Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In the March 28th issue of the Culpeper Star Exponent, Nate Delesline discussed the newest book on the Battle of Brandy Station, written by Eric J. Wittenberg. Eric is one of the (if not the) foremost expert on the Army of the Potomac's Cavalry, and a friend of mine. "The Battle of Brandy Station: North America's Largest Cavalry Battle" is an excellent read and with its guided tour (with GPS coordinates), will make a trip to the fields of Culpeper that much more enjoyable.

Examining the Civil War’s Battle of Brandy Station

Nate Delesline III,
Published: March 28, 2010 Updated: March 28, 2010
Author Eric J. Wittenberg thinks history buffs and casual readers alike will enjoy his newest work.
“The Battle of Brandy Station: North America’s Largest Cavalry Battle” was recently published by Charleston, S.C.-based The History Press. This is Wittenberg’s 16th book.
“I worked on gathering the research material that makes up the part of that book for the better part of 15 years,” he said.
Before dawn on June 9, 1863, Union soldiers broke through the fog near the banks of the Rappahannock River to ambush the Confederates. The confrontation of about 20,000 troops between Union Gen. Alfred Pleasanton and Confederate Gen. JEB Stuart lasted all day and is the largest cavalry battle ever fought on American soil.
“What I’ve tried to do is to give people a good, solid tactical narrative that gives some details but is not overwhelming,” said Wittenberg, an attorney in Columbus, Ohio. “If people are interested in hearing the soldiers’ own stories in their own words, they will find plenty of that in this book.”
A native Philadelphian, Wittenberg is an award-winning Civil War historian. His specialty is cavalry operations, with a particular emphasis on the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps. His works have been chosen for study by history and military book clubs.
Wittenberg, who travels, lectures and regularly leads Civil War battlefield tours, also has authored more than two dozen published articles on the war’s cavalry operations. His work has appeared in Gettysburg Magazine, North & South, Blue & Gray, Hallowed Ground, America’s Civil War, and Civil War Times Illustrated.
Online, Wittenberg runs a blog (Rantings of a Civil War Historian) and moderates a popular Civil War discussion group.
He expressed appreciation to local historian Bud Hall for his assistance in bringing the book to fruition.
“I like to consider myself one of his disciples,” Wittenberg said of Hall’s expertise.
The book also includes maps, illustrations and GPS coordinates to help visitors plan a walking or driving tour of the publicly accessible battlefield areas.
About the book“The Battle of Brandy Station: North America’s Largest Cavalry Battle” by Eric J. Wittenberg is now available in paperback for $24.99. The book, 272 pages, can be purchased at historypress.net or amazon.com. More online: Read author Eric Wittenberg’s blog atcivilwarcavalry.com.

It will shortly be available also at the Graffiti House.

Today at Brandy Station: March 30, 1864
A soldier in the 116th Pennsylvania Infantry wrote: This morning disagreeable and muddy, wind cold and raw. Nine of us fixed up an old tent and have a good fire and feel very comfortable to what we did yesterday and last night.
In the 4th Michigan Infantry, a soldier was also doing some repairs to his chimney, after commenting on the weather: "Rained all last night Snowed part of today Built Chimney up above all others in compy." He also attended a Lyceum, to hear what he called spirited arguments. The topic was, "Resolved that Man is a free moral agent."

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Opening Shot

Much, much more happened in Brandy Station besides the fight on June 9, 1863. While THE Battle of Brandy Station was the opening salvos of the Gettysburg campaign, and was the largest cavalry engagement of the war, there were numerous other actions and event that took place on the very same fields. There was also fighting at other locations within Culpeper county: Kelly’s Ford, Cedar Mountain, Rappahannock Station and Morton’s Ford, just to name a brief few. But there was not only fighting -- significant troop movement, and raids in and around the area are part of the history. Additionally, Brandy Station was home to the Army of the Potomac’s winter encampment of 1863-64. Upwards of one hundred and twenty thousand men camped in and around this region. They too, have a story to tell.

This blog will attempt to tell the rest of the story of Brandy Station in the Civil War. It will be derived from photos, letters, reports and diaries from and about the soldiers and civilians who passed through Brandy Station.

Today at Brandy Station will also speak to what is happening today –now– in this small Culpeper County village. And there is much to discuss. National and local organizations are today fighting to save this historic and generally untouched land. If a trooper who fought on these fields in the summer of 1863 could somehow return today, he would observe that not all that much has changed. Yes there is a highway slicing through the battlefield like a dagger and the county airport is atop critical ground where soldiers died. But there a lot that can still be saved.

There are forces at work today that look at the land and see a shopping mall, gas station or an invented ‘historic’ tourist attraction. But, thankfully, other peoples and organizations are out there saving the land for future generations can know the events that took place and the American lives that were lost preserving this countries beliefs and values.

Today at Brandy Station: March 29. 1864
A soldier in the 86th New York Infantry wrote in his diary: “A grand review anticipated on by Gen Grant. Marched almost out on to the ground. Commenced raining, order was countermanded and we retired to camp. Rained all day & night.”
Another, an engineer wrote to his sister: “This has been a cold, wet day and I have had nothing to do, but sit by the fire and think of you ... I has been a long time since I left home, but I suppose that everything is the same ... although I don't think you have felt quite as lonesome as I have today, but I am often troubled with the blues and don't have a great deal of time to think of home…”