Battle of Brandy Station: June 9, 1863
The Battle of Brandy
Station is mentioned because of the effect it had upon J.E.B. Stuart.
The Battle itself was a major, but militarily inconclusive incident between the
two cavalry armies. But, its effect on Stuart felt was pronounced, as he
felt his force had been dealt a blow that must be vindicated.
The battle took place on June 9, 1863 near the town of Brandy Station, Culpeper
County, Virginia. It began early in the morning, when a Federal cavalry force
of 11,000 men under the command of Alfred Pleasonton
crossed the Rappahannock River. Pleasonton's
plan involved a frontal assualt by Buford
on the Confederate positions north of Brandy Station. In addition, another
Union force under the command of Gregg
would attack from the southeast, behind the Confederate's rear and right flank.
Unfortunately, during the night's staging of June 8,
Duffie's force got lost in the darkness.
Gregg's force was forced
to wait for Duffie
and therefore, both lost the opportunity of the carefully timed attack.
Nonetheless, J.E.B. Stuart was completely surprised by
the attack. Early in the morning Benjamin F. "Grimes"
Davis (under Buford)
attacked Wade Hampton's brigade but soon was forced to fall back. At
that point, the Confederates began to counterattack, but Stuart was made
aware of a column of dust signifying a large force to their southeast. Stuart
heard reports of this possible enemy activity to the southeast, but refused to
recognize that it was a serious threat. Eventually, after hearing the battle to
the southeast increase in intensity, Stuart sent 4 artillery pieces and
two cavalry Regiments (under William "Grumble" Jones) to secure
Fleetwood hill to the southeast. Jones charged directly into Percy
advancing horsemen. After heavy fighting, Wyndham
eventually gained the hill and overran several artillery pieces, but not before
new Confederate units drove his force back down the hill.
After many attacks and counterattacks,
decided to pull across the Rappahannock to form an orderly withdrawal. The
total loss for the battle was 866 Union casualties and 523 Confederate
casualties. The battle had been the largest cavalry engagement on American
soil, but more importantly, it gave the Union cavalry a much needed morale
boost. Even though the Union cavalry was forced from the field, they engaged Stuart's
legendary cavalry and held their own.
Stuart soon found himself heavily criticized for his
ill-preparedness and searching to rebuild his reputation. During the day of the
battle, Stuart was supposed to begin his march north with Lee,
but now he was forced to wait an extra week in order to refit and rest his
After resting, Stuart then takes his force northward,
running circles around several large Union forces in eastern Virginia and
central Maryland. All the while acting as a screening force for Lee's Northern
Army of Virginia.