17 June 1863
(East Side of Marker)Facing the Confederate Position.
On the afternoon of June 17, 1863, cavalry from the Army of the Potomac under General Alfred Pleasonton and the Army of Northern Virginia under General JEB Stuart battled each other in 94-degree heat for several hours in the fields around you. That morning Union Brigadier General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick and Confederate Colonel Thomas T. Munford had each been given orders to seize and hold the critical mountain pass at Aldie. This gap in the Bull Run Mountains controlled two vital roads, the Ashby Gap Turnpike (Rt. 50) and the Snickersville Turnpike (Rt. 734), which allowed access through the Blue Ridge. General Robert E. Lee was using these mountains to shield his army of Northern Virginia as it moved towards Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
The battle began along the Ashby Gap Turnpike within the town of Aldie. The fighting moved west along that road and into the fields around the farm known today as the Briar Patch, where men of the 5th Virginia Cavalry were overwhelmed by the 2nd New York and 6th Ohio. As the fighting spread up the Snickersville Turnpike, the 2nd Virginia defeated the 4th New York in a series of charges that took place in the surrounding rolling fields. The victorious Virginians then drove Companies C and D of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry from their positions in the fields across the Turnpike.
The deadliest fighting took place along this narrow stretch of road between the Furr house behind you and the stone wall in front of you. Here successive charges by companies of the 1st Massachusetts were defeated by sharpshooters from the 2nd and 3rd Virginia posted behind the wall and supported by one cannon. The Virginians were later driven from this position by the 1st Maine Cavalry concluding the Battle of Aldie.
The monument was erected in 1888 to commemorate the valiant efforts of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry. It was the first monument to Union forces erected after the Civil War south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
(West Side of Marker)Facing the Union Cavalry.
On the morning of June 17, 1863, Colonel Thomas T. Munford and his Confederate cavalry brigade moved from Piedmont (now Delaplane), through Middleburg to Aldie. As he came through Middleburg, he sent most of the 2nd and 3rd Virginia north toward Mountville, where they hoped to obtain food. Munford led the remainder of his brigade toward Aldie. This force consisted of the 1st, 4th and 5th Virginia Cavalry and Captain James Breathed's battery of Horse Artillery. Brigadier Hugh Judson Kilpatrick led the majority of his Union cavalry (2nd and 4th New York, 6th Ohio, and 1st Massachusetts) from their camps near Manassas toward Aldie. Both generals had similar orders—to hold the town and key roads intersections east and west of the town.
When the battle began in mid-afternoon in Aldie, Colonel Munford recalled the 2nd and 5th Virginia from Mountville and they approached along the Snickersville Turnpike. A well-qualified detachment of sharpshooters from each regiment dismounted and deployed behind the stone wall behind you, while their comrades remained on horseback. Lt. Philip F. Johnson's cannon on the knoll to your rear supported the sharpshooters.
The 1st Massachusetts had just been ordered to protect the Snickersville Turnpike to the west of Aldie. Captain Lucius Sargent led Companies H and F up the Turnpike toward the Furr house, where they were met and driven back. Then just as the Confederate sharpshooters went into position behind the stone wall, Captain John Tewksbury led Companies E and G up the Turnpike. Captain Charles F. Adams with Companies C and D was deploying in the fields to your right. Surprised by the developing ambush, Tewksbury was driven off moments before Adams' men across the Turnpike were routed. The task of opening the road the fell to Lieutenant Charles Davis and his two companies, A and B. Coming around the bend just in front of you, these Union cavalry troopers found the narrow road blocked by dead and wounded men and horses. Trapped between the walls and fences and facing what Colonel Munford called the "strongest position in 50 miles", the men went down under "a perfect hail of bullets." When it was over, two thirds of the 1st Massachusetts regiment had been killed, wounded or captured.