The Civil War, Day by Day

Bravest of the Brave

Bravest of the Brave

On February 22, 1863, the men rode wearily but proudly through a sleeping Warrenton, the seat of the county from which the company had originated.

In their care was placed the fate of the new nation. They composed a single company of the 4th Virginia Cavalry - but they were better known as the Confederate “Black Horse Cavalry.” Raised in Virginia’s Fauquier County, they had answered the Southern call to arms in 1861, and had immediately distinguished themselves in combat. At the Battle of First Manassas, their hammer-like strike against Federal troops at Cub Run had helped turn the Northern retreat into a panicky rout. Their calm courage under fire eventually earned them a unique post of honor: scouts and protective escorts for the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, General Robert E. Lee, and his irreplaceable “right arm,” General Stonewall Jackson.

In the winter of 1862-63, their wartime duty had become personal: the war had come to their homes. A mammoth Northern army had poured into their native counties in a campaign to destroy Lee’s army. Now, as the scouts of Lee’s army, the Black Horse Cavalry did double duty, mounting repeated reconnaissance patrols, pinpointing Federal positions - and thus defending their homeland. Deep snows and winter downpours left the roads in the Warrenton region almost impassable at times, but the Black Horse Cavalry always found a way through. When high waters flooded the region’s waterways, they found a way across. When food and forage were dangerously low, they kept going. The troops of the Black Horse Cavalry, said their admirers, were “the bravest of the brave.” In the winter of 1863, they kept Lee posted on the movements of the enemy, conducted countless bold raids - and captured hundreds of Northern troops. They defended their homes, served their commander - and did their duty. On February 28, 1863, General Lee officially cited them for their efforts and sacrifices. The “bravest of the brave” - the Black Horse Cavalry - had lived up to their name.

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All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.