The Battle of Middleburg
—Gettysburg Campaign —
After Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's stunning victory at Chancellorsville in May 1863, he led the Army of Northern Virginia west to the Shenandoah Valley, then north through central Maryland and across the Mason-Dixon Line into Pennsylvania. Union General George G. Meade, who replaced Gen. Joseph Hooker on June 28, led the Army of the Potomac in pursuit. Confederate cavalry commander Gen. J.E.B. Stuart cut Federal communications and rail lines and captured supplies. The armies collided at Gettysburg on July 1, starting a battle that neither general planned to fight there. Three days later, the defeated Confederates retreated, crossing the Potomac River into Virginia on July 14.
The morning of Friday, June 19, 1863, dawned hot, humid, and electric with excitement here at this small cluster of buildings known locally as Mt. Defiance. Shouts and shots echoed here from Middleburg, one mile east, where Union cavalry galloped into the town and flushed out Confederate defenders. The Confederates retreated to this prominent ridge, which became the focus of the Battle of Middleburg. It was one of a series of cavalry engagements known as the Battles of Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville.
Just over the Blue Ridge in the distance, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's infantrymen were
marching north. Some had already crossed the Potomac River into Maryland, aiming for Pennsylvania. Confederate Gen. James Longstreet's men, just west of us, hurried along the mountains' eastern edge to catch up. The engagement here occurred as Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry blocked Union efforts to locate and attack Lee's infantry. Two days earlier on June 17, amid intense fighting at Aldie six miles east of here, Stuart's men had thwarted Union Gen. Alfred Pleasonton's repeated attempts to thrust his cavalry west across the Loudoun Valley toward the Blue Ridge. On that same bloody day, Confederate guerrilla leader Maj. John Singleton Mosby captured Pleasonton's orders for the coming week. This enabled Stuart to counter his opponent here and two days later around Upperville, until Lee's infantrymen were safely across the river.
Follow the markers here at Mt. Defiance to unfold the story of the Battle of Middleburg.
1st Maine Cavalry, June 19, 1863
Gen. J.E.B. Stuart · Gen. Alfred Pleasonton All images courtesy Library of Congress
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