Battle of Aldie Summary
The Battle of Aldie was fought on June 17, 1783. Union forces led by General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick clashed with Confederate forces led by Colonel Thomas Munford near the village of Aldie in Loudoun County, Virginia, roughly 40 miles west of Washington, D.C. The battle started when Union forces engaged Confederate pickets on the east side of Aldie. Over the course of the day, Union forces established defensive positions in the town while a fierce cavalry battle took place on the west side of town. The battle ended when Munford was ordered to reinforce Confederates fighting at Middleburg, Virginia. Although the outcome was inconclusive, Union forces controlled Aldie but suffered heavy casualties and were unable to find the main Confederate Army. As a result, Robert E. Lee continued his march north, eventually leading to the Battle of Gettysburg.
Battle of Aldie Facts
- Date Started: The Battle of Aldie started on June 17, 1863.
- Date Ended: The battle ended on June 17, 1863.
- Location: The Battle of Aldie took place in Loudoun County, near Aldie, Virginia.
- Campaign: The battle was part of the Gettysburg Campaign of 1863.
- Who Won: The outcome of the battle is considered inconclusive.
Battle of Aldie History and Overview
In early May 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia soundly defeated Major General Joseph Hooker and his Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Despite the Confederate victory, Lee’s army needed food, horses, and equipment after the battle. With northern Virginia ravaged by two years of combat, Lee took the war to the North. Lee planned to disengage from Union forces near Fredericksburg, move the Army of Northern Virginia northwest across the Blue Ridge Mountains, and then push northeast through the Shenandoah Valley into Maryland and Pennsylvania. Lee began merging his army near Culpeper, Virginia, and troop movements began on June 3, 1863.
Battle of Brandy Station
To mask his intentions and screen the assembly of his invasion force, Lee stationed his cavalry, commanded by Major General J. E. B. Stuart, at Brandy Station, a few miles northeast of Culpeper. On June 9, Union Major General Alfred Pleasonton and his Cavalry Corps launched a surprise attack against Stuart’s Cavalry Division near Brandy Station. After an all-day fight at the Battle of Brandy Station, Pleasonton retired without discovering Lee’s main encampment at Culpeper, only six miles away.
Confederates Approach Winchester
After the Battle of Brandy Station, Lee’s army continued its trek northwest toward Winchester in the Shenandoah Valley where roughly 6,900 troops were garrisoned under the command of Brigadier General Robert Milroy. On June 13, Lieutenant General Richard Ewell and his 2nd Army Corps reached Winchester and started a three-day engagement that forced Milroy’s evacuation, clearing the upper Shenandoah Valley for Lee’s advancement.
As Lee continued to move north on the west side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, he ordered Stuart’s Cavalry to move in the same direction through the Loudoun Valley on the east side of the mountains, screening the Confederate invasion force. Lee instructed Stuart to prevent Federal reconnaissance forces from advancing through gaps in the mountains to gather information about the Army of Northern Virginia’s movements. Part of Stuart’s orders included holding the Ashby’s Gap Turnpike and the Snickersville Turnpike, two strategic roads leading through the mountains.
What Happened at the Battle of Aldie?
Frustrated by the lack of intelligence about Lee’s movements, on June 16, 1863, Hooker ordered Pleasonton, “to give him information of where the enemy is, his force, and his movements.” On June 17, Pleasonton ordered Major General David Gregg’s division to seize and occupy Aldie, where the two roads converged, setting the stage for a cavalry engagement that afternoon.
The Battle of Aldie Begins
Gregg assigned Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick and his troops to lead the advance on Aldie. At about 2:30 p.m., Kilpatrick’s brigade encountered Colonel Thomas Munford’s Confederate pickets east of town. Kilpatrick’s troopers quickly pushed the outnumbered Confederates back through the village until the 5th Virginia Cavalry reinforced them.
