… and in my family tree, I can count a fair number who were there… more so in gray than in blue, but represented in two Virginia (7th and 35th) units and one from Pennsylvania (3rd). Those in the 7th Virginia Regiment and 35th Battalion Virginia Cavalry bore witness to the opening of the battle. George M. Neese, with the horse artillery, recounted how the morning opened, as Union Gen. John Buford tested the line near St. James Church…
The Yanks cruelly rushed us out of camp this morning before breakfast, consequently we had nothing to eat during the whole day until after dark this evening, and strange to say I did not experience any hunger until after the battle was over. If the empty stomach telegraphed to the brain for rations during the battle the brain was so intensely engaged in something of far more importance than responding to an empty stomach that it heedlessly disregarded the signal and carefully concealed the cravings of hunger until it could be satisfied at a more convenient season.
In fact, my closest ancestors at Brandy Station, on this day 150 years ago, were two great grandfathers in the 7th Virginia Cavalry… Henry K. Emerson and James Harvey Mayes. While Emerson had been with the regiment since August 1861, Mayes had ridden with it since April 1862… both were privates.
The regiments moved rapidly to the front, as soon as the men could obey the boo and saddle bugle call, and with the first that came, which were the 6th and 7th Regiments, Gen. Jones met and checked the enemy, and arrangements for the battle, which was no inevitable, were made as quickly as possible. – Frank M. Myers, 35th Battalion Virginia Cavalry.
It’s disappointing, but I don’t have a single story passed down about their experiences from the day, though I imagine it was a day that they didn’t soon forget.
I’m not on that field today, but will likely take time throughout the day to glance at descriptions of the battle, and imagine the intensity of pounding hooves across rolling hills to the southeast.