By David A. Norris Major Henry B. McClellan should have had a quiet afternoon. At dawn on June 9, 1863, Union cavalry had launched a surprise attack on Maj. Gen. James Ewell Brown Stuart’s forces near Brandy Station, Virginia. Untroubled, the Confederate leader led his men out of camp to deal with the threat, assigning McClellan to remain at their headquarters on Fleetwood Hill. As the recently appointed assistant adjutant general of Stuart’s force, McClellan expected to have little more to do than coordinate and relay reports from mounted couriers. All hope for anything like a routine day vanished when McClellan turned to see several thousand Federal horsemen bearing down on Fleetwood Hill. By mid-1863, Stuart was already a legendary cavalry commander. Born in Virginia in 1833, he graduated from West Point in 1854 and served on the western frontier. In 1859, Stuart took part in capturing John Brown at the arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Joining the Confederacy in 1861, Stuart thrived as a cavalry commander. He had an eccentric fondness for display, wearing a bright yellow sash, a gray cape lined with bright red, and a hat decorated with ostrich plumes. Although a bit of a dandy, Stuart could back up a reputation as a horseback hero. Twice he led his cavalry completely around the Union Army, gathering vital intelligence, tying up thousands of enemy troops, and escaping scot free. After the Confederate victory at Chancellorsville, Stuart’s forces grew, with
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When taken into consideration the relative positions of the two armies in terms of resources and strategic positions just a month later, the Examiner was quite correct. Many more “victories” like Brandy Station for the south and the war would have been over sooner than it eventually was.