The fertile Loudoun Valley, with its wealth of produce and livestock, was of vital importance to the Confederacy and ideal to provide forage for the Union army. Furthermore, Loudoun County's population was deeply divided over secession, and tensions and hostilities against one-time neighbors added to the death and destruction wrought during the war. Bitter partisan warfare kept hostilities active even when the armies where far from Loudoun County. Because of its importance to the Confederacy and the partisans who inhabited it, the Loudoun Valley was put to the torch in The Burning in 1864. It has been said that no county in Virginia that did not witness a decisive battle suffered more than Loudoun.
During the war, the county had three bridges, three ferries, and at least three fords across the Potomac into Maryland. Two ridges of the Blue Ridge Mountains run through the county, in addition to the main ridge making up its western border. The easternmost ridge is the south end of Catoctin Mountain, which comes down out of Maryland at Point of Rocks. The low-lying ridge extends through the county just west of Leesburg to Aldie, where it meets with Bull Run Mountain at the Loudoun-Prince William County border. Though by today's standards, the 500-800 ft ridge is unimposing, it comprised a formidable barrier to east-west movement across the county in the 1860s. The only major crossings of the ridge were the Winchester Turnpike (present day Rt 7) at Clarks Gap west of Leesburg and the Little River Turnpike (present day U.S. Route 50) at the Aldie Gap. To the west of the ridge lay the fertile Loudoun Valley.
The northern portion of the Loudoun Valley is similarly bisected by Short Hill Mountain, which extends from the Potomac to just south of Hillsboro. The Charlestown pike (present day Rt 9) ran through the gap in the Short Hill at Hillsboro into Jefferson County, while the Winchester Turnpike ran to the south of the mountain. Despite its name, Short Hill Mountain is an imposing feature even today and kept the area to its west, known as Between the Hills, isolated from the rest of the county. Along Loudoun's western border only three gaps allowed access through the Blue Ridge—Keyes Gap, through which the Charlestown Pike traveled, Snickers Gap through which the Winchester Turnpike traveled and, just south of Loudoun in Fauquier County, Ashby's Gap through which the Ashby's Gap Turnpike traveled. One could also skirt the ridge by traveling up through Between the Hills to Harpers Ferry, where the Potomac comes through the mountain. Further hindering westward travel was the Shenandoah River which lay just west of the ridge.
Loudoun's geography played heavily in its settlement, which in turn would come to determine the loyalties of different regions of the county to the respective governments. Through the course of the war, Loudoun would be torn apart by bitter partisan conflict because of these opposing loyalties. Loudoun's geography also dictated how armies traveled through the area. The numerous river crossings were an ideal place for an army to cross into and out of Virginia, and the mountains screened the movements of opposing armies.
Slightly later, descendants of tidewater planters moved into the eastern and southern parts of the county, settling the areas east of Catoctin Mountain and the southern Loudoun Valley. These settlers brought with them the plantation-style agriculture of the tidewater, establishing large slave-operated plantations such as Oatlands. The 1860 census 670 slave owners holding 5,501 slaves in the county, and the slave-holding region generally supported the Confederacy once war erupted. In addition, throughout the 18th century, Scotch-Irish settlers trickled into the county settling the more mountainous regions along the Catoctin and Blue Ridge Mountain and the Between the Hills valley. These settlers were general poor and had small land holdings with few if any slaves, still they tended to support the Confederate cause.
Prior to the growing division between North and South in the 1850s, Loudoun County politics was firmly Whig in nature. Despite the party's collapse in the 1850s, Loudoun remained true to its principles and was strongly for the preservation of the Union. When the presidential election of 1860 came, Loudoun overwhelming supported John Bell and the Constitutional Union party, who received 2,033 of the 2,942 votes cast in the county. Coming in a distant second was the Southern Democratic nominee John Breckinridge with 778 votes. Stephen Douglas the Northern Democrat received a scant 120 votes and Abraham Lincoln received 11 votes despite not even being on the ticket. The 11 votes came from the precincts of Lovettsville, Waterford and Purcellville. Since the ballot was not then secret, those voting for Lincoln supposedly came to the polls armed. Even after Lincoln was elected and assumed the presidency, the county stayed true to its unionist leanings.
