The Battle Begins: Fighting East and Southeast of Mt. Defiance

The Battle Begins: Fighting East and Southeast of Mt. Defiance (HM2HHU)

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N 38° 58.025', W 77° 45.738'

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Battle of Middleburg/Mt. Defiance

On a day that promised "scorching" temperatures, the Union attack in the Battle of Middleburg began about 6:00 a.m. The 4th Pennsylvania Cavalry, supported by the 16th Pennsylvania and 10th New York, led the advance. The Southern pickets in Middleburg held on briefly but retired in the face of overwhelming numbers. On the west end of town looking in this direction, Union brigade commander John Irvin Gregg realized the task before him and his men.

Posted along this ridge were now the Confederate brigades of Colonel John Chambliss and General Beverly Robertson. Where you are standing, the Southern line was defended by Robertson's recently recruited and trained 4th and 5th North Carolina Cavalry. With some 250 of the men each holding four horses, this freed about 700 Tarheels to hold nearly a mile of ground, from here due south. Remounting their horses as needed, they could be placed exactly where needed, an increasingly common tactic being used to increase mobility. Having performed less than admirably at Brandy Station on June 9th, they needed to prove themselves here.

The Federals on the left of their line met "obstinate" resistance from forward Confederates of these Carolina units posted behind the walls of the small Cocke family cemetery east and ahead of you here. The headstones and stone

walls provided excellent cover. Confederates also used the Cocke family home just south of the cemetery as part of their defensive position.

Frustrated by the delay, Gregg's superior (and division-commanding cousin) General David MacMurtrie Gregg ordered another of his brigades under Judson Kilpatrick to attack along the turnpike and north of it in support. We'll look at this 10:00 a.m. second assault further along.

Confederate dismounted cavalry was ultimately driven from the Cocke family cemetery and home by the 4th Pennsylvania Cavalry in the Civil War's first dismounted carbine charge.

The heaviest fighting took place in a line of woods to your right. Despite heavy fire from Robertson's North Carolinians, the Pennsylvania troopers charged on foot and horseback, pushing the Rebels back from tree to tree. Driven back, they reformed and attacked again—three times—ultimately led by two mounted companies of the 1st Maine. "They all came out of the woods like a swarm of bees," wrote Colonel Doster of the 4th Pennsylvania Cavalry. Driving the Confederates beyond the woods and to the west, the Mainers were able to capture 45 Confederate cavalrymen, including Lt. Colonel Edward Cantwell of the 4th North Carolina. Cantwell, captured by Captain George M. Brown of the 1st Maine Cavalry, later claimed it "no disgrace being captured

by so chivalrous a soldier." One Union officers later concluded, "When I consider the...peculiar dangers of the situation...I think [this action] is not surpassed in gallantry by any other within my knowledge."

John Irvin Gregg
1st Maine Cavalry, sketch by Alfred Waud Library of Congress
The Battle Begins Map
Year Placed2019
Placed ByNOVA Parks
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Monday, June 3rd, 2019 at 11:02am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 260677 N 4316753
Decimal Degrees38.96708333, -77.76230000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 58.025', W 77° 45.738'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 58' 1.4999999999999" N, 77° 45' 44.28" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling East
Closest Postal AddressAt or near , ,
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