The Battle of Brandy Station After Action Report

Photo and thumbnail from the Civil War Trust

Photo and thumbnail from the Civil War Trust

For more photos visit the Civil War Trust Brandy Station Gallery:


The cavalry event of the season concluded at Brandy Station last weekend and met the requirements for a good weekend: great camaraderie, positive waves, ample mounted action, engaged spectators, good logistics, and historic ground.  Whether you are a horse person who tolerates history or a historian who tolerates horses this event scratched your proverbial itch.  Kudos to Mr. Bud Hall, Norm Hoerer, Trooper Doutt, the 6th Ohio's mess team, Bill Scott, Steve Dunn, and whoever I have forgotten for their efforts at making this thing happen with some cavalry flair.

We camped near the site of the Saint James Church, where the Confederates withdrew their artillery when the Federals burst on the battlefield on 9 June 1863.  On Saturday we rode to Beverly Ford, where the battle opened, and Bud Hall expertly explained how the battle unfolded on that section of the battlefield and then walked us through the actions of John Buford's wing of the Federal Army on this end of the battlefield.  After lunch we rode over to Fleetwood Hill, where General Gregg's wing of the Federal Army attacked.  Here we reenacted the charge of the Federal Army up Fleetwood Hill and had a saber melee with the Confederates in front of an enthusiastic crowd of spectators, mostly youth, who were part of the Civil War Trust's "Generations" program.  Upon our return to camp we educated the same spectators on various aspects of the American Civil War cavalry.  To the 2nd U.S. Cavalry Company A fell the task of demonstrating individual cavalry skills, so we ran at heads and shared some thoughts on the level of horsemanship and coordination required to be successful at it.

Sunday was a running five mile tactical over the same ground that Buford's wing covered, and when I say running I mean it.  The Confederates, though outnumbered, put up a wily and stout fight and the terrain often favored the defense.  Colonel Mike Church, Federal Cavalry Alliance Commander, was overall Federal commander and myself and Major Bob Vance each commanded one of the two companies in the squadron.  The Federal's use of "hammer and anvil" tactics with one company fixing the enemy while the other moved on a flank and hammered them worked on Sunday as it has since the time of the Romans.  As in 1863 fighting through a thick forest was very confusing and rendered command and control difficult, but by continuous pushing we finally reached the open fields that favor mounted action and made superior numbers more relevant than in the forest.

As for our own unit, we acquitted ourselves well, as I expected.  This is the first time I have ridden with a full compliment of officers and NCO's in a long time and the leadership they displayed was remarkable.  We were honored to have attachments from H Co. 2nd U.S., Canada, Maine, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin units increase our numbers to twenty-four.  As usual I didn't have to say much on the field as Sergeant Barry seems to read my mind and knows what I mean when I bark out a few words, point at something, make a cryptic hand and arm signal, or just ride off towards something "interesting."  If anyone was complaining about the wacky terrain I led us through to find weak spots and flanks through the various hedge rows and forests I didn't hear it and I was favorably impressed with the level of horsemanship - or at least hanging on skills - displayed by the unit.  There were a few casualties: my saber fell out at some point and is still on the field and Trooper Tom Poustie decided to give us all a scare and let his horse have the rest of the day off as he and two others were in retrograde motion form a superior body of Confederates.  He is fine, but probably sore now, and my thanks go out to Bill Scott's guys who stayed with him until we got help.  Tip o' the day: take the wooden block out of your cartridge box.

Logistics for the event were more than adequate and joining the 6th Ohio's mess gave us a break from cooking and cleaning. Our own Trooper Doutt and assistant Ethan Dilling kept the water troughs full and were always available to assist.  Hay was available for purchase at a decent rate of $2 for the weekend and we had plenty of Porta-Johns.  All in all there isn't much more that could have been done on that front given the $0 registration fee.

In sum, this was a great event and not marred by any negative waves, injuries to man or beast, or logistical failures.  My sincere thanks go out to the team that put this together (all mentioned above) and the stalwart troopers of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry Company A.  

I think this will be the last Civil War event for me this season as I have things already planned for the weekends of Cedar Creek and Fort Branch.  It has been an honor to command this group of extraordinary characters on the field and I look forward to riding with you next season in whatever capacity comes to pass.  Stay tuned for instructions on how we're going to handle Cedar Creek, a Roll Call and instructions for Fort Branch, and the Winter Meeting.  I will be proposing a mounted training event at Brandy Station for next spring that culminates in a tactical.  It is good ground.

I remain,

Very Respectfully,                                                                                                                             

Your Obedient Servant                                                                                                                 

Scott E. Womack                                                                                                                       

Captain,  Commanding                                                                                                                     

2nd U.S. Cavalry Company A/9th Virginia Cavalry Company D