Battle Looms in Northern Virginia

June 8, 1863 – Major General Jeb Stuart staged another extravagant Confederate cavalry review while Federal horsemen closed in on him.

General Robert E. Lee struck his headquarters at Hamilton’s Crossing, south of Fredericksburg, Virginia, on the 6th and headed north to join the main Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. As the troops moved toward the Shenandoah Valley, Confederate cavalry stationed there under Brigadier General General John D. Imboden demonstrated against Romney to divert Federal attention.

Meanwhile, Major General Joseph Hooker, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, ordered scouting expeditions both north and south of Fredericksburg to “feel the enemy and cause him to develop his strength.” Hooker added, “Let your pickets chat enough not to tell him (the enemy) anything, but to find out his regiments.”

Upon learning that Stuart’s cavalry was at Culpeper, Hooker wrote General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck, “As the accumulation of the heavy rebel force of cavalry about Culpeper may mean mischief, I am determined, if practicable, to break it up in its incipiency.”

Hooker planned to send Brigadier General Alfred Pleasonton’s Cavalry Corps, supported by 3,000 infantry in two brigades, to confront Stuart. Pleasonton assembled his two cavalry divisions under Brigadier Generals John Buford and David Gregg, and the infantry under Brigadier Generals Adelbert Ames and David Russell.

However, Hooker continued receiving conflicting reports of Confederates both strengthening and abandoning their defenses at Fredericksburg. It seemed clearer in Washington, where Major General Samuel P. Heintzelman, commanding the capital defenses, wrote General Julius Stahel, commanding Federals at Manassas Junction:

“There is little doubt Lee has moved his army from Hooker’s front. His object is not known. Push a strong reconnaissance into the Shenandoah Valley at once, to acquire any information which may be had of the enemy’s whereabouts or intentions.”

Lee reached Culpeper Court House on the 7th, where two divisions of Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s First Corps were camped, along with three divisions of Lieutenant General Richard Ewell’s Second Corps. Lee wired President Jefferson Davis asking him to approve sending Major General George Pickett’s division at Hanover Junction to rejoin Longstreet’s corps; Lee suggested sending a brigade from the Richmond defenses to replace Pickett’s men.

Lee also urged that reinforcements from General P.G.T. Beauregard’s Confederates at Charleston be sent either to himself or to General Joseph E. Johnston in Mississippi. Administration officials expressed reluctance to send Lee reinforcements, prompting him to offer to return closer to the capital if they feared for their safety.

Confederate General Jeb Stuart | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Stuart sent Lee an invitation to attend a second grand cavalry review at Brandy Station, just north of Culpeper Court House on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. Lee arrived to the cheers of his men and other spectators and pulled his gray horse up to the grandstand. He joined Longstreet and other officers, along with dignitaries and ladies in watching the procession. Major General John Bell Hood’s division was also allowed to attend, provided they behaved like gentlemen.

Stuart’s entire command rode past, consisting of 9,536 officers and men in a three-mile line. They moved at a slow walk in accordance with Lee’s order not to wear the horses out. Lee inspected every regiment as it passed and later said, “Stuart was in all his glory.” However, Lee noted that many units had shoddy weapons and tack. When Stuart rode past with a flowered wreath around his horse’s neck, Lee warned him, “Take care, that is the way General (John) Pope’s horse was adorned when he went to the Battle of (Second) Manassas!”

The festivities ended with the firing of cannon and a mock cavalry battle. Stuart then returned to his headquarters on Fleetwood Hill, across from Brandy Station. His troopers were to screen the infantry’s westward march the next day, but by nightfall his command was spread out over six miles.

Meanwhile, Pleasonton’s Federals moved along the Rappahannock, from Falmouth toward Culpeper. Pleasonton had 11,000 men and six light batteries, with orders to “disperse and destroy” Stuart’s command. Pleasonton split his force into two wings, which were to cross the Rappahannock River at different points and then unite at Brandy Station early the next day. Stuart planned to leave Brandy Station later that day, unaware that such a large Federal force was approaching.

—–

References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 389; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 10; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 18977-85; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 292; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 437; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 305-06; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 5696-708, 5720; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 362; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 286, 307-08

Advertisements

Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

One thought on “Battle Looms in Northern Virginia

  1. […] Battle Looms in Northern Virginia […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: