Second Battle of Auburn
As the Federal army withdrew towards Manassas Junction, Owens and Smyth’s Union brigades (Warren’s II Corps) fought a rearguard action against Confederate Major General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry and infantry of Harry Hays’s division near Auburn, Virginia, with Stuart’s cavalry boldly bluffing Warren’s infantry and escaping disaster. The II Corps pushed on to Catlett Station on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad.
As the sun rose on the morning of the 14th Stuart was still trapped. During the night French's III Corps had continued their movement and had nearly cleared the area but Warren's troops were still nearby and with full daylight coming the chance to remain undiscovered lessened. Ewell's Corps, and Fitzhugh Lee's division of cavalry were on there way to assist but the situation was still tense. The Federal II Corps began their movement out of the area at 0300 but found the road badly distrubed by the passage of the III Corps. The column bogged down badly in the mud and Warren was forced to deploy BG John Caldwell's on the high ground north of Cedar Run to act as a guard while the trains were freed from the mire. The 10th New York Cavalry was sent out to picket the road to the north. They were directly in the path of Ewell's lead division, under MG Robert Rodes, who were coming to Stuart's rescue. With the opportunity to stop and no enemy in sight members of the 57th New York marched into position on the hill.
"After reaching the top of the hill the boys began making fires, got water, put on coffee cups, pulled off shoes and stockings, stood them around to dry and sat waiting for breakfast."
As the surrounding troops of II Corps began to dissipate Stuart was longer satisfied to wait. Viewing the relaxed atmosphere on the hill Stuart saw not only an opportunity to make good his escape but to inflict some damage on the Federals. He called up the horse artillery of Maj Robert Beckham and placed the seven pieces on a small rise about 800 yards from the Union line. Just as Rodes men began to engage the vedettes of the 10th New York Cavalry he ordered Beckham to open on Caldwell's position. The fire from an unexpected direction caught the Union command by surprise but they soon had Battery F, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery in position to face the Confederate batteries. While the opposing guns traded shots the brigade of BG Aleaxander Hays was sent to confront the new threat. Five companies of the 125th New York took the advance as skirmishers and moved east on St. Stephen's Road toward the Confederate guns followed closely by the rest of the brigade. Realizing he could not stand against such a threat Stuart sent Gordon's Brigade to conduct a spoiling attack on the enemy advance.
Gordon's initial attack had the desired effect and Hays strengthened his skirmish line with the 126th New York and formed a line with the 8th and 111th New York. While New Yorkers deployed Stuart ordered Beckham to prepare his guns for movement. To gain additional time Gordon was asked to charge the Federal line again. Gordon selected the 1st North Carolina Cavalry of COL Thomas Ruffin for the task. The "gallant charge" allowed the rest of Stuart's command to escape "the very unpleasant situation" by riding hard to the south, The cost was high for the attackers, Gordon was wounded and Ruffin killed. The remnants of the regiment galloped after the escaping Stuart and later rejoined the command as they linked with Fitzhugh Lee.
Meanwhile Rodes division pressed in on the Union position from the north. Again the Union artillery shifted to meet the threat. Battery A 1st Rhode Island Light artillery (replacing the 1st Pa Battery) and Battery G 1st New York Light Artillery moved into position and engaged at about 1500 yards. The weight of their contribution stopped the Confederate advance and the fight evolved settled into an artillery duel. By 1100 and after 200 rounds from the Union guns both sides determined that they had accomplished the desired result. Stuart had been saved and the Union trains had completed their passage towards Catlett's Station. Since neither side had intended battle here both were eager to withdraw their forces. The battle at Coffee Hill cost a combined total of 100 casualties.