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[228] attacked the Union right, and the most serious fighting of the day resulted. At four o'clock in the afternoon, a large Confederate infantry force being reported at Brandy Station, General Pleasonton began a general withdrawal of the Union cavalry, a movement which was executed in good order and completed by seven o'clock in the evening without molestation by the Confederates.

This great cavalry battle lasted for over ten hours, and was preeminently a mounted combat, the charges and counter-charges of the opposing horsemen being of the most desperate character. During the day, the First New Jersey Cavalry, alone, made six regimental charges, besides a number of smaller ones; the fighting and charging of the regular and Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry was kept up for over twelve hours; and the other regiments were almost equally engaged through the eventful day.

Commenting on this defeat of the Confederate cavalry at Brandy Station, the Richmond Examiner of that period said:

The surprise of this occasion was the most complete that has occurred. The Confederate cavalry was carelessly strewn over the country, with the Rappahannock only between it and an enemy who has already proven his enterprise to our cost. It is said that their Camp was supposed to be secure because the Rappahannock was not supposed to be fordable at the point where it actually was forded. What! Do the Yankees then know more about this river than our own soldiers, who have done nothing but ride up and down its banks for the past six months?

Brandy Station was really the turning-point in the evolution of the Federal cavalry, which had heretofore been dominated by a sense of its own inferiority to Stuart's bold horsemen. Even the Confederate writer, McClellan, has this to say of Brandy Station and its effect on the morale of the Union cavalry:

Up to this time, confessedly inferior to the Southern horsemen, they gained on this day that confidence in themselves and their commanders

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J. E. B. Stuart (1)
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