Brandy Station Battlefield Park in Culpeper County, Virginia

Visit the scene of the largest cavalry battle on American soil, where sabres flashed and Union troopers ended Confederate cavalry dominance in Virginia.

The Battle of Brandy Station (aka Fleetwood Hill) was fought on June 9, 1863 between Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton and Confederate forces commanded by Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart around Brandy Station, Virginia, during the American Civil War. The battle, which inaugurated the Gettysburg Campaign, was a marginal Confederate victory, resulting in a total of 1,430 casualties.

Late in May 1863, fresh off their victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia moved into Culpeper County in preparation for a march north to take the war into Union territory. Secrecy was essential, since Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker’s Union Army of the Potomac was still camped nearby. It was J.E.B. Stuart and his 9,500 horsemen’s job to shield Lee’s army, and Alfred Pleasonton’s job to find out what Lee was up to.

Pleasonton had at his disposal approximately 8,000 of his own troopers and 3,000 infantry from the V Corps. He divided his force into two wings and crossed the Rappahannock River at Beverly’s Ford and Kelly’s Ford, intending to envelop what he believed to be a smaller Confederate force. If not for poor coordination and quick action by Stuart, he nearly succeeded.

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Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park in Pocahontas County, West Virginia

Visit the scene of West Virginia’s largest Civil War battle, with breathtaking mountain views.

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The Battle of Droop Mountain was fought on November 6, 1863 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. William W. Averell and Confederate forces commanded by Brig. Gen. John Echols in Pocahontas County, West Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was a complete Union victory, resulting in 394 total casualties. It effectively ended Confederate resistance in western Virginia.

In October 1863, Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Kelley, commander of the Department of West Virginia, ordered Brig. Gen. W.W. Averell to clean out Confederate troops from the newly formed Union state of West Virginia. On November 5, 1863, Averell attacked Confederate forces under Col. William L. Jackson (approximately 600 men) at their supply depot at Mill Point. The outnumbered Confederates withdrew to Droop Mountain, where they were reinforced by Brig. Gen. John Echols’ brigade from Lewisburg, a 28-mile march. His exhausted men arrived just in time.

When Averell commenced his attack at 10am on November 6th, Echols and Jackson’s combined command totaled no more than 1,700 men (including 1,110 under Echols), while Averell brought approximately 5,000 to the fight. The fiercest fighting occurred in dense woods and steep terrain on the Confederate’s left flank. Union forces pushed their foes back into their mountaintop trenches, where a final assault by Averell’s combined force sent them fleeing for the rear. Brothers Frank and Harrison Dye fought on opposite sides of the battle, embodying why the Civil War was truly considered a war of “brother against brother.”

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Oriskany's Spectral Battlefield

Some visitors insist the sights, sounds, and smells of this bloody Revolutionary War ambush still linger after dark.

The Battle of Oriskany was fought on August 6, 1777 in Oneida County, New York during the siege of Fort Stanwix. It was an attempt by Tories and British Iroquois allies to ambush a Patriot relief column headed for the fort. Heavy rain and dogged defense by the colonists and their Oneida allies saved them from destruction. While Fort Stanwix is widely believed to be haunted, the Oriskany battlefield has its own reputation for the macabre.

As British forces lay siege to Fort Stanwix, 800 Tryon County militia and Oneida warriors under General Nicholas Herkimer rushed to its defense. The British were alerted to their approach and a force of approximately 1,200 British troops and Iroquois braves under Sir. John Johnson and Joseph Brant planned an ambush. Just six miles from their objective, in a marshy ravine, Seneca warriors waited for the column of Colonial militia.

Impatient, the Seneca warriors opened fire before completely entrapping the Colonial militia. General Herkimer was shot in the leg, but refused to be carried from the field. “I will face the enemy,” he said. The battle raged over several hundred yards. A thunderstorm interrupted the fighting, giving the colonists time to establish a last line of defense on a hill while British reinforcements left their camps outside Fort Stanwix to join the battle.

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The Battle of Mamaroneck, Oct. 1776

A surprise attack on Rogers’ Rangers ends in defeat for American forces in this little-known Revolutionary War skirmish.

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The Battle of Mamaroneck (also known as the Skirmish of Heathcote Hill) was fought on October 22, 1776 between American patriot troops commanded by Col. John Haslet and British loyalist forces commanded by Maj. Robert Rogers in Westchester County, New York during the American Revolutionary War. The battle ended in British victory when Rogers’ men rallied and drove off their attackers.

Maj. Robert Rogers was the celebrated commander of an irregular force called Rogers’ Rangers during the French and Indian War. He stayed loyal to the British during the Revolution and formed the Queen’s Rangers. When George Washington retreated to White Plains, New York after a series of disastrous defeats, the Continental Army found Rogers’ 400-man regiment encamped at Mamaroneck, separated from the main British army.

The task fell on Col. John Haslet and his 750-man regiment, the “Delaware Blues”, to isolate and destroy Rogers’ force. They approached in total darkness, where they stumbled upon a well-placed advanced guard of 60 men. Though the Patriots overwhelmed them and captured 30 men, the struggle alerted Rogers to their attack.

