On June 23rd General Lee sent word to Captain Benjamin Farinholt, who commanded a battalion of reserves charged with defending the bridge, warning him that the Federals were about to come down hard on him, and ordering him to prevent the bridge from being destroyed. If the Union troops were able to get to the bridge even briefly, they would pour oil on its wooden structure and torch it.
Captain Farinholt’s situation was dire. He commanded a force of fewer than 300 soldiers, and had only six artillery pieces with which to confront the sixteen being fielded by the Northern cavalry.
That night he sent word out to the surrounding communities, asking for volunteers to help defend the bridge. Military-age men had already been siphoned off by conscription, so the captain was drawing on teenage boys and men over 45 to form hastily-assembled militias. In popular accounts written after the war they were referred to as the “Brigade of Old Men and Young Boys”.
The new arrivals were also augmented by 150 Confederate regulars from detachments stationed around the region. With the regulars added to the old men and boys, Captain Farinholt was able to deploy a force of 938 men — less than 20% of the size of the cavalry units bearing down on him.”