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…”

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