Five days after the fall of Fort Sumter and Lincoln's call for 75,000 troops, the convention passed the Ordinance of Secession, subject to special referendum by the people. Janney and Carter voted against the measure. Despite Janney's vote, once succession was approved he went loyally with his state and was given the honor of handing over to Robert E Lee the forces of the Commonwealth. Though Loudoun originally called for maintaining the Union, the Ordinance was ratified by Loudoun County on May 23 by a vote of 1,626 to 726. The votes against secession came primarily from the northwestern part of the county, where some precincts voted as much as 7 to 1 against the Ordinance. The southern and eastern portions were strongly in favor of the measure, with some precincts voting unanimously in its favor.
|Precincts||For Secession||Against Secession|
As it became clear that Maryland would not leave the Union with Virginia, preparations were made to protect the borderland of Loudoun County. On May 1, even prior to the referendum on Secession, Govornor Lechter called up the volunteer forced of Virginia, though several companies of Loudoun had already been in service since mid-April when they were called up to help seize the Federal armory at Harpers Ferry. The militia's first duty of the war was to proceed to Alexandria to reinforce troops already gathering there. Their stay, however, was short, and on May 5 Alexandria was evacuated by Virginia forces and occupied by Federals. As the Confederates retreated, they began to tear up the tracks of the Manassas Gap Railroad, including the unfinished branch into Loudoun. Loudoun's militia was sent home to prepare for possible attack by the Federals now occupying Alexandria
On June 9, 1861, Col. Thomas Jackson came to Loudoun to oversee these preparations. Under his direction, the bridges over the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry, Berlin (present day Brunswick) and Point of Rocks were destroyed. It is also rumored that he commanded a company of men who rode through Taylorstown, a strongly Unionist village, and that he ordered the burning of the mill and bridge over Catoctin Creek in that village. In addition, three forts were constructed to protect Leesburg from invasion should an army cross one of the numerous fords in the county. Fort Johnston was built to the northwest of town along the Winchester Turnpike atop Catoctin Mountain, Fort Beauregard to the southeast on a small hill, and Fort Evans to the northeast of the road to Edwards Ferry. (The earthworks of Fort Johnston and Fort Evans still remain intact on private property, while Fort Beauregard has been demolished by the construction of a housing development).
In addition to these physical preparations, the county militia was absorbed into the Confederate army on June 8, and recruiting efforts were intensified, eventually contributing to the formation of Turner Ashby's 7th Virginia Cavalry, the 6th Virginia Cavalry, Elijah V. White's 35th Battalion Virginia Cavalry, John Mosby's 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry, Montgomery Corse's 17th Virginia Infantry, Eppa Hunton's 8th Virginia Infantry, and the Loudoun Artillery division of R. W. Stribling's artillery battery in Longstreet's Corps.
Loudoun County did not only contribute soldiers to the Confederate army. Despite guards at the river crossings, Union sympathizers made it into Maryland and joined Federal units, including William Maulsby's Potomac Home Brigade and Henry A. Cole's Battalion of Maryland Cavalry. In addition, Union sympathizer Samuel C. Means of Waterford raised the Loudoun Rangers who although serving mainly as partisans during the war, would eventually be absorbed into regular service and earn the distinction of the only organized body from Virginia to enter the Union Army.
The following day, Stone ordered an assault on the camp. Upon crossing the river, Union soldiers discovered their error but soon encountered Confederate pickets patrolling the area, and a firefight ensued. Both sides began reinforcing their lines, but because for the Union this involved ferrying men across the river, they could not do so as effectively as the Confederates, due to a shortage of boats. By the end of the day, the Union force was driven back across the river. This small but resounding Confederate victory sent Union bodies floating down the Potomac past the Capitol, left Senator and close friend of the President, Edward D. Baker, dead and ruined the career of Stone.
