Saturday, June 8, 2013

150th of the Battle of Brandy Station

Brandy Station Review (cf.,

On 9 June 1863, the American Civil War witnessed the largest cavalry engagement of the entire war, this in Culpeper County, Virginia: the Battle of Brandy Station.

The mighty cavalry clash between the mounted forces of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, under J.E.B. Stuart, where surprised and set upon by the horsemen of the Union Army of the Potomac, under Alfred Pleasonton, just south and west of the Rappahannock River.  The two armies had shifted to this front in the wake of the Battle of Chancellorsville the previous month.  The Confederates had about 9,500 in this fight, and the Union 11,000 -- though these numbers seem to vary quite a bit by source!

File:Brandy Station Overview.png
Map of the troop positions just before the start of hostilities at Brandy Station.  Attribution: Map by Hal Jespersen,
The National Park Service describes the battle thus:
"At dawn June 9, the Union cavalry corps under Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton launched a surprise attack on Stuart’s cavalry at Brandy Station. After an all-day fight in which fortunes changed repeatedly, the Federals retired without discovering Lee’s infantry camped near Culpeper. This battle marked the apogee of the Confederate cavalry in the East. From this point in the war, the Federal cavalry gained strength and confidence. Brandy Station was the largest cavalry battle of the war and the opening engagement of the Gettysburg Campaign."

The Union took some 868 casualties to the South's 515.  In the wake of this battle, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia would begin its invasion of Pennsylvania, and the Union horsemen, having gone toe-to-toe with Stuart, were a bit more confident.

Here is a link to the historical sign at the site -- useful for its details, and for pinpointing the location of the modern field:

The Restored Brandy Station Marker
Civil War Trails sign at the site of the battle, at Brandy Station, Culpeper County, Virginia.

The modern Battlefield is in the care of the Civil War Preservation Trust, not the NPS, and they have a wonderful website on the subject, well worth your time:

Live well!

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