The Struggle for Fleetwood Hill
After Col. Wyndham's assaults, Col. Judson Kilpatrick's Federal brigade crossed the Orange and Alexandria Railroad and stormed Fleetwood Hill from the southeast. The fight for Fleetwood Hill - a classic cavalry battle fought on horseback - became a lethal game of King of the Hill. Sabers clanged against sabers, cannon boomed, pistols rang out, and the choking dust made it difficult to tell "t'other from which," one Confederate recalled.
The hill changed hands several times as the battle devolved into a giant swirling melee: men from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Maine struggled against Virginians, Georgians, Carolinians, and Mississippians.
By late afternoon, the Federals had used all their reserves. Though Brig. Gen. John Buford continued to press back the Confederates on northern Fleetwood Hill, the southern slopes were held by exhausted but triumphant Southerners. After Col. Thomas Munford's fresh Confederate brigade arrived on Buford's flank and rear, the Union commander, Brig Gen. Alfred Pleasonton, saw that further effort was fruitless and ordered his subordinates to pull back across the Rappahannock River.
In nearly 14 hours of fighting, Confederate Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart lost about 500 men killed, wounded, or captured from his total force of 9,700 soldiers; Union Gen. Pleasonton lost some 900 of the 11,000 men under his command. These may seem like small numbers compared to the terrible toll paid at Gettysburg three weeks later, yet veterans remembered Brandy Station with pride as the largest and most hotly contested clash of sabers in a long and bloody war. Union cavalrymen and historians remember June 9 as the day Federal horsemen snatched the mantle of unquestioned superiority from their Confederate opponents. Most important, Robert E. Lee's infantry, poised to set out on their march north toward Gettysburg, remained undiscovered by the Federals.
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