On March 6, Brigadier General D.H. Hill, who had assumed control of Confederate forces in Loudoun from Brigadier General "Shanks" Evans shortly after Ball's Bluff, was ordered to abandon Loudoun County to join with Gen. Joseph E. Johnston in Richmond to halt McClellan's drive up the Virginia Peninsula. The following day, Geary's force left its camp at Lovettsville, brushing aside the small rear guard left by Hill to prtotect his withdrawal, comprised of E.V. White's new command. As Hill retreated his forces set fire to Confederate supplies, nearby forage and the Carolina Road's bridge over the Goose Creek. By the end of the day, Union forces occupied Leesburg, establishing headquarters at Fort Johnston, rechristened Fort Geary, and imposing marshal law on the secessionist town. Leaving a small garrison at Leesburg, Geary set out the following day to pursue the retreating Confederates. During a skirmish with the Confederate rear guard, Geary was wounded and captured but then immediately paroled, whereupon he continued his pursuit.
By the 15th, Geary's men had traversed the county and reached Upperville, and all of Loudoun County was under Federal occupation. Two weeks later, E.V. White's Confederate cavalry challenged Geary's force near Middleburg. In the engagement, Federals brought out the newly developed coffee mill gun, a forerunner to the modern machine gun. The results were devastating—the Confederate line was cut to pieces after being fired upon from 800 yards, and those not immediately cut down retreated, unsure of what had just hit them. The gun, however, was deemed to unsafe to operate and never used widely in the war.
From this point forward, the Federals maintained a presence in the county, though by no means were they able to occupy the land in the sense of imposing their will and rule on the people, although they tried. The land and hearts and minds of the people were very much in contention. Partisan groups such as John Mosby's Rangers and Elijah V. White's "Comanches" made a practice of harassing and antagonizing the Federals in the area with great success, such that for much of the war the Federals in the county operated from Harper's Ferry and western Fairfax, unable to keep a command safely within the county's borders.
One event of note of the attempted Federal occupation occurred on September 15, 1862. Union soldiers operating in the Between the Hills region stopped at a local farm, and an altercation ensued, likely over the impressment of goods or livestock. In the course of the altercation, the lady of the house was greatly insulted, no small matter even in this less-than-genteel corner of Virginia. A young farmhand by the name of John Mobberly overheard the insulting remarks and, immediately upon the departure of the Federals, made his way to Hillsboro and enlisted in Company A of White's Battalion.
The formation of a Union Battalion in Loudoun did not go unnoticed by White and his Comanches, and on the 27th of August, he lead them in an attack against the Rangers at The Fight at Waterford. In their first action, the Rangers did not acquit themselves well, Means fled the village, their acting commander Lt. Luther Slater was severely injured and nearly the whole unit was captured. They were all subsequently paroled, however, by White. It is of note that following the surrender of the Rangers, a member of White's company attempted to kill a Ranger, who he discovered was his brother. Thus was the nature of Loudoun's partisan war that would escalate dramatically over the course of the war.
Three days later, on September 9, part of the Confederate artillery under Colonel R.L. Walker along with White's Battalion re-entered the county at Point of Rocks and headed to Loudoun Heights by way of Lovettsville and Hillsboro, with the White's men serving as scouts, as part of Lee's plan to take Harpers Ferry to protect his flank. From Loudoun Heights, the artillery successfully besieged the town and helped in its capture. (Earthworks from the siege can still be found at Loudoun Heights near the Appalachian Trail).
White was not happy to be sent back in Virginia as he preferred to be with the rest of the army in Maryland, where he could recruit from his native state. Unfortunately, in Frederick he got in an altercation with Gen. Stuart who subsequently ordered back to Virginia. Gen. Lee, hoping to smooth things over, but who nevertheless had to support the senior Stuart, assigned White to this vital mission in the battalion's home county.
During the Maryland Campaign, General Lee issued the infamous Lost Orders detailing his operating plan during the invasion which eventually fell into Federal hands. Lee ordered copies of the order drawn up for his commanders and the duty fell upon his Chief of Staff, and Loudoun Native, Robert H. Chilton.
