Imboden’s Brigade in the Gettysburg Campaign
By Steve French
(August 2009 Civil War News)
Illustrated, maps, softcover, 2008. Steve French, 8604 Martinsburg Rd., Hedgesville, WV 25427, $23 ppd.
Imboden’s Brigade was written to provide “an accurate and exciting account of a part of the Gettysburg Campaign that has been long overlooked.” It does exactly that, and is certainly well worth reading.
French is a history teacher who also published The Jones-Imboden Raid against the B&O Railroad at Rowlesburg, Virginia.
Brig. Gen. John D. Imboden was stationed in the Shenandoah Valley at the beginning of the Pennsylvania Campaign. Gen. Robert E. Lee ordered Imboden to have his brigade destroy bridges and tracks along the B&O rail line and harass the Federals in that part of the Valley.
The brigade was especially suited to do just that. Comprised of the 18th Virginia Cavalry, the 62nd Virginia Infantry and Capt. J.H. McClanahan’s six-gun battery of horse artillery, the Northwestern Virginia Brigade (its official title) served as a roving band inflicting damage wherever possible.
The author has done an excellent job of researching the brigade’s movements. Using diaries, reports and newspaper accounts, French recreates the campaign and provides readers with an accurate accounting of the action.
Rarely was the brigade involved in the heart of Lee’s movement into Pennsylvania. However, Imboden did play an important role in its assigned task of disrupting the Federal forces.
Once Imboden’s men reached Chambersburg, Pa., on July 1, 1863, Lee provided specific orders for their course of conduct. They were to relieve Pickett’s division and acquire supplies from the surrounding countryside.
The following day they were to throw out pickets on the roads to Shippensburg, New Guilford, Chambersburg and Greencastle and provide for the safety of the wagon trains. This they did. As the battle raged at Gettysburg, Imboden and his men continued to provide protection and support.
After Lee decided to retreat back to Virginia, Imboden and his command played an integral part in carrying out the movement. Tasked with guarding the trains and wounded, Imboden made the best of the trying circumstances. French covers this portion of the campaign in the second half of his book. His detailed knowledge of the retreat routes and roads taken by the Confederates enhances the narrative.
Precious little has been written about Lee’s retreat from Gettysburg. Indeed, it has only been in the recent past that two books (Lee’s Retreat from Gettysburg by Kent Masterson Brown and One Continuous Fight by Michael Nugent, David Petruzzi and Eric Wittenberg) dealing with the subject have been published. Imboden’s Brigade in the Gettysburg Campaign takes its place along side them.
Although it is self-published and contains some minor grammatical errors that would have been picked up by a publishing editor, the book is nevertheless a great addition to the ever-growing body of work on the battle. It was awarded the Bachelder-Coddington Award for 2008. The award is given annually to the book on Gettysburg that provides the best new information on the battle.
It is a highly recommended book for people with a deep interest in the Gettysburg Campaign because of the information and analysis provided. It is also recommended for anyone with a general interest in Gettysburg.
Jay Jorgensen is an attorney and municipal court judge in New Jersey. He is the author of Gettysburg's Bloody Wheatfield and The Wheatfield at Gettysburg: A Walking Tour. He also received his Master’s Degree in Military History - Civil War Studies from American Military University.