Small but Important Riots


Small but Important Riots

The Cavalry Battles of Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville

Robert F. O'Neill

360 pages
17 photographs, 8 illustrations, 18 maps, 3 appendixes, index


January 2023


$36.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

January 2023


$36.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

January 2023


$36.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Named a Top Ten Book of 2023 by Civil War Books and Authors

June 1863. The American Civil War was two years old, and the U.S. Army in Virginia was in chaos. Reeling after the recent defeat at Chancellorsville, the Federals, especially the Cavalry Corps, scrambled to regroup. Confederate general Robert E. Lee seized the moment to launch a second invasion of the North. As Lee slipped away, frantic Federal leaders asked, “Where are the Rebels?” At this critical moment, the much-maligned Federal cavalry stepped to center stage.

Small but Important Riots 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 It is based on Robert O’Neill’s thirty years of research and access to previously unpublished documents, which reveal startling new information.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.

Author Bio

Robert F. O’Neill is a retired police officer and current instructor at Moser Training Solutions of Colorado Springs, Colorado. He lives in Virginia. O’Neill is the author of Chasing Jeb Stuart and John Mosby: The Union Cavalry in Northern Virginia from Second Manassas to Gettysburg.


"By continuing to mine repositories for information—including diaries, letters, memoirs, military records, and pension applications—O'Neill has brought his unexcelled knowledge of the pertinent geography and personalities to these still under appreciated events."—Gordon Berg, Civil War Monitor

"An accessible, essential, and highly recommended read."—Jeffery S. Prushankin, Journal of Southern History

"Placing the battles in the strategic scenario and highlighting the leaders with their respective character flaws, makes this a masterful and engaging narrative well worth the attention of Civil War, cavalry, and military students and afficionados."—James Stacy, Journal of America's Military Past

"In addition to providing an exemplary historical account of a series of sharply contested cavalry actions fought during the early stages of the Gettysburg Campaign, Robert O'Neill's Small but Important Riots: The Cavalry Battles of Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville is unquestionably indispensable to any meaningful discussion of the mid-war evolution of the Union mounted arm in the East."—Civil War Books and Authors

"This is a remarkable book. Author O’Neill first wrote on this subject, and with this title, thirty years ago. But over the course of the last thirty years, he has continued to investigate in ever increasing depth the events that took place in the Loudoun Valley prior to the Battle of Gettysburg. Digging ever deeper into archives, including multiple letters written by participants that are more available by digital means, his conclusions have undergone considerable change."—Keither Poulter, North & South

“The product of nearly thirty years of effort and accumulated knowledge, Robert O’Neill’s book challenges what we have known about an essential part of the Gettysburg campaign. This is military history with humanity—events seen through the eyes of the people who in June 1863 turned the country roads connecting Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville, Virginia, into a sprawling landscape of battle. . . . Deep research, new insights, clear writing, and unexcelled knowledge of the ground and personalities make this book essential reading for anyone interested in the momentous months of June and July 1863.”—John Hennessy, chief historian at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park

“No one knows more about these three fierce cavalry engagements of the Gettysburg campaign or the documentary details of Union cavalry service in the East than Robert O’Neill. This revision of his 1993 study is based on even more details teased out of archival sources and a walking familiarity with the battlegrounds. It’s an essential text if you want to understand cavalry service in the Civil War.”—Andrew W. German, historian and author of a forthcoming book on the First Pennsylvania Cavalry

“Robert O’Neill has produced a magnificent book. Over decades of studying these three cavalry battles, he had built an unmatched reputation for diligence as a researcher, but he has remained above all a storyteller. O’Neill’s narrative runs swiftly through the five-day fight, and his battle writing is superb. Not just one of the best books ever written about Civil War cavalry, this is a model of historical scholarship and of narrative history.”—William J. Miller, author of Decision at Tom’s Brook: George Custer, Thomas Rosser, and the Joy of the Fight

"Robert F. O’Neill has written the definitive book on the cavalry battles of Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville. Decades of painstaking research in the archives and walking the battlespace culminate into O’Neill’s concise and engaging storytelling. Skirmishes come to life as O’Neill unearths new information and provides answers to questions that have remained a mystery for over 160 years. Small but Important Riots is indispensable reading to understanding the cavalry and the strategic context these engagements had on the Gettysburg campaign."—Patrick K. O'Donnell, historian and bestselling author of The Indispensables and the forthcoming book The Unvanquished

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. A Small, Neat, Dapper, Dashing Little Fellow
2. Rebuilding the Cavalry Corps, May 20–June 9
3. Reorganization, June 10–11
4. Conflict and Controversy, June 10–15
5. An Army on the Move, June 13–16
6. Stuart Moves into the Loudoun Valley, June 16–17
7. Hooker’s Ruse, June 16–17
8. Hard Work Lay Ahead, June 17
9. The Aldie Haystack Charge, June 17
10. The Fiery Ordeal, June 17
11. Men of Maine, June 17
12. Cut All to Pieces, June 17–18
13. I Have Never Seen as Many Yankees Killed
14. He Goes Where He Pleases, June 17
15. Find Out Where the Enemy Is, June 18
16. The Engagement Was Resumed with Spirit, June 19
17. Enthusiastic Anticipation of an Exciting Time, June 20
18. Small but Important Riots, June 21
19. The Hottest Fighting I Ever Did, June 21
20. In No Previous Collision Have They Manifest Such Implacable Hate, June 21
21. A Horrid Looking Sight, June 21
22. We Were after Them, June 22
23. Continuing Controversy
24. Continuing Success
Appendix A. Order of Battle
Appendix B. Casualties
Appendix C. Horses, Ordnance, and Regimental Strength


Named a Top Ten Book of 2023 by Civil War Books and Authors

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