On the morning of the 20th Treyhorn's pickets were captured by Geary's advance guard, prompting the Confederates to fall back towards Wheatland. As the Confederates began to fall back, Geary's main force reached Hillsborough, where he divided his force, sending Devin and the 6th New York east down the Charles Town Pike to Wheatland, where they then turned north up the Berlin Turnpike. Geary lead his force north up the Mountain Road which runs parallel to the Berlin Pike before turning east on the road to Morrisonville. At that village, on the Glenmore Farm, the two forks of the Union advanced pinned the retreating Confederates. As Devin mounted a charge and Geary hit the flank of the 35th, Treyhorn deployed sharpshooters on top of nearby haystacks, who momentarily kept the infantry at bay, but before long the 35th was forced into a full retreat that quickly devolved into a rout that was only ended when the horsed of the 6th New York became too fatigued to continue the chase.
When all was said and done the 35th lost 1 dead, 2 wounded and 21 captured. Treyhorn was forced to resign and leave the company. The action represented the first major loss for the White's Battalion. Nevertheless the company, which had become significantly large to become a battalion, was formally organized on the 28th by Col. Bradly T. Johnson of Gen. Stuart's command and given the official designation - the 35th Battalion of Virginia Cavalry.
On October 27, the Army of the Potomac crossed the river and marched south through the Loudoun Valley towards Fauquier County. A second column crossed at Harpers Ferry and marched south through Between the Hills before crossing the Blue Ridge at Snickers Gap. While in Loudoun, McClellan set up headquarters in Wheatland , Purcellville and Unison to supervise troop movement and seizure of crops and livestock to feed his troops. While the Federals moved through the county Col. White and the Comanches struck at the supply trains and managed to capture 1,000 prisoners and 200 wagons.
On October 30, J.E.B. Stuart, with Brig. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee's brigade and Maj. John Pelham's artillery, reentered the county via Snickers' Gap with orders to monitor the enemy and slow his progress so that the Army of Northern Virginia could reposition itself south of the Rappahannock River. Over the next three days, Stuart and his men engaged and defeated several Federal units in the vicinity of Mountville and Aldie. On November 2 the advance guard of the Federal army caught up with Stuart in Unison. Despite being greatly outnumbered, Stuart held out most of the day before being driven from the field. Stuart retired to Upperville and prepared to face a renewed Federal attack in the morning. After reconnaissance discovered that the main body of the Army of the Potomac was advancing on their position, it was decided that Stuart should recross the Blue Ridge at Ashby's Gap to protect Jackson's movements in the Valley, which he did the following morning. The collective skirmishes are known locally as the Battle of Unison.
On the evening of January 28, the group rendezvoused at Mount Zion Church on the Little River Turnpike east of Aldie near Lenah. That night they set out east down the Turnpike for Chantilly Church where they captured killed one vedettes and captured 11 more. The Rangers returned back to Middleburg, where they paroled the Federals (but not their horses), with a taunting message to their commander, Col. Sir Percy Wyndham. The following morning, the enraged Wyndham led a force of 200 cavalrymen to attack Middleburg, where Mosby and several of his Rangers were sleeping. Alerted by a servants in the home where he was staying, Mosby gathered six of his fellow Rangers and led them against Wyndham's rear guard as the force retired. The daring Rangers killed one and captured three Federals.
Mosby and his Rangers continued their antagonsim of Federals in Northern Virginia and continued to evade, elude and make fools of their pursuers. The Federals, unable to catch the elusive partisans, focused their rage on Middleburg, the perceived base of Mosby's operations. Wyndham, on several occasions, threaten to burn the town to the ground. At this early stage, the locals were still wary of the partisans and concerned for their lives and property. On February 4, they petitioned Mosby to cease his operations, to which Mosby quickly refused. Mosby did however, suspend his activities for much of the month.