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1863 Rappahannock Station Battlefield in Fauquier County, Virginia

Not much remains to mark the scene of one of Robert E. Lee’s biggest military blunders.

The Second Battle of Rappahannock Station was fought on November 7, 1863 between Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick and Confederate forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Jubal Early near Rappahannock Station, Virginia during the American Civil War. This devastating Confederate defeat cost Robert E. Lee two veteran brigades and resulted in over 2,000 total casualties, mostly Confederate.

After defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863 and months of inconclusive maneuvers in northern Virginia, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee withdrew his 45,000-man Army of Northern Virginia south of the Rappahannock River to wait out the winter. He left a small force on the north bank of the river to guard a pontoon bridge near Rappahannock Station, where he hoped to compel Union Maj. Gen. George G. Meade to divide his 76,000-man Army of the Potomac and expose it to attack.

Meade divided his army as anticipated, but things didn’t go well for the Confederates. Meade sent Maj. Gen. William H. French’s III Corps to cross the Rappahannock River at Kelly’s Ford and Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick’s VI Corps to attack Lee’s bridgehead at Rappahannock Station. On November 7, Union troops brushed aside the Confederate defenders at Kelly’s Ford, while Sedgwick bombarded Maj. Gen. Jubal Early’s division at the bridgehead. The delayed attack tricked Lee into thinking Sedgwick’s advance was only a diversion, so he sent no help to Jubal Early.

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Kettle Run Battlefield in Prince William County, Virginia

This often-overlooked prelude to the Second Battle of Bull Run saw combat between New York’s ‘Excelsior Brigade’ and the ‘Louisiana Tigers’.

The Battle of Kettle Run (aka First Bristoe Station) was fought on August 27, 1862 between Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker and Confederate forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Richard S. Ewell in Prince William County, Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle resulted in approximately 450 to 550 total casualties and was a tactical Union victory, though Confederate forces were able to destroy two trains and miles of railroad before withdrawing.

Bristoe Station was a stop on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, an important rail line running north-south from Alexandria, Virginia to Gordonsville. It formed the northern half of the only rail link between the Union and Confederate capitals at Washington, D.C. and Richmond. During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate armies sought to control this railroad for themselves or deny its use to the enemy.

In August 1862, Confederate General Robert E. Lee sent Maj. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s wing on a flanking march around Maj. Gen. John Pope’s Army of Virginia to strike at Pope’s supply base at Manassas Junction. On August 26, Jackson’s men raided the Orange & Alexandria Railroad at Bristoe Station and moved north.

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Hoke’s Run/Falling Waters Battlefield in Berkeley County, West Virginia

Scattered markers and signs amidst modern buildings and highways are all that remain to mark the scene of this early Civil War battle.

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The Battle of Hoke’s Run (Falling Waters/Hainesville) was fought on July 2, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson and Confederate forces commanded by Col. Thomas J. Jackson in Berkeley County, West Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was a tactical Union victory, though it allowed Confederate forces to concentrate and achieve victory at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21. Hoke’s Run resulted in 114 total casualties.

After the Commonwealth of Virginia formally seceded on May 23, 1861, Union troops moved to secure territory bordering Maryland and Washington, DC. Confederate Col. Thomas J. Jackson’s 4,000-man brigade was ordered to delay the Federal advance toward Martinsburg, then a town in Virginia (today, West Virginia). On July 2, 1861, Union Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson crossed the Potomac River with two brigades totaling approximately 8,000 men.

Jackson, who would go on to earn the nickname “Stonewall” and become one of the Confederacy’s most famous generals, deployed his men and four artillery pieces in Patterson’s path just south of Falling Waters. A brief fight erupted, Col. J. J. Abercrombie’s brigade turned Jackson’s right flank, and Jackson fell back. After two miles, Patterson broke off pursuit and ordered his men to make camp.

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Blackburn’s Ford Battlefield

A couple interpretive signs are all that mark the location of this prelude to the first major battle of the Civil War.

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The Battle of Blackburn’s Ford was fought on July 18, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler and Confederate forces commanded by Brig. Gen. James Longstreet in Prince William and Fairfax Counties, Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was a Confederate victory and resulted in 151 total casualties.

In mid-July 1861, Union Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell’s 35,000-man Army of Northeastern Virginia advanced into Virginia toward the railroad junction at Manassas. Standing in his way was the 22,000-man Confederate Army of the Potomac under Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard. At Centreville, McDowell ordered Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler’s division to look for a crossing over Bull Run Creek at Blackburn or Mitchell’s fords. At Blackburn Ford, Tyler saw only a few Confederate artillery pieces and ordered forward a single brigade commanded by Col. Israel B. Richardson.

Tyler failed to see Brig. Gen. James Longstreet’s brigade hidden in the woods on the opposite shore. The inexperienced combatants subsequently slugged it out in the oppressive afternoon heat, until the 12th New York Infantry Regiment began to withdraw. After several hours of fighting, Union troops fully retreated in the face of Confederate reinforcements under Col. Jubal A. Early.

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