Virginia, essentially quiet since Robert E. Lee’s retreat from Gettysburg in July, heated up in mid-September 1863 as General George Meade’s Army of the Potomac occupied Culpeper Court House. Meade’s move from the Rappahannock to the Rapidan River was the result of Jefferson Davis’ detaching James Longstreet’s corps from Lee and temporarily reassigning it to support Braxton Bragg’s army now in northern Georgia.
Without Longstreet, Lee had to shorten his defensive position, thus allowing Meade to advance. Extensive skirmishing occurred in the area of Brandy Station, Pony Mountain, Muddy Run, and Stevenburg, as Meade and Lee once again found their forces engaged.
Longstreet’s deployment highlighted the Confederacy’s continuing shortage of manpower; Confederate forces could not defend all areas of the Confederacy against their numerically superior, Union opponents.