During that time his command grew in size, nearly doubling. These new partisans were mostly locals of the area and included Loudouners Richard "Dick" Moran and William Hibbs. Mosby resumed operations on February 25, raiding Germantown, near Fairfax Courthouse. In response, on the evening of March 1, 200 men of the of the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry set out for Middleburg, where they raided homes, arrested civilians and once again threatened to burn the place. The 18th Pennslyvannia left town towards Aldie, where they ran into the 1st Vermont, who they mistook for Mosby's men and retreated. The 1st Vermont, however, remained at the Aldie Mill watering their horses.
Learning of the raid on Middleburg, Mosby and 28 Rangers swooped into town from the west catching the federals off guard. The surprise and speed of the of the attack as well as the sight of the plumed Mosby, whose reputation preceded him, induced 17 men and 2 captains to surrender. The Rebels also captured 23 horses. The remainder of the 1st Vermont retreated with great haste towards their camp in Fairfax.
A week later Mosby and his rangers left Dover, west of Aldie, on what was to become their most fame exploit of the war—the capture of Brig. Gen. Edwin H. Stoughton from his bed at the Fairfax County Courthouse in the heart of the occupied county.
Moran rushed back to Miskel Farm to rouse Mosby and his men just as the 1st Vermont arrived. The Federals surrounded the barn and then unleashed a saber charge. Mosby ordered his men to mount up and draw their pistols and led them in a counter-charge. Almost immediately, Flint was killed, along with a dozen of his men, by a barrage of bullets. With Flint's death, the Union flanks began to falter, and Mosby and twenty of his men smashed into it, screaming a blood-curdling Rebel Yell. The flank collapsed, and Federals began to flee through the barnyard gate, with Bean, the acting commander, the first one through. The frantic retreat, coupled with the narrowness of the gate, caused a bottleneck in the Union retreat, and Mosby's men attacked the trapped Federals in merciless hand-to-hand combat. When the skirmish ended, 10 Federals were dead and 82 captured. Mosby suffered 1 mortally wounded and 3 wounded. Bean was discharged from the army for cowardice in fleeing the battle.
As the cavalry fight raged along the Ashby's Gap Turnpike, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker began his pursuit of Lee and entered Loudoun County on June 17 and headed to Edwards Ferry, where pontoon bridges had been assembled. Over the next eleven days, the entire Army of the Potomac came through the county and crossed the Potomac at Edwards Ferry. In addition to securing Edwards Ferry, the Union army covered all major crossings of the river up to Harpers Ferry. As a result, as J.E.B Stuart prepared to leave the county and join up with Ewell in Pennsylvania, he was forced to circumnavigate the Union army and cross downriver, where the river is deeper and wider at Rowsner's Ford at the extreme eastern end of the county. With much difficulty, Stuart and his three brigades crossed the river on June 27, several days behind schedule, leaving Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia blind as they embarked on their second northern invasion.
Colonel White and the 35th Battalion made the march with Confederate army under the command of maj. Gen. Jubal Early into Pennsylvania. The 35th was ordered to screen Early's advance to the Susquehanna River and, in this capacity, moved into Gettysburg on June 26, driving off units of the Pennsylvania militia and causing the first casualty of that epic battle.
Following the Battle of Gettysburg, General Meade, who had replaced Hooker during the campaign, crossed with the Army of the Potomac back into Loudoun and marched through the county following the same route of McClellan a year prior following Antietam.
On December 7, the Restored Government of Virginia convened for the first time since the formal separation of West Virginia from the commonwealth (Loudoun, in fact had been briefly considered for inclusion in the new state, but was ultimately rejected due to the strong Confederate sentiment in the county) in the city hall of Alexandria. Loudoun was on of the twelve counties and three cities represented (those under nominal Federal control). James Madison Downey of Loudoun was elected to serve as speaker of the House of Delegates, and in that capacity brought legislation to the floor calling for a Constitutional Convention to be held that January. Downey would go on to serve as one of three representatives from Loudoun in that body which, among other things would approve the separation of West Virginia, thus circumventing the constitutional clause against forming a new state out of an existing one, and formally abolish slavery in Virginia. When the legislature reconvened the following December, Downey was once again elected speaker of the House. It should be noted that, while although Loudoun was represented in the Restored Government, and elections for its offices were held in the county, the Governments authority in the county extended only as far that of the Union army.
