As a cavalry nut, the June 1863 cavalry fights at Aldie, Middleburg and Upperville (“AMU”) in Virginia have always been of great interest to me. The first time I had an in-depth tour and discussion of them was a number of years back with my friend Robert F. O’Neill. Eric Wittenberg, Mike Nugent and I were on one of our cavalry-related tours (which we affectionately call “CavFest”) and we enlisted Bob to give us a personalized tour of these sites. Bob has written the only book-length treatment of the fights. Appropriately subtitled “Small But Important Actions,” the book is a volume in the HE Howard VA Civil War Battles and Leaders series. Bob’s book is one of the well-written standouts of this otherwise often mediocre series. Along with the tour of AMU, Bob took us to many sites in Mosby country and we had a memorable, educational time.
Fought between the massive cavalry battle at Brandy Station on June 9, 1863, and the Gettysburg battle the following month, the scraps at AMU are hardly known and little thought of by most students and scholars, and hardly mentioned in any works of the campaign. I’m beginning to appreciate, however, just how important these fights were to the veterans. They certainly didn’t forget the hard times they experienced at AMU, and they took every opportunity to reminisce about them.
I’ve long had quite a collection of accounts by veterans in newspapers such as the National Tribune and others, and the regimental histories of participating units treat AMU in good detail. Bob’s book brought many of these sources together into a cohesive account that places the fights in their proper context within the campaign. Recently, though, I set my researcher on a course to begin finding everything he could on AMU for the 3-volume Gettysburg Campaign project Eric and I are penning.
My recent couple of packages from my researcher astounded me as I went through them. There are hundreds of sheets which are copies of reminiscences by veterans of the 1st Maine Cavalry, particularly of Aldie. I guess I’m astounded because of all the scraps these troopers went through – Brandy Station in particular, and hundreds of others – these men and many of other regiments wrote so much on AMU. These sources will add greatly to my and Eric’s narratives of these fights between Jeb Stuart’s and Alfred Pleasonton’s cavalries. I had anticipated that our first volume about the campaign’s cavalry actions would include a pretty detailed chapter each on these three scraps, going beyond even O’Neill’s treatment, but now I can see that we will have an even larger treasure trove of primary accounts to draw upon than I had previously imagined. I hope that we can give these “small but important riots” the attention they deserve, and I’m confident that we’ll bring an enormous amount of participants’ own quotes to bear toward that effort.