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Historical Attractions: The Civil War

Civil War General JEB StuartIn the early 1860's, one of the most hotly contested areas in the world was North-Central Virginia. Culpeper's strategic location made it a highly prized position for both the North and South, and thus the county witnessed more troop movement than any location in the nation. Within the County, Grant headquartered, Lee camped, Jackson fought and Stuart wintered. In fact, there were more than 160 skirmishes in and around Culpeper during the Civil War.

Important Civil War battles were fought in Culpeper County at Cedar Mountain, Kelly's Ford and Brandy Station and within the town of Culpeper Courthouse, now called the Town of Culpeper. On June 9, 1863, more than 17,000 saber-wielding horsemen and 3,000 infantry clashed at Brandy Station in the largest cavalry battle ever seen in the western hemisphere. The Winter Encampment of the Union army during the winter of 1863-64 was the largest encampment of the Civil War, numbering up to 120,000 soldiers.

About an hour's drive east and north of Culpeper, you can visit other significant battlefields including Chancellorsville, Wilderness, Fredericksburg and Manassas.

 

Battle of Brandy Station

Brandy Station battlefield markerThe Battle of Brandy Station raged on June 9, 1863, becoming the largest cavalry battle ever fought on the North American continent. Of the 20,000 soldiers involved, about 17,000 were from the mounted branch. For the first time in the Civil War, Union cavalry matched the Confederate horsemen in skill and determination.

Today, a new type of history is occurring at Brandy Station - Preservation. The Brandy Station Foundation is a community-based organization whose members are dedicated to honoring the many brave Union and Confederate troops who fought and died in and around Culpeper County.

Built as a residence for a local family, the GRAFFITI HOUSE was converted into a hospital after the Battle of Kelly's Ford in March of 1863. Wounded Union and Confederate soldiers, using charcoal from the central fireplace, wrote their names, units, hometowns, messages, and drawings of men, women, and animals on the walls of the home. The graffiti was discovered in 1993 during renovation work to convert the property to commercial use. The Brandy Station Foundation purchased the property in 2002 and operates it as a memorial to all Civil War soldiers.

 

Points of Interest:

  • Grand Review Site: The site of two Confederate cavalry reviews, including the June 8th affair held for Robert E. Lee.

  • Mortal Wounding of "Grimes" Davis: Buford's division, with "Grimes" Davis brigade in the lead, crossed Beverly's Ford early on June 9th. Here it was assailed by "Grumble" Jones' Confederates. In the brief melee Davis was shot from his saddle.

  • St. James Church: The church posted several pieces of Major Robert R. Beckham's horse artillery. This is where the charge of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry took place.

  • Gregg's Attack: This is the place where Gregg's lead brigade under Wyndaham attacked. Gunners of the 6th New York Light Artillery manning three cannons suffered heavy losses. Of the 36 gunners only six survived.

  • Fleetwood Hill: Stuart's headquarters on the eve of the battle. This critical site was where H.B. McClellan ably directed sporadic cannon fire to slow Gregg's attack allowing Stuart to arrive with reinforcements.

Directions to Battlefield: The Graffiti House and battlefield are located 5 miles north of Culpeper at the Virginia Route 663 exit on US Routes 29 & 15, in Brandy Station, VA.

To download a tour of the battlefield from the National Park Service, click here.

 

Battle of Cedar Mountain

Cedar Mountain battlefieldThe Confederate armies had successfully blocked General McClellan's Peninsula Campaign in battles around Richmond in July 1862. Thus, McClellan was withdrawing his battered divisions from that area, while General Pope was driving his Union Army south along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. Crawford and Bank's advance divisions had already secured the town of Culpeper, unaware that Stonewall Jackson was bringing his army of 24,000 (three divisions under A.P. Hill, Winder and Ewell) north from Gordonsville to halt Pope's advance.

On August 9, 1862, the two opposing armies clashed 6 miles south of Culpeper in an area known as Cedar Mountain, along the banks of a little stream called Cedar Run. Here, the only recorded time in the war, Jackson drew his sword. The Confederate Army was victorious. On the morning of August 11, the Federal Troops under a flag of truce requested permission to treat their wounded and bury their dead. That night, under the cover of darkness, Jackson withdrew across the Rapidan and Robinson Rivers, from whence he had come. The Battle of Cedar Mountain was over. Nineteen days later, Jackson defeated Pope's army at the second Battle of Manassas. For more information on the Battle of Cedar Mountain, visit the Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield website.

Cedar MountainPoints of interest:

  • The Gate/Jackson on the Field: Jackson rallied his panic-stricken men near this point after Union attacks shattered the Confederate line.

  • The Confederate Line: Christopher C. Augur's Union attack started from this point, and traversed a cornfield to strike the Confederate line.

  • Crawford's Attack: Samuel W. Crawford's Union attack struck Jackson's line in this area. When Crawford fell back to his original line, four companies of the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry dashed across this area in a rare ill-fated mounted cavalry charge against infantry.

  • Mitchell's Station Road: The Union line ran along the Mitchell's Station Road, now Rte. 649. Union artillery along the road shelled the Confederates across the fields, but took terrible fire from Confederate artillery advantageously located on the shoulder of Cedar Mountain.

  • Augur's Attack: The Cedar Run Creek lent its name to this battle. It was here that Augur's attack started.

  • Last Confederate Line: Confederates drove Nathaniel P. Banks' Union troops from the Mitchell's Station Road past the Cedar Run Baptist church, which sits on its wartime foundation.

Directions to Battlefield: From Culpeper, take Route 15 South, 5.5 miles. Turn right on Route 691/General Winder Road.

To download a tour of the battlefield from the National Park Service, click here.

 

Battle of Kelly's Ford

Kelly's FordFollowing the December 1862 Federal debacle at Fredericksburg, and the infamous Mud March of January 1863, both armies settled into winter camps on opposite sides of the Rappahannock River. Several cavalry raids and skirmishes broke the dull routine of camp life during the long winter. The largest and most important of these occurred on March 17, 1863, near the Rappahannock crossing at Kelly's Ford. This was "the first purely cavalry fight east of the Mississippi River" of any appreciable size - 3,000 Yankees confronted 800 Rebels. The battle was the first opportunity for the Union cavalry to amass a significant force, because the horsemen had been concentrated into a corps only a few weeks earlier.

 

Points of interest:

  • Newby's or Dean's Shop: Once the place of a blacksmith shop, where Fitzhugh Lee's last charge of the battle began.

  • Carter's Run: The final charges of the battle occurred at Carter's Run, first a Confederate charge followed by a Federal counterattack.

  • Level Green - the Brannin House: The original portion of this privately-owned English-style farmhouse was built c. 1780. Owned by Fielding Brannin during the war, a bloody footstep on every step of a stairway serves as testimony to its use as a hospital.

  • Stone Wall and Mortal Wounding of Pelham Monument: Most of the fighting occurred in this vicinity. Union troopers were positioned behind the stone wall along a path, and Confederates attacked across what was once an open field. About 300 yards down a path is a marker near the spot of Pelham's fatal wounding.

  • Kelly's Ford: The river crossing was about 300 yards downstream from today's modern bridge. The west bank of the Rappahannock River was occupied by Confederate defenders when the battle began.

Directions to Battlefield: Take Route 29 North, 8.8 miles to right on Route 674/Kelly's Ford Rd. Bear left after railroad tracks and follow 5 miles to left onto Route 620/Edward's Shop Rd. Turn right into parking lot before bridge.

To download a tour of the battlefield from the National Park Service, click here.

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