Brandy Station: A Battle Like None Other. Richard E. Crouch. Hardbound, 2002, New, Illus., Index, 292 pp.
Brandy Station was a battle like none other. Cavalry against cavalry, with close to 10,000 horsemen on each side, much of it was fought with sabres alone. Both attackers and defenders were taken by surprise, and how the soldiers and commanders reacted with great courage, cleverness and resourcefulness is definitely, even in the year 2002, a story of heroism for our time. This comprehensive but fast-moving study of the great mounted struggle near Culpeper, Virginia, on June 9th of 1863 brings to life that story with all the epic sweep of a great narrative. It includes much material that has long been out of print, and much manuscript material published here for the first time.
The story of the largest cavalry engagement ever fought on the American continent includes the experiences of large numbers of individual soldiers and civilians who witnessed, participated, and lived through that extraordinary day. At Brandy both commanders operated on inadequate intelligence and heaping measures of overconfidence, and the North’s ambitious plan for a coordinated assault from widely separated points quickly went awry. Though the day of the horse cavalry is long gone, the tactical and strategic lessons for modern commanders from Brandy Station are vital, numerous and clear.
In addition to a straightforward telling of the battle’s dramatic story without semiotics or deconstruction, this book includes the setting, the causes and effects of the battle, the little-known role of the infantry, the commentary in both Civil War and modem times, and the long-range effect on the futures and fortunes of the Union and Confederate Cavalry. Also covered are the role of spies and intelligence operatives, the controversy over failures of the scapegoated subordinate commanders, the unseemly excuse-making of the leaders, and a detailed look at the official reports.