J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the tag “Brice’s Crossroads”

Confederate Cavalry

battle-of-brandy-station-counter-attack

Over one hundred and fifty years ago, two significant Civil War cavalry battles took place. The first was on June 9, 1863, and was the largest cavalry battle to take place in North America. The battle near Brandy Station, Virginia, occurred after Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart’s troopers were surprised by Union General David McMurtrie Gregg’s cavalry forces. The battle was a turning point for the Confederate cavalry. Up until then, they were far superior to the Federal cavalry, but the Yankees improved their skills, and by 1863, became worthy foes. This event lead up to the Battle of Gettysburg. My novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, describes the Battle of Brandy Station, and explains the events the happened before and after, such as three Grand Reviews that General Stuart staged prior to the attack.

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Another cavalry battle took place at Brice’s Crossroads, Mississippi, on June 10, 1864, where the infamous General Nathan Bedford Forrest outflanked and outmaneuvered his foe. The battle marked another significant achievement in the Western Theatre, as General Forrest outfoxed nearly twice as many opponents. His genius has been a subject of study ever since.

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Battle of Brice’s Crossroads

(Painting by John Paul Strain)

One hundred and fifty years ago today, a significant battle took place at Brice’s Crossroads, Mississippi. The battle would prove to be General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s greatest victory of the war, and the best example of his strategic genius. It has been referred to as the perfect battle, and has been studied by contemporaries in battle strategy, including German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel during WWII.

On the evening of June 9, Forrest was informed that Union forces were approaching Brice’s Crossroads. When the morning dawned, he realized that the Federals would have to contend with the heat and humidity, which was something Northerners were unaccustomed to.

“Their cavalry will move out ahead of their infantry,” he told Confederate Colonel Edmund Rucker, “and should reach the crossroads three hours in advance. We can whip their cavalry in that time. As soon as the fight opens, they will send back to have the infantry hurried up. It is going to be hot as hell, and coming on a run for five or six miles, their infantry will be so tired out we will ride right over them.”

Forrest was following one of his homely but spectacularly effective combat aphorisms, one he stated again to Captain John W. Morton, Jr. while riding in pursuit of the routed Federals. “Get ‘em skeered, and then keep the skeer on ‘em.”

Forrest’s prediction proved accurate. Using the topography and heavy undergrowth to his advantage, he bluffed the Union cavalry into believing his forces were larger than they actually were. The Confederates charged, colliding with Federal cavalry. The battle devolved into hand-to-hand combat. By 12:30, the Federals retired from the field.

A half hour later, Union General Samuel D. Sturgis’ 8,500 foot-weary soldiers came up. The tremendous heat of the midday sun bore down on the men, who were given little time to rest. Forrest commanded his soldiers to charge, and the two sides again collided, resulting in close combat.

By 5:00, a final attack was made on the Federals. The charge was a classic Forrest tactic: a fierce attack in the front and a charge on both flanks and in the rear. Forrest, astride King Phillip, placed himself ahead of his Special Forces and ordered a pursuit.

Commanding his artillerists to charge the enemy with their guns, he said, “Give ‘em hell right over yonder where I’m going to double ‘em up.” His action is believed to have been the first time a commander ordered his guns forward in a charge without immediate support.

The 3,500 cavalrymen spurred into action, and as one member of the Seventh Tennessee Cavalry later reported, the fighting was intense.

When our movement was too slow to suit Forrest, he would curse, then praise and then threaten to shoot us himself, if we were so afraid the Yanks might hit us… He would praise in one breath, then in the next would curse us and finally said, “I will lead you”… guns once fired were used as clubs and pistols were brought into play, while the two lines struggled with the ferocity of wild beasts.

As before, Forrest paraded his soldiers to make them appear larger in numbers. The Confederates drove off their attackers and captured sixteen of their artillery pieces. Ordered to give chase, they fired on the retreating Federals, hitting wagons, killing horses and mules, and stampeding the Union soldiers. Drivers abandoned their wagons. Sturgis ordered the wagons burned, but Forrest’s men managed to save over 100, salvaging their contents of food, ammunition, and supplies.

General Forrest outfoxed nearly twice his opponents. His genius has been a subject of study ever since.

 

The Cavalry to the Rescue!

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the largest, most famous cavalry battle to ever take place on North American soil, which happened during the War Between the States at Brandy Station, Virginia in 1863. The flamboyant J.E.B. Stuart and his boys were confronted by the enemy in a surprise attack. After clashing, capturing several Union guns, and chasing their adversaries off, the Rebels came out victorious, although they were greatly surprised and outnumbered. This event lead up to the great battle of Gettysburg. In my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, I discuss the Battle of Brandy Station at length, and explain the events the happened before and after, such as three Grand Reviews that General Stuart staged prior to the attack.

 

Another cavalry battle took place at Brice’s Crossroads, Mississippi, on June 10, 1864, where the infamous General Nathan Bedford Forrest outflanked and outmaneuvered (as usual) his foe. The battle marked another significant achievement in the Western Theatre, as General Forrest outfoxed nearly twice as many opponents. His genius has been a subject of study ever since, and was used by the German’s during WWII.

Saved By the Cavalry!

This weekend marks anniversaries of two very significant cavalry battles that took place during the Civil War. Saturday will be 149th anniversary of the Battle of Brandy Station in Virginia. It was the largest cavalry battle to ever take place on American soil, and yet, it is obscure in that most people have never heard of it. The battle was a confrontation between Confederate cavalry commanded by General J.E.B. Stuart, and Union cavalry under General David Gregg. It was considered a Confederate victory, even though it was more like a draw, and the Rebels were taken by surprise, which nearly cost them the battle. For more information, please read my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire.

On the battlefield is a fascinating piece of history that was nearly lost. The Graffiti House stands near the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. After years of neglect, the building was almost demolished, but in 1993, a discovery was made. Under layers of paint, signatures of both Union and Confederate soldiers, along with drawings they made, were written in charcoal on the walls, one of which was by General Stuart himself. Since that time, the structure has become part of the Brandy Station Foundation, and is in the process of being restored.

Another significant event, which took place on June 10, 1864, was the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads in Lee County, Mississippi. Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s 4,787 cavalrymen confronted the 8,100 troopers of Union General Samuel D. Sturgis. Despite the odds, Forrest came out victorious. It is a remarkable example of how his genius prevailed by the use of better military tactics, mastery of the terrain, and aggressive use of offensive action. 

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