Osprey volume #201 of the Campaign Series is entitled Brandy Station 1863: First step towards Gettysburg. The author is Dr. Daniel Beattie, long considered one of the experts in this fight, and the man who wrote the text for many of the wayside markers around the battlefield. Lavishly illustrated with color photographs of the modern battlefield taken by Dan and his wife, as well as Adam Hook’s usual excellent drawings and sketches, this is one of the best treatises on Brandy Station you will find. At 96 pages, it cannot possibly fulfill the needs of researchers or readers wanting very detailed accounts of the fight and the events leading up to it, but Beattie draws upon his years of study to develop a thorough overview that lacks nothing in terms of giving the reader a solid understanding of what transpired and why. This should become the first book you recommend to friends who want an overview of the largest cavalry battle of the Civil War.
Chapter 1 covers the Opposing Plans — a brief look at why the summer operations became an invasion and what Lee was trying to accomplish. Likewise, Beattie introduces the Federal War Department’s goals and objectives. The next chapter examines the Opposing Commanders, particularly J.E.B. Stuart and Al Pleasonton, as well as their superiors – Lee and Hooker. Beattie is objective, fair, and accurate in his assessment of the officers, paying attention to the conditions that led to the critical decisions of the Gettysburg Campaign. In Chapter 3, Beattie dives into the Battle of Brandy Station and gives a very concise, but well written and highly readable account of the multiple actions and manuevers that comprised the day-long fight.
Beattie does not leave the reader hanging with the conclusion of the fight at Brandy Station. The fourth chapter gives a nice overview of the context of Brandy Station within the larger summer campaign, including Stuart’s successes in screening the mountain passes from Pleasonton’s force as it advanced westward across the Loudoun Valley. Finally, the author gives a brief tour of The Battlefield Today, with a summation of recent preservation efforts . The book is rounded out with suggested readings and a comprehensive index.
This may be the best Civil War book within the Campaign series. The photos, the exceptional text, the graphics and illustrations, the nice maps — all combine to make this book one to pick up if you have an interest in the Gettysburg Campaign.
Brandy Station 1863: First step towards Gettysburg
U.S. $19.95, Canada $22.95
96 pagers, soft cover
Dan Beattie is a former librarian, New York City welfare investigator, infantryman, Public Information Officer for the USDA Forest Service, professor of History and Political Science, and businessman. He earned a BA from the City University of New York, and a MA and PhD in History from Duke University. He was a member of the Shenandoah Battlefields National Historic District Commission, which set up the present Foundation of the same name. For many years he served on the Boards of Trustees of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites (as Secretary) and the Civil War Preservation Trust (as Chairman of the Battlefields Preservation Committee). He has received the highest Preservationist Award of both groups. He sat on the Board of the Brandy Station Foundation for about 10 years. He has been instrumental in saving each of the parcels of land preserved of Brandy Station battlefield.