Surprises at the Crossing
Rivers and river crossings played an important role in many Civil War battles, including the Battle of Brandy Station. A mile northwest of this spot is the site of Beverly Ford, where the cavalry of both the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and the Union Army of the Potomac planned to cross the Rappahannock River on the foggy morning of June 9, 1863.
Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's 9,700 Southern horsemen were the vanguard of Gen. Robert E. Lee's offensive, which climaxed at the Battle of Gettysburg three weeks later.
The Federals, unaware of enemy activity in the area; sent an 11,000-man force under Brig. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton to "disperse and destroy" the enemy cavalry. Pleasonton split his force to cross the Rappahannock River. Half, lead by Brig. Gen. David M. Gregg, was to cross at Kelly's Ford, and half, led by Brig. Gen. John Buford, was to cross at Beverly Ford. Believing Stuart's cavalry to be at Culpeper Court House, Pleasonton planned for his men to reunite at Brandy Station before moving in for the kill. Stuart's troopers were instead much closer, in the vicinity of Brandy Station.
A detachment of the 6th Virginia Cavalry under Capt. Bruce Gibson was positioned near Beverly Ford that morning. As the Federals splashed across the river at dawn, Gibson shouted: "Stay cool, men, and shoot to kill!" But the Federals were present in force: 4,500 cavalry, 1,500 infantry, 16 cannon. The Battle of Brandy Station, the single largest cavalry engagement of the Civil War, began at this river ford much to the surprise of both armies.
Help Preserve Battlefields · call CWPT at 1-888-606-1400 · www.civilwar.org · The Hallowell Foundation generously contributed toward the interpretation of this site in memory of Carrington Williams.This material is based upon work assisted by a grant from the Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Any opinion, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Interior.