Earlier in the week, I took a morning and headed out to the Brandy Station and Kelly’s Ford battlefields. It was quite warm, the hottest day we’ve had so far this year in Virginia. By the time I got back to Fredericksburg early in the afternoon, the temperature was already pushing into the mid-90s. The heat, however, did not prevent me from visiting Buford’s Knoll at Brandy Station.
Brig. Gen. John Buford used the knoll as a command post during the battle. After pushing his First Division across the Rappahannock River at Beverly’s Ford early on the morning of June 9, 1863, Buford and his staff moved to this position on the Union right flank. He was eventually joined by the cavalry corps commander, Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton. The high knoll offered Buford and Pleasonton not only a perfect observation point but also an artillery platform. Throughout the fighting, Samuel Elder’s Battery E, 4th U.S. Artillery dueled a section from James Breathed’s battery to the west. Frederick Newhall, a Union staff officer, recalled the enemy shells “flew like a flock of pigeons” around Elder’s artillerists.
Buford spent much of the day here directing operations. When Maj. Gen. James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart began to withdraw brigades from his front to contend with Brig. Gen. David Gregg’s division on Fleetwood Hill, Buford went on the offensive. He managed to dislodge Maj. Gen. Rooney Lee’s mixed North Carolina and Virginia brigade from their position along a stonewall on the Cunningham Farm. Elements from Buford’s old command, the Reserve Brigade, later tangled with Lee’s horsemen on Yew Ridge. Accompanied by his staff, Buford left the knoll to observe the fighting. “He was entirely isolated” Newhall remembered, “but paying no undue attention to that fact, was fighting straight on.” Pleasonton later dispatched Newhall to Buford informing him to disengage and withdraw back across the Rappahannock. Newhall found Buford on a “bare hill” and delivered the message.
Buford’s Knoll is one of the stops for this year’s Sunday tour during the Fourth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium. The car caravan tour will be conducted by Eric Wittenberg and myself. You may register for the Symposium here.