Saturday, June 5, 2010

A 'grand display'

Today at Brandy Station: June 5, 1863

Today was a big day for JEB Stuart. Not a happy one for John Minor Botts. Nearly the entire Cavalry Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia gathered in the corn of Bott's farm. Those who could, journeyed from Culpeper and points south by foot, horse, wagon and rail to witness the event.

John Opie, a trooper in the 6th Virgina Cavalry, wrote it was a "brilliant affair and that it was a grand sight to behold this splendid pageant." It was a review of the Army of Northern Virginia's Cavalry.

The event was bracketed by dancing. The previous evening their was a ball at the Courthouse in Culpeper. Afterwards, officers and ladies would celebrate the days events by firelight in front Afton, Stuart's headquarters.

Numbers vary, but between 7 and 10,000 participated. Four regiments were on duty elsewhere, and there were men who were dismounted. Beckham and his horse artillery were on the field.

Stuart left his tents on Afton at 8 am, meaning the horse-soldiers, very familiar with the adage, "hurry up and wait", were doing just that.

The event took several hours. After Stuart and his staff passed his command, they took position on a small hill and the 'review' began. The command turned out and passed. They were led by the horse artillery who, after passing, went into battery on a nearby hill .

Each regiment would pass twice. The first time at a walk, then they as each successful until would pass, they circled back to their starting location and would come forward at a gallop and charge. Beckham's men added to the experience by firing blanks and, moving to alternate locations and again commencing fire.

The activity on Bott's farm did not go unnoticed north of the Rappahannock River. Brigadier General John Buford, commanding the Regular Division, messaged his superior, Brigadier General Alfred Pleasonton that he heard cannon firing near Culpeper and he believed it was a salute. He had been told that Stuart was to inspect his command.

The day ended for the the gray cavalrymen, not with a fire-light ball, but with a return to the regimental camps to care for their horses first, and then finally, in the gathering darkness, themselves.

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