The 13th Mississippi, as part of Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade, played a minor role in the Battle of Brandy Station, the largest battle of predominantly cavalry forces during the Civil War: involving about 9,500 horsemen under Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and 11,000 mixed infantry and cavalry under Union Gen. Alfred Pleasonton.
Pleasonton had recently replaced Gen. George Stoneman whose forces had preceded Barksdale’s Brigade through Culpeper County by several weeks and “afflicted great injury on the citizens,” Spartan Band diarist William H. Hill recorded on June 8, 1863, “[and] stripped the county of all horses, cattle, Negroes, corn, meat, and everything else that they could take off.”
That Monday Stuart had drawn his forces together for a “grand review” for General Lee which, later that night, turned into a fight when Pleasonton’s forces crossed the Rappahannock.
“Our brigade left camp at 10 p.m.,” Hill wrote, “and went to the [Stevensburg] Road 3 miles from Culpeper C.H. and lay all day in line of battle.”
Stuart’s thousands fought the Union thousands until 5 p.m., 17th Mississippi Private Robert A. Moore wrote in his diary “when he succeeded in driving them back across the river.”
However, division commander Gen. Lafayette McLaws, whose headquarters was still at Raccoon Ford on the Rapidan River, wrote his wife Emily on Wednesday, June 10:
“Our cavalry were surprised yesterday by the enemy and had to do some desperate fighting to retrieve the day. As you will perceive from General Lee’s dispatch the enemy were driven across the river again. All this is not true, but it will be better to allow the impression to prevail. The enemy…retired at their leisure—having accomplished I suppose what they intended, that is they felt our lines to make us show our forces; our infantry was not however displayed to any extent—but I am afraid enough was shown to give notice of our general movement.”
That day, Moore recorded that the brigade had “established our camp on Mountain Run, 1 [and] 1/2 miles east of Culpeper C.H….”
The next day, Thursday, the 11th, Moore wrote: “Drilled for the first time to-day in nearly six months.”
On Friday morning the brigade was roused early to prepare for action, there being reports that the Union cavalry was again crossing the Rappahannock. The alarm turned out to be false.
The brigade “…struck tents & lay out in the hot sun for several hours,” Moore wrote, “when we were ordered to pitch tents. The enemy are making some demonstrations, I suppose.