Friday, June 14, 2013

June 10, 1863: Col. Broderick Killed at Brandy Station

On June 8, 1863, the entire division of Federal cavalry was ordered to mount up and move out.  On the second day out, the Union cavalry approached a Confederate cavalry encampment and captured many of the rebel pickets as they approached.  When the 3rd Squadron ran into a brigade of Confederate cavalry, the biggest cavalry battle began.

The 1st New Jersey Volunteer Cavalry and the 1st Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry charged together into the camp, and 150 prisoners were quickly captured. The Southern cavalrymen were quick to react and formed up a battle line on a hill near Brandy Station, Virginia. A New York light artillery battery set up and began to fire on the Confederates. A squadron from the 1st Maryland Volunteer Cavalry was ordered to support the artillery.
Brigadier General Sir Percy Wyndham, New Jersey's British gentleman cavalry leader, and Colonel Virgil Broderick, of Sussex County, the commander of the 1st NJ Cavalry, formed the brigade for battle.  Wyndham and Broderick led a saber charge into the Confederate lines.  The 12th Virginia Cavalry rallied and rode to reinforce their comrades.
The adjutant of the 1st NJ Cavalry reported to Harper's Weekly, "By Jove, that was a charge! They came up splendidly, looking steadier than we did ourselves after the shock of the first charge.  I did not know whether Wyndham was still with us, or if he had gone to another regiment; but there was Broderick looking full of light, his blue eyes in a blaze, and his saber clenched, riding well in front.  At them he went again, and some of them this time met us fairly.  I saw Broderick's saber go through a man, and the rebel gave a convulsive leap out of his saddle, falling senseless to the ground.  It seemed but an instant before the rebels were scattered in every direction, trying now and then to rally in small parties, but never daring to await our approach...I heard Broderick shouting in a stormy voice.  I tell you, it was a startling sight.  The fragments of White's Battalion had gathered together toward the left of the field and were now charging in our rear.  The 1st Maryland was there, and Broderick was shouting at them, in what their Colonel considered a 'very ungentlemanly manner,' to move forward to the charge.  At the same time two fresh regiments were coming down on our front.  Instead of dashing at White's men, the 1st Maryland wavered and broke, and then were charged at the same time front and rear...Gallantly our fellows met the attack.  We were broken, of course,  by the mere weight of the attacking force, but breaking them up too, the whole field was covered with small squads of fighting men.  I saw Broderick ride in with a cheer and open a way for the men.  His horse went down in the melee; but little Wood, the bugler of Company G, sprang down and gave him his animal, setting off himself to catch another.  A rebel rode at the bugler and succeeded in getting away his arms before help came.  As Wood still went after a horse, another fellow rode at him.  The boy happened at that moment to see a carbine where it had been dropped after firing.  He picked up the enemy weapon, aimed it at the horseman, made him dismount, give up his arms, and start for the rear.
"It was only when we got so entangled that we had to fight hand to hand that their numbers tolled heavily.  It was in such a place as this that I lost sight of Broderick.  The troop horse he was riding was not strong enough to ride through a knot of men, so that he had to fight them.  He struck one so heavily that he was stunned by the blow, but his horse was still in the way; swerving to one side, he escaped a blow from another, and warding off the thrust of a third, managed to take him with his point across the forehead; just as he did so, however, his saber getting tangled with a rebel's, was jerked from his hand.  He always carried a pistol in his boot.  Pulling that out, he fired into the crowd, and out spurs his horse.  the bullet hit a horse in front of him, which fell.  His own charger rose at it, but stumbled, and as it did, Broderick himself fell, from a shot fired within arm's length of him and a saber struck upon his side. I saw all this as a man sees things at such times and am not positive even that it occurred as I thought I saw it; for I was in the midst of confusion, and only caught things around by passing glimpses.  You see, I was myself having as much as I could."
Colonel Broderick died in battle at Brandy Station.
Copyright 1997-2013: Jay C. Richards  

No comments:

Post a Comment