On January 9, Mosby and 106 Rangers set out from Upperville and redezvoused with Stringfellow and 10 additional men outside of Hillsboro on what became known as the Battle of Loudoun Heights. At about 4:00 a.m. the morning of the 10th, the Rangers crested the Blue Ridge, and Stingfellow and his men went ahead to capture Cole in the house where he was staying. Because the Rangers were outnumbered by Cole's 200 men, it was imperative the element of surprise be maintained; this was not to be however. As Stringfellow approached Cole's house, his men were spotted by a sentry who fired at them, waking Cole, who in turn roused his men. Stringfellow and his men turned in retreat, but as they approached Mosby and his Rangers, Mosby mistook them for the enemy and ordered a charge. The two groups then fired into each other's ranks. The confusion that ensued gave Cole and his men enough time to mount and organize.
As Mosby and Stringfellow began to realize their mistake, Cole's men descended upon them from the highpoint on the ridge and a fierce firefight broke out. The fighting ended when a signal gun was fired from Harpers Ferry, prompting Mosby to retreat. Mosby suffered at least a dozen casualties, including the death of three officers. The raid was not a total loss however, 60 horses and 6 prisoners were captured. For his performance in the fight, Cole was promoted to colonel. Perhaps, despite his performance in what would ultimately be his greatest defeat, Mosby was promoted 11 days later to Lieutenant Colonel.
On February 20 a detachment of Cole's Maryland Cavalry, 200 strong, left Harpers Ferry for Upperville, where they surprised and captured 11 of Mosby's Rangers. They then set out south for Piedmont Station (present day Deleplane), shortly thereafter they came upon another partisan Bill McCobb, who rushed to his horse, but was thrown from it and killed when it jumped a fence.
Mosby, who was at Heartland on the road to Piedmont Station, with four officers was alerted off the oncoming Federals by a scout as they ate breakfast. The five Rangers rushed from the house to find the Federals on the road and immediately fired on the force. The unexpected gunfire surprised Cole who withdrew his force back towards Upperville. The gunfire also roused 60 or so Rangers staying in the area. At Piedmont Station, the Rangers rendezvoused and set out in pursuit of the Federals, catching up with them at Upperville. A running fight ensued for 3 miles until Cole reached the ground of Blackleys Grove School and halted. He then deployed his men behind a stone wall to contest the Rangers advance. The Rangers halted at the other side of the field and a firefight broke out between the two lines. Cpt. W.L. Morgan of the 1st New York Cavalry was killed by Ranger Richard Mountjoy when he rode beyond the Federal line. Shortly thereafter, Cole ordered a charge. The Rangers repulsed the charge and counterattacked. Twice more the Federals charged as the fight swirled around the school and twice more they were repulsed. Mosby then split his force into and flanked Cole forcing him to retire. As he withdrew he placed skirmisher behind the numerous stonewalls he crossed, impeding the Ranger's pursuit. In the fight the Rangers killed 6 and wounded 7 while suffering only 3 wounded in addition to the 11 captured who were not liberated in the fight.
The following morning, 160 Rangers gathered to bury McCobb. At the same time Maj Charles R Lowell dispatched 167 Troopers of the 2nd Mass and 16 New York cavalry under Cpt J.Sewell Reed on a raid into Loudoun. At the funeral near Middleburg, Mosby learned of the Federal raid and mounted the Rangers in pursuit, sending the bulk of the force under William Chapman to Ball's Mill, south of Leesburg, while he and a small party shadowed the Federals. At Leesburg, Reed, not finding any sign of Confederates, set out east on the Leesburg-Alexandria Turnpike, camping 6 miles east from of the town that night. As the Federals bivouacked, Mosby rejoined his main body, who he had since directed to Guilford Station (present day Sterling). Upon rejoining the Rangers Mosby lead them two the pike, 2 miles west of Dranesville and deployed them in three wings, a dismounted squad on the Pike and two companies each on each flank concealed in the woods to the sides of the road. A skirmish party was sent west on the Pike as bait for the ambush.
