Battle of Upperville (Loudoun County, Virginia) June 21, 1863 (During the Gettysburg Campaign)

Lead up to Battle of Upperville – Goose Creek – June 19, 1863. Following the fighting at Middleburg on June 19, a heavy rainstorm during the night had soaked the Loudoun Valley, ending a six-week drought. In the downpour, Wade Hampton’s brigade of Confederate cavalry had reinforced J.E.B. Stuart, and was deployed near Beverly Robertson’s brigade along the Ashby’s Gap Turnpike. John R. Chambliss’ brigade moved northward and joined “Grumble” Jones near Unison, Virginia. Thomas T. Munford’s brigade was still farther north, guarding access to the Snickersville Gap. John Mosby’s partisan rangers scouted the Union positions and provided much needed intelligence on their movements.

Union cavalry commander Alfred Pleasonton, frustrated by Stuart’s excellent usage of dismounted cavalry hiding behind stone walls, on June 20 asked for and received infantry support from Maj. Gen. George G. Meade’s V Corps. Trying to maneuver Stuart out of position, Pleasonton sent Judson Kilpatrick’s brigade along the Ashby’s Gap Turnpike, supported by Col. Strong Vincent’s brigade of infantry, with Gregg’s cavalry division in reserve. John Buford’s division would try to turn the flank.

Stuart, determined to rest his weary men on the Sabbath, did not get his wish, as Federal artillery opened up on his position around 8:00 a.m. on June 21. After initially holding off Kilpatrick’s cavalry, Stuart, effectively using stone walls and steep ravines and creeks, began to fall back under pressure from the Union infantry. He made a stand west of the hamlet of Rector’s Crossroads along the stone bridge over Goose Creek, where for two more hours he was able to withstand repeated Federal attacks from mounted cavalry, as well as the 16th Michigan Infantry, which sent skirmishers and sharpshooters forward to pick off the Confederate gunners. Stuart withdrew and headed westward toward Upperville, still fighting delaying actions where favorable.

Battle of Upperville – June 21, 1863. John Buford’s Federal column had detoured to attack the new Confederate left flank near Upperville, while J. Irvin Gregg’s and Judson Kilpatrick’s brigades advanced from the east along the Ashby’s Gap Turnpike. Buford soon encountered “Grumble” Jones and Chambliss’ Confederate brigades, escorting Stuart’s supply train just north of Upperville, and attacked. Meanwhile, Kilpatrick’s troopers attacked Hampton and Robertson on a ridgeline east of Upperville known as Vineyard Hill. Some of the Union cavalrymen made it as far as the village before being repulsed.

After furious mounted fighting, Stuart finally withdrew to take a strong defensive position in Ashby’s Gap, even as Confederate infantry began crossing the Potomac River into Maryland. As cavalry skirmishing diminished in the next few days, Stuart made the fateful decision to strike east and make a circuit of the Union army as it marched toward Gettysburg.

Upperville was significant in that Stuart’s successful delaying tactics prevented Pleasonton from making an accurate assessment of the location of Lee’s infantry divisions, thereby depriving the Federals of much valued intelligence of their enemy’s whereabouts and objectives.

Battle of Gettysburg: Peach Orchard

On July 2, 1863, the Third Michigan Infantry was part of the Third Brigade, First Division, Third Corps, This regiment, deployed as skirmishers 150 yards in advance of this position, held the line extending from the Peach Orchard east to the woods, was the right of De Trobriand’s brigade, and connected with the left of Graham’s. Went into action with nineteen officers and 267 men for a total 286. Seven men killed, three officers and 28 men wounded, seven men missing for a total loss of 45.

According to Allen .S. Shattuck, late Private of Company G, the Third Michigan went into camp on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Academy at Emmetsburg on July 1 and remained there for the night, but were astir at an early hour on the morning of July 2, making a forced march of twelve miles to Gettysburg, while the almost death-like stillness on all sides as the Third moved along foreboded the storm that was to break upon its ranks soon. On reaching Gettysburg, the Third was halted and informed that it could get their dinner, which the men promptly set about, but before the water for their coffee had begun to boil the Third was ordered to fall in, and in quick time moved in the direction from which it had just come.

The Third halted for a few minutes in the peach orchard, where there was a small force of cavalry sitting uneasily in their saddles, but soon it was ordered forward to support the sharpshooters, who were on the skirmish line. But hardly had the battle opened when it was found necessary to lengthen the skirmish line, and was ordered forward on the right of the sharpshooters, while they were crowded to the left to near or into Little Round Top. In this position, unsupported by even any excuse for troops, the Third fought and even gained considerable ground, which it held until the right had been broken and a large force of the enemy were pouring down across our right flank. Still the Third held on, until Gen. De Trobriand, riding onto the line unattended by staff or orderly, commanded the Third to change front to right, saying as he did so, “Third Michigan, change front to right. I give ze order tree or four times. Change quick, or you all be gobbled up; don’t you see you are flanked? Ze whole rebel army is in your rear.” And true it was, a very large force of the enemy had broken through the Union’s right and were swarming across the Third’s right flank. Never did a regiment change its front in quicker time than did the Third on this occasion, all the time contending for the ground which the rebels were trying to reach.

After the lines were once more established the Third did hold them in check until reinforced, when they were driven from the field. At that time the Third retired a short distance to cook and eat its supper. But little sleep visited their eyes on that night, for well they knew that Lee was not whipped and would renew the conflict as soon as he could make his new plans. The Third was kept under arms all night, and long before daylight were in line awaiting the attack that it knew would come and expected every moment.