WITTENBERG & DAVIS: Out Flew the Sabres (2016)

Out Flew the Sabres: The Battle of Brandy Station, June 9, 1863 by Eric J. Wittenberg and Daniel T. Davis.  Savas Beatie, 2016.  Paper, ISBN:  978-1611212563.  $14.95.

Eric J. Wittenberg has established himself as the preeminent authority on Union cavalry operations in the Army of the Potomac. His dedication to telling the stories of the troopers in blue has resulted in a wide variety of books, including a study of John Buford on Gettysburg’s first day; a biography of Ulric Dahlgren; and a regimental history of the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, Rush’s Lancers. Previously, Wittenberg has written extensively on the Battle of Brandy Station, which, fought on June 9, 1863, was not only largest cavalry engagement of the war, but one that definitively established the Union cavalry as a match for Stuart’s vaunted grey legions.

Now, as part of Savas Beatie LLC’s Emerging Civil War Series, Wittenberg and Daniel T. Davis have co-authored a new book about this engagement, the first in the series of battles that led to the critical fight at Gettysburg.

This book is typical of what we have come to expect from the Emerging Civil War Series. It provides the scholar and the buff alike with a highly readable, well-researched book about a particular aspect of the Civil War. As is typical of the series, the work is prolifically illustrated and contains many detailed photographs of the combatants—as well as detailed regimental level maps showing the progression of the fighting.

Out Flew the Sabres opens with a discussion of the events leading to Brandy Station. The action parts of the book are detailed but concise; the authors do not get bogged down in the details. Modern pictures allow the reader to see where particular pieces of the action took place.

Wittenberg and Davis’s book is both a tour guide and a history of the engagement; combined, these elements make for a fast paced narrative—one that establishes Brandy Station as the battle in which the Union cavalry in the east emerged as an equal match for their Confederate counterparts. The book briefly touches on several smaller cavalry battles in the Loudoun Valley on the way to Gettysburg and includes an order of battle.

In recent years, Wittenberg has taken a leading role in assisting with the preservation of the Brandy Station Battlefield. Two brief chapters chronicle the preservation of the field.

In conclusion, Out Flew the Sabres is a superb tour guide and brief history of the battle of Brandy Station. With this book in hand, one can travel to the places described in the text and see where the action unfolded. Through a combination of detailed maps and photographs, this book will serve as a fantastic introduction to a decisive Civil War battle that established the Union cavalry in the eastern theater as masters of the field.


Robert Grandchamp is the award winning author of ten books on American military history. He earned his M.A. in American History from Rhode Island College and is an analyst with the government. He resides in Jericho Center, Vermont. 

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