At 10 a.m. the Federals broke camp and came upon Mosby's skirmishers an hour later. As the Federal vanguard, in pursuit of the fleeing skirmishers, came into sight the flank wings sprung the trap, missing the main Federal force. Reed took advantage of the mistake to order a counterattack. The two force collided in heavy hand-to-hand combat. At one point in the fighting Ranger John Munson captured a Yankee but failed to take his sidearm and when he turned to rejoin the fight the Yankee shot him in the back. Moments later Ranger Baron Robert von Mossow captured Reed, but he two failed to take his side arm and was also shot in the back. Will Chapman wasted no time in killing Reed in retaliation. With Reed dead the Federal resistance gave way and the Rangers chased them towards the river. Several of the Yankees, jumped into the river in their haste to flee and were drowned. In the action, known to the Rangers as 2nd Dranesville, the Rangers killed 12, wounded 25 and captured 70 along with 100 horse while losing only 5 wounded and 1 killed.
That same day, 100 troopers of the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry and 50 from the 13th New York under Maj. William H. Forbes were dispatched from Falls Church into Loudoun County by Col. Charles R. Lowell to hunt down Mosby and his Rangers. The force traveled down the Little River Turnpike (present day U.S. Route 50) towards Aldie and then headed north up the Carolina Road toward Leesburg where the spent the remainder of the day was well as all of the following day.
Upon arriving across the river from Point of Rocks the Rangers found the village held by two companies of Federal infantry and the Loudoun Rangers, totaling 350 Federals in all. One of the companies of infantry inhabited Patton's Island in the middle of the Potomac, while the second occupied a small fort on high ground above the C&O Canal. The Loudoun Rangers were encamped in the village. Mosby's Rangers quickly drove off the Federals and set about cutting the telegraph wires that ran beside the tracks from Washington to its garrison at Harpers Ferry and burning the canal boats. Besides Point of Rocks strategic value, it was also the refuge of many prominent Loudoun Unionists and their property, including Samuel Means. Thus after effecting the disruption of travel and communication along the Potomac the Ranger set about pilfering the stores and warehouses of the town, some of which contained property of Loudoun unionists. Because of the numerous pieces of fine clothing the Rangers returned with, the raid became know as the "Calico Raid". After completing the raid the Rangers retired back to Virginia and camped along the road to Leesburg. The Rangers returned the following morning to continue their raid into Maryland, only to find the town held by the 8th Illinois. After a brief firefight the Rangers retired toward Leesburg. .
As Mosby approached Leesburg his scouts reported to him the presence of the Federals under Forbes in the town. In response Mosby lead the Rangers into camp west of Leesburg on Catoctin Mountain where the Rangers spent a night. The Federals departed from Leesburg the next morning, July 6, returning south towards Aldie. At the intersection with the Little River Turnpike the Federals stopped to rest for an hour or so. Meanwhile, Mosby entered Leesburg shortly after the Federals left and discovered the direction of their withdrawal. He then devised to intercept the Federals as the headed east on the Litte River Turnpike by leading the Rangers southeast on present day Evergreen Mill Road to Arcola. Mosby attacked the Federals in a field near Mount Zion Church as the were preparing to leave. The Rangers drove the Federals back southeast into a woods. The Federals briefly rallied before Forbes was captured after attempting to stab Mosby in hand-to-hand combat. Once Forbes was taken prisoner the Federal resistance ended and the Rangers pursued their retreating enemies several miles. In the hour-long fight, known as the Action at Mount Zion Church, the Rangers inflicted severe casualties, killing 12, including Captain Goodwin Stone, wounding 37, taking 45 prisoners, including Forbes, and capturing every horse not injured or killed in the fight. The Rangers suffered 1 killed and 6 wounded..
