After an uninspiring showing in the first few years of the war, in 1863 the Federal Army of the Potomac's cavalry did a better job in resisting J.E.B. Stuart's famed troopers. But 150 years ago today they would meet another embarrassing disaster. As part of the Bristoe Campaign, Robert Lee had advanced to Manassas Junction, but was falling back, shielded by Stuart's cavalry. The Union cavalry division of Judson Kilpatrick (or “Kilcavalry” as he was known by disaffected troopers) advanced towards Buckland.
The lead brigade of Feerals encountered gray troopers at Buckland Mills. Deploying for battle, they pushed the Confederates about a mile back down the road. But unbeknownst to them, they were doing exactly what Stuart wanted. He had ordered the column of Fitzhugh Lee to come up and strike the Federals on the flank. The Union units became separated in their rapid advanced.
The trap was sprung, and Lee surprised the Federal cavalry, attacking them from the flank. But some firm fighting by the Federal troopers prevented Lee from capturing a sizable portion of the Northerners. But panic spread through the Yankee column, and they were soon retreating at a gallop towards the main Union body, with Stuart's men hot on their heals. One Federal described it as a “deplorable spectacle of 7,000 cavalry dashing riderless, hatless, and panic stricken.” The flight was finally stopped when they reached the Union infantry. About 250 Union soldiers were captured, and the legend of the Buckland Races was born.