Battle of Brandy Station "Greatest Cavalry Battle" June 9, 1863
Confederate cavalry commander Gen. Jeb Stuart was extremely proud oh his enlarged command of five brigades of cavalry. He staged a grand review for the young Virginia ladies of the area, accompanied by two balls, with, of course, Gen. Robert E. Lee invited. On June 5 and again on June 8, nearly 10,000 gray horsemen passed under the admiring gaze of the dignitaries and guests assembled on the hills surrounding the long, wide parade ground. But Lee had little time for parades. It was just a month after his great victory over the Union Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Chancellorsville, and Lee had already begun the movements of his next strategic ploy, another invasion of the North- this time, possibly up into Pennsylvania.
Union army commander Gen. Joseph Hooker, wanting to know the truth about a rumored Confederate offensive, ordered cavalry commander Gen. Alfred Pleasonton to take his cavalry corps and undertake a reconnaissance in force into Rebel-held territory across the Rappahannock River. At 4:00am on June 9, 1863, the day after Stuart's last grand review, 11,000 Union soldiers splashed across the Rappahannock River at two different fords and brushed aside or captured Stuart's cavalry pickets. The surprised Confederates quickly regrouped and hotly contested the ground as they gave way and withdrew toward Brandy Station.
Stuart, at his headquarters on Fleetwood Hill overlooking Brandy Station, knew that the sounds of battle could only mean that a Union force was crossing the river, and he quickly began concentrating his scattered brigades to confront the attack. Soon the former parade ground and adjoining hills were filled with great masses of swirling, saber-wielding horsemen, charging and counterattacking in the greatest cavalry battle ever fought in North America.
Fascinating Fact: Before the Battle of Brandy Station, Stuart's Confederate cavalry had consistently beaten and humiliated the Union cavalry. The confidence the blue troopers gained by attacking and fiercely fighting the gray horsemen in this battle helped enable them to fight the rest of the war on equal terms.
Back to index page