While the two armies sat idly by on the 15th, units of the Federal Army of West Virginia, lead by Generals Sullivan and Alfred N. Duffie set out from there base at Harpers Ferry and crossed the river at Berlin. Te 1st New York Cavalry under Major Timothy Quinn lead the way with a small vanguard of 20 scouts commanded by Lt. Edwin F. Savacool. On the road between Milltown and Waterford Savacool's vanguard encountered a small Confederate foraging party which they immediately attacked. The foraging party broke into retreat with the Federals in pursuit towards Waterford where Mudwall Jacksons 19th and 20th Virginia Cavalry were stationed. When the federals came upon Jackson cavalry they counterattacked, capturing Savacool and driving back the Federals. The Confederate success was short lived however as the main body of the 21st New York soon arrived and drove the Confederates back towards Clarks Gap and liberated Savacool. The 21st along with the rest of Sullivan and Duffie's Federals then made there way to Hillsboro where they established camp.
Upon learning of the Federal position at Hillsboro, Wright devised to cross the Potomac pin the Confederates between himself and the army in the Loudoun Valley. In accordance with this plan he ordered General Edward Ord commanding a division of the 6th Brigade and the Cole's Maryland Cavalry to set out from there camp at Great Falls, Maryland and cross the river at Edwards Ferry. On the morning of the 16th the Federals began their crossing at Conrad's Ferry, briefly skirmishing with the Confederate pickets before driving them off. Ord would cross Edwards Ferry that afternoon, bringing the total Federal army under Wright at Leesburg to 17,000 men.
Early, however, had set out at dawn that morning, determined to keep a distance between him and his Federal pursuers. Early's main force headesd west down the Leesburg and Snickers Gap turnpike for the Blue Ridge, lead by Jackson's cavalry. Assigned to protect their right flank to the north was Bradley Johnson's cavalry. McCluasand's cavalry was to protect the left flank from the south and take with him the POWs and captured livestock and head for Ashby's Gap. Rhodes and Ramsuer's divisions were to protect the rear and wagon trains. Shortly after getting underway, Johnson stopped his cavalry at Waterford to forage, assuming the Valley to still be clear of Federals, and thus let the army get ahead of its northern screen.
Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. George Crook arrived in Hillsboro and took control of Union troops in the area. Federal artillery shelled Early's rear guard in Leesburg, while cavalry patrols from all three commands clashed with Early's cavalry. A small division of Union cavalry under Brig. Gen. A. N. Duffie eluded Early's screen and struck his supply wagons near present day Purcellville, at Heaton's Crossroads. He initially captured 200 wagons and 150 prisoners, but Confederate infantry counter-attacked and retook 120 of the wagons and 96 of the prisoners. The combined Union commands were unable to bring up their infantry, and Early escaped over Snickers Gap into the Shenandoah Valley.
Though Loudoun County had witnessed four significant battles, countless skirmishes, partisan bloodshed and had provided forage to both armies on multiple occasions as they traversed the county, the worst destruction of the war occurred in the final year of the conflict, ironically as the theatres of war moved far from border county into the heart of Virginia. That summer as Philip H. Sheridan laid waste to the Shenendoah Valley, the only real opposition to his march was constant attacks on his supply lines in the lower Valley by Colonel Mosby's command. Knowing that Loudoun served as Mosby's base of operations and that much of his command was native to the county, on November 27 Sheridan commanded Maj. Gen. Wesley Merritt and the 1st Cavalry Division to "..consume and destroy all forage and subsistence, burn all barns and mills, and their contents and drive of all livestock in the region . . ."
The following day, Merritt entered Loudoun at Ashby's Gap and proceeded to march up the Loudoun Valley decimating all private property of any value. On December 2, satisfied that they had faithfully executed Sheridan's orders, they left the county via Snickersville Gap. In his report, Merritt conservatively estimated that 5000-6000 head of cattle, 3000-4000 sheep and 500-700 horses had been driven off and 1000 hogs slaughtered. In addition, 230 barns, 8 mills, 1 distillary, 10,000 tons of hay and 25,000 bushels of grain were reported burned.
On the night of the 17th, the raiding party led by Mobberly made its way up the Between the Hills region from Hillsboro to Nearsville, where they crossed the Short Hill on a footpath known only to locals such as Mobberly. Upon reaching the eastern side of the mountain, the group sneaked up on the pickets of Devin's camp and captured the