Posted by: ushistoryfiles | May 4, 2009

Tempest at Ox Hill: The Battle of Chantilly

tempestI just finished reading Tempest at Ox Hill by David Welker.  Having served as a reenactor with the 3rd New Jersey when I was younger I hear of the fight at Chantilly and the death of NJ’s adopted son Phil Kearny.  Sonaturally when I saw the book in McKay’s (a local used bookstore) I was quite excited.  Reading the book I was not disappointed.  Welker does a nice job setting the stage as he reaches back to May of 1862, setting events into motion.  Chantilly was fought right after the Second Battle of Manassas which naturally means tracing events and bringing the reader up to that battle.  Welker summarizes Second Manassas and places Chantilly in that context. 

Chantilly is indeed a little known battle with very little written about it.  Sandwiched in between Second Manassas and Antietam not only is it overshadowed by those two engagements, but relatively small numbers were engaged (about 6,000 Union and 15,000 Confederate).  Add the fact that the three ranking commanders died before detailed reports were written (Union Generals Phil Kearny and Isaac Stephens were killed at Chantilly and even though “Stonewall” Jackson lived for another year he didn’t leave a detailed report) and Chantilly becomes hard to write about.  Despite these obstacles Welker does a good job in relaying both the events leading up to and the events of Chantilly to the reader.  He relays the confusion and uncertainty felt on the battlefield (especially as each commanding general for the Union: first Stephens and then Kearny are killed) as the fight developed in a driving rainstorm.  The chapter that outlines the lives of Phil Kearny and Isaac Stephens is a great introduction to these little known generals.    Tempest at Ox Hill deserves a read if you are at all interested in the Civil War in Virginia.

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