Second Battle of Fredericksburg (May 3, 1863) – Also called the Second Battle of Marye’s Heights, this engagement took place in Fredericksburg, Virginia. On May 1st, General Robert E. Lee left Major General Jubal A. Early’s division to hold Fredericksburg while marching with the rest of the army to meet Major General Joseph Hooker’s main offensive thrust at Chancellorsville. On May 3rd, the Union VI Corps under Major General John Sedgwick, reinforced by General John Gibbon’s II Corps division, having crossed the Rappahannock River, assaulted and carried the Confederate entrenchments on Marye’s Heights. The outnumbered Confederates withdrew and regrouped west and southeast of town. The Union victory resulted in total estimated casualties of 2,000 men.
Salem Church (May 3-4, 1863) – Also called the Battle of Bank’s Ford, this engagement took place in Spotsylvania County. After occupying Marye’s Heights on May 3rd, Union Major General John Sedgwick’s VI Corps marched out on the Plank Road to reach General Joseph Hooker’s force at Chancellorsville. He was delayed by Confederate Brigadier General Cadmus M. Wilcox’s brigade at Salem Church. During the afternoon and night, General Robert E. Lee detached two of his divisions from the Chancellorsville lines and marched them to Salem Church. Several Union assaults were repulsed the next morning with heavy casualties, and the Confederates counterattacked, gaining some ground. After dark, Union General Sedgwick withdrew across two pontoon bridges at Scott’s Dam under harassing artillery fire. Hearing that Sedgwick had been repulsed, General Hooker abandoned the campaign, re-crossing on the night of May 5-6 to the north bank of the Rappahannock River. The Confederate victory resulted in total estimated casualties of 5,000.
After General Robert E. Lee’s success in defeating the Union Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Chancellorsville, the commander continued his aggressive tactics by planning a second invasion of the North. Lee’s strategy was to upset the Union’s plans for their summer campaigns, relieve the besieged Confederate garrison at Vicksburg, and supply his army from the rich northern farms while giving war-ravaged Virginia a much-needed rest. He also hoped to threaten the major cities of Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington to encourage the growing peace movement in the North.
Brandy Station (June 9, 1863) – Sometimes called the Battle of Fleetwood Hill, this was the first of the Gettysburg Campaign battles. Occurring in Culpeper County, Virginia, the Union cavalry corps under Major General Alfred Pleasonton launched a surprise attack on Major General James Ewell Brown “J.E.B.” Stuart’s cavalry at Brandy Station at dawn on June 9, 1863.
After an all-day fight in which fortunes changed repeatedly, the Federals retired without discovering Lee’s infantry camped near Culpeper. The Battle of Brandy Station was the largest cavalry battle ever fought on the North American Continent. Of the 22,000 soldiers involved, about 17,000 were of the mounted branch. Some 1,090 soldiers lost their lives in the battle.
Winchester II (June 13-15, 1863) – The Second Battle of Winchester, also referred to as the Frederick County or Winchester Battle occurred in Frederick County, Virginia on June 13-15, 1863. After the Battle of Brandy Station several days earlier on June 9th, General Robert E. Lee ordered the II Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, under Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell, to clear the lower Shenandoah Valley of Union opposition. General Ewell’s columns converged on Winchester’s garrison commanded by Brigadier General Robert Milroy. After fighting on the afternoon of June 13 and the capture of West Fort by the Louisiana Brigade on June 14, Milroy abandoned his entrenchments after dark to reach Charles Town. General Edward “Allegheny” Johnson’s division conducted a night flanking march and before daylight of the 15th cut off Milroy’s retreat just north of Winchester at Stephenson’s Depot. More than 2,400 Federals surrendered. This Confederate victory cleared the Valley of Union troops and opened the door for Lee’s second invasion of the North. Of the 19,500 troops involved, the total loss was 4,709, of which 4,443 were Union and just 266 Confederate.
Aldie (June 17, 1863) – Taking place in Loudoun County, Virginia, Major General James Ewell Brown “J.E.B.” Stuart’s cavalry screened the Confederate infantry as it marched north behind the sheltering Blue Ridge. The pursuing Federals of Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick’s brigade, in advance of Brigadier General David M. Gregg’s division, encountered Confederate Col. Thomas Munford’s troopers near the village of Aldie, resulting in four hours of stubborn fighting. Both sides made mounted assaults by regiments and squadrons. Kilpatrick was reinforced in the afternoon, and Munford withdrew toward Middleburg. Some 250 men lost their lives in the skirmish.
Middleburg (June 17-19, 1863) – On the same date as the Battle of Aldie, another was also taking place in Loudoun County in Middleburg. Major General James Ewell Brown “J.E.B.” Stuart, screening Robert E. Lee’s invasion route, sparred with Major General Alfred Pleasonton’s Union cavalry. On June 17, Col. Alfred Duffié’s isolated 1st Rhode Island Cavalry Regiment was attacked by Colonels Thomas Munford and Beverly Robertson’s brigades. The 1st Rhode Island Cavalry was routed, taking about 250 casualties. On June 19, Colonel J. Irvin Gregg’s brigade advanced, driving Stuart’s cavalry one mile beyond the town. Both sides were reinforced, and both mounted and dismounted skirmishing continued. Stuart was gradually levered out of his position but fell back to a second ridge, still covering the Blue Ridge gap approaches. Some 390 soldiers lost their lives during the battle.
Upperville (June 21, 1863) – Two days later, another battle would be fought in Loudoun County, Virginia, on June 21, 1863. In the Upperville Battle, the Union cavalry made a determined effort to pierce Major General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry screen. Stuart had been fighting a series of delaying actions in the Loudoun Valley, hoping to keep Union General Alfred Pleasonton’s cavalry from discovering the location of the main body of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, much of which was in the Shenandoah Valley just west of the small village of Upperville. Reinforcing Stuart was Brigadier General Wade Hampton’s and Colonel Beverly Robertson’s brigades, who made a stand at Goose Creek, west of Middleburg, and beat back Colonel J. Irvin Gregg’s division.
Union Cavalry Officer John Buford’s column detoured to attack the Confederate left flank near Upperville but encountered Confederate Brigadier Generals William E. “Grumble” Jones’s and John R. Chambliss’s brigades while J. Irvin Gregg’s and Judson Kilpatrick’s brigades advanced on the Upperville from the east along the Little River Turnpike. Stuart withdrew to take a strong defensive position in Ashby Gap after furious mounted fighting, even as Confederate infantry crossed the Potomac into Maryland. As cavalry skirmishing diminished, Stuart made the fateful decision to strike east and make a circuit of the Union army as it marched toward Gettysburg. In the battle, 400 soldiers lost their lives.