artillery fire quickly drew a bead on the Northerners when they exited the protection of Dogan Ridge.
To Milroy’s left, at an oblique, Schurz began his advance aswell. Still believing that the Confederates were only a small number in woods on Matthews’ Ridge, Schurz’s orders reflected a mop-up mission that would allow him to quickly join Schenck’s line.
I formed my division left in front, and after having forded Young’s Branch deployed the First Brigade, under Colonel Schummelfennig, on the right, and the Second Brigade, under Colonel Krzyzanowski, on the left. There was a little farmhouse [the Matthews house] in front of Colonel Schimmelfennig’s brigade, which he was ordered to take as a point of direction, and after having passed it to bring his right wing a little forward, so as to execute a converging movement toward the Second Brigade and upon the enemy’s left flank.
Partially following McDowell’s orders to coordinate with Sigel, Reynolds chose to keep his division well under the cover of Chinn Ridge and march it left over fields with over a quarter-mile gap between it and Schenck.