Aldie, Middleburg and Upperville appreciation

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.

Published in: Uncategorized on November 27, 2006 at 4:45 pm  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks for the insight on O’Neill’s book JD. I’ve owned this one for years and never read it….I’ll have to get around to reading it!

  2. Definitely read it, Mark – as of right now, it’s the only work on the battles. Our new book will update them greatly, but Bob’s book will give you familiarity with the fights, which really must be understood in order to get a feeling for the cavalry movements post-Brandy Station and prior to Gettysburg.


  3. Hi JD,
    First of all, I absolutely love the book, and I’m only three chapters in. You guys did a great job with this one, and I’m looking forward to more in the future from each/ both of you.
    You mentioned Bob O’Neill here. Either you or Eric (can’t remember which) had mentioned in an email that he was working on a cavalry on the peninsula project. Do you know if this is still going to happen? I’ve added his book on AMU to my Christmas list based on this entry and responses alone.
    Keep up the good work!

  4. Thanks Don!

    That must have been Eric who told you about Bob. I was aware of the project, but I don’t believe it was me who passed it on.

    You’ll enjoy his book.


  5. Dear Sir,
    I really enjoy this web site I am a reenactor with the 5th Mass Battery (Captain) but my real interest is with the Cavalry. My great grandfather served with the 1st Rhode Island Cav “D” Co as a sargeant all through the war. I am planning on heading down to Middleburg to see where the regiment got into a scuff with Stuarts men. Is there anyone in that area I could contact to show me and my son around?
    Steve Heinstrom

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