On June 9, 1863, the largest cavalry battle of the Civil War began when the Union cavalry initiated a surprise attack on Lee's mounts at Brandy Station. Following Confederate victories at Chancellorsville, Robert E. Lee had marched his army northward in a planned invasion of Union territory that would ultimately erupt at Gettysburg. Toward this effort he stationed a cavalry 9500 men strong under the command of J.E.B. Stuart at Brandy Station. The battle raged all day around Beverly's Ford, Kelly's Ford, St. James' Church, Stevensburg and Fleetwood Hill until finally the exhausted Federals retreated. Yet, the Battle of Brandy Station made the Union Cavalry a force to be reckoned with and deferred, but did not stop Lee's march to Gettysburg.

Visiting Brandy Station Battlefield

Your best bet to tour Brandy Station Battlefield is to start out at Brandy Station Foundation located in the ca. 1858 Graffiti House. Here there is a staffed visitor center providing an orientation to the battle with a film, exhibits and artifacts including several rooms of Civil War soldiers' graffiti. The graffiti includes J.E.B. Stuart's signature as well as Civil War era cartoons and inscriptions. Most touching is a drawing entitled Delivered to Lt. Gale that depicts a woman lifting her petticoats while walking. It is thought that the soldiers would watch ladies getting off the train and lifting their skirts to cross the muddy tracks when coming to visit their husbands at the encampment. This lady, in her ruffles and bonnet, must have come to visit the lucky Lt. Gale. You can see their photos below.

After visiting the Graffiti House, head over to the Civil War Trust trail and interpretive signs at the Brandy Station Battlefield Park on Beverly Ford Road (Route 677) adjacent to Culpeper Airport. The trail is an easy, scenic 2-mile round trip on a mowed grass track and gravel road that leads to Buford Knoll, the site of Rooney Lee's fighting retreat, and offers panoramic views of the steep rolling hills that exhausted Federal mounts and forced their withdraw from the field.

After hiking this trail, head over to the scenic Fleetwood Hill portion of the battlefield located on Fleetwood Heights Road/Rt. 685 about a mile away. Interpretive markers tell the story of how the Union Cavalry attacked J.E.B. Stuart's division and nearly took them down before being forced to withdraw from the field. You can reach this trail by turning right onto Beverly Ford Road from the parking lot. Continue just past the airport and make the right onto Cobb's Legion Road. Make the next right onto Fleetwood Heights Road/Rt. 685. The trail and parking lot will be about 3/4 of a mile down on the left.

This cavalry battle took place over a large area and most of that land is now privately owned farms and estate properties making it difficult to tour and view the entire battlefield on your own. You might want to check out the personal vehicle caravan tours and other battlefield tours and seminars offered by Brandy Station Foundation. An app is also available from Civil War Trust that features a 35-mile, 15-stop in-depth tour of The Battle of Brandy Station. This excellent resource contains driving directions to all stops as well as readings, photographs and interactive media describing the background and battle actions.

Visit Civil War Trust for battle details and information about the preservation of this battlefield.

Pictured at the top: Confederate mounts defended this area along the Civil War Trust trail at Brandy Station Battlefield Park against Union cavalries.

brandy station rooney lees fighting retreat

The Civil War Trust trail at Brandy Station Battlefield Park features a scenic walk along rolling hills and leads to the site of Rooney Lee's fighting retreat.

brandy station lt gale brandy station lt gales lady

A Portrait of Lt. Lyman C. Gale, 10th Vermont Infantry, is on display at The Graffiti House at Brandy Station Foundation along with a charcoal drawing of Lt. Gale's Lady.

brandy station fleetwood hill trail

The Fleetwood Hill Trail is a short scenic walk with interpretive signs describing the battle actions on that portion of Brandy Station Battlefield.