American Battlefield Trust's map of the Battle of Brandy Station
At the outset of the Gettysburg Campaign, Robert E. Lee sought to keep his advance hidden from the Union army. With his forces stationed at Culpeper, Virginia on the verge of turning north into the Shenandoah Valley, Lee ordered his Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart to launch a diversionary cavalry raid on June 9, 1863. However, Union cavalry commander Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton anticipated the raid and struck Stuart’s men in camp at Brandy Station on the day the Confederate incursion was set to begin. Despite the advantage of surprise, the ensuing battle ended in a narrow defeat for Pleasonton’s forces and Lee’s intentions remained unknown. Nevertheless, the Battle of Brandy Station, the largest predominantly mounted engagement to ever take place on the American continent, greatly improved the morale of the Union cavalry. J.E.B. Stuart was harshly criticized for his unpreparedness spurred by vanity, foreshadowing graver failures in the future.