150 years ago, the Gettysburg Campaign was already underway.
No, not the Battle of Gettysburg, but rather the Gettysburg Campaign: a series of battles that began in early June of 1863 and actually continued for most of July…even after the Battle of Gettysburg had been concluded.
150 years ago on June 9th, the Battle of Brandy Station, the largest-ever cavalry engagement on American soil, was fought. In the just-released Part II of Gettysburg, 1913: A Novel of the Great Reunion I have my character Angus Findlay, who had been J.E.B. Stuart’s aide-de-camp (in the novel, that is, not in real life; Findlay is not a real-life character) talking with the Sullivan brothers, who had made the trek from Arizona back to Gettysburg to attend the Great Reunion. The Sullivans had been members of Buford’s Cavalry and in the novel they and Angus Findlay muse that perhaps they had “crossed sabers” at Brandy Station, several weeks before the Battle of Gettysburg.
From that point on, every couple of days – often more frequently – Confederate forces clashed somewhere along the path into – and then out of – Pennsylvania with Union forces. The Battle of Gettysburg itself is the centerpiece of the Gettysburg Campaign but other key battles were fought as part of the campaign that helped shape the direction of the Civil War.
For example, the Battle of Fairfield – fought on July 3rd, 1863, which was also the 3rd day of the Battle of Gettysburg – was on the surface a minor Confederate victory but that victory did secure the escape path that Robert E. Lee’s forces would use to retreat back to Virginia from Pennsylvania and remain fighting for almost two more years.
Other battles such as the Battle of Carlisle are mentioned in my novel as a way of providing a broader view of those first days of July, 1863 beyond the famous clash at Gettysburg. Other fighting occurred throughout south-central Pennsylvania, even up to the southern bank of the Susquehanna River, even though eventually all action gravitated towards Gettysburg.
No doubt many veterans from both sides who attended the Great Reunion participated in other battles that comprised what came to be known as the Gettysburg Campaign, and their stories with their former comrades and former enemies alike certainly helped to complete the picture for what those old veterans had endured half a century earlier.