Brandy Station 1863: First step towards Gettysburg by Daniel Beattie

I have a couple more books to review on the subject of the American Civil War.  The first of these is Brandy Station 1863: First steps toward Gettysburg by Daniel Beattie and illustrated by Adam Hook.  This book is part of Osprey’s “Campaign” series, which gives accounts of history’s greatest conflicts, detailing the command strategies, tactics, and battle experiences of the opposing forces throughout the crucial stages of each campaign.

As I have said with the previous books published by Osprey, they publish first-rate books.  This book is no different.  It is 93 pages and divided into several parts: The Eve of Battle (situation of both sides); Chronology of events; Opposing Plans; Opposing Commanders; The Battle; Roads to Gettysburg (summary of movements before Gettysburg and careers of men after Gettysburg); and The Battlefield Today.

The Battle of Brandy Station was a unique battle for several reasons.  It was the largest cavalry battle of the Civil War.  It also was a turning point for the Union cavalry – up to this point, with a few exceptions, the Confederate cavalry was much better led and manned than their Union counterparts.  After this battle, the Union cavalry became progressively better and the Confederate cavalry progressively deteriorated as leadership attrition took its toll and the decline in the number of horse replacements became more critical.

I think that Beattie provides a balanced view of the battle.  He praises men from both sides that performed well and equally criticizes those who came up short.  For instance, Beattie praises the defensive efforts of Union Colonel Thomas Devin and those of Confederate artilleryman Captain James Hart.

Hook’s illustrations (three of them that are two pages each) of the action are excellent.  He accompanies the illustrations with guides that point out the significant figures in the illustration.  The book also includes excellent maps that follow the action.  Photographs of the leaders and men are scattered throughout the text.

In short, this book is an excellent overview of the initial battle of the Gettysburg Campaign.

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