The Virginians, commanded by Colonel Thomas Rosser, forced the Federals back into Aldie where they established a defensive position. Rosser occupied the high ground west of town. Following a short lull, the rest of the day featured fierce but indecisive, cavalry engagements west of town, especially around the two turnpikes.
The Battle of Aldie Ends
At about 8 p.m., Stuart ordered Munford to disengage because his troopers were needed at another engagement at nearby Middleburg.
Battle of Aldie Outcome
The Battle of Aldie was inconclusive.
The battle cost the Union 305 dead and wounded compared to roughly 120 Confederate casualties.
The 1st Massachusetts Cavalry was hit particularly hard. Of the 294 soldiers from that unit, 198 were killed or wounded.
Among Union officers who distinguished themselves at the Battle of Aldie was the young Brigadier General George A. Custer, who led several charges during the engagement.
Battle of Aldie Significance
At the end of the day, Pleasonton held the junction of the two turnpikes, but he had gained no significant information about Lee’s movements on the west side of the mountains.
Battle of Aldie Casualties, Generals, and Participants
Principal Union Commanders
Principal Confederate Commanders
- Colonel Thomas Munford
- Colonel Thomas Rosser
- Major General J.E.B. Stuart
Union Forces Engaged
- Various cavalry regiments of the Army of the Potomac
Confederate Forces Engaged
- Various cavalry regiments of the Army of Northern Virginia
Number of Union Soldiers Engaged
- Roughly 2,000
Number of Confederate Soldiers Engaged
- Roughly 1,500
- An estimated 305 were killed and wounded
- The 1st Massachusetts Cavalry suffered a casualty rate of nearly 67% (198 killed or wounded of 294 troopers engaged)
- Estimated between 110 to 119 killed and wounded
Battle of Aldie Dates and Timeline
These are the main battles and events of the Gettysburg Campaign in order.
- June 5—6 — Battle of Franklin’s Crossing
- June 9, 1863 — Battle of Brandy Station
- June 13–15, 1863 — Second Battle of Winchester
- June 17, 1863 — Battle of Aldie
- June 17– 19, 1863 — Battle of Middleburg
- June 21, 1863 — Battle of Upperville
- June 27, 1863 — Battle of Fairfax Court House
- June 29, 1863 — Corbitt’s Charge
- June 30, 1863 — Battle of Hanover
- June 30, 1863 — Skirmish of Sporting Hill
- July 1, 1863 — Battle of Carlisle
- July 1–3, 1863 — Battle of Gettysburg
- July 3, 1863 — Pickett’s Charge
- July 3, 1863 — Battle of Fairfield
- July 4–5, 1863 — Fight at Monterey Pass
- July 6–16, 1863 — Battle of Williamsport
- July 8, 1863 — Battle of Boonsboro
- July 10, 1863 — Battle of Funkstown
- July 23, 1863 — Battle of Manassas Gap
Battle of Aldie Suggested Reading
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Mingus and Wittenberg, the authors of more than 40 Civil War books, present a history of the opening moves of the Gettysburg Campaign in the 2-volume study. This compelling study is one of the first to integrate the military, media, political, social, economic, and civilian perspectives with rank-and-file accounts from the soldiers of both armies as they inexorably march toward their destiny at Gettysburg. This first volume covers June 3–21, 1863, while the second, covers June 22–30, completes the march, and carries the armies to the eve of the Battle of Gettysburg.
This book is a tactical study of fighting from June 17 to 22, 1863, at Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville, placed within the strategic context of the Gettysburg Campaign. It is based on Robert O’Neill’s 30 years of research and access to previously unpublished documents, which reveal startling new information. Since the fighting in Loudoun Valley of Virginia ended in June 1863, one perspective has prevailed — that Brigadier General Alfred Pleasonton, who commanded the Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, disobeyed orders. According to published records, Pleasonton’s superiors, including President Abraham Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, and army commander Joseph Hooker, ordered Pleasonton to search for General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia during a critical stage of the Gettysburg Campaign, and Pleasonton ignored their orders. Recently discovered documents — discussed in this book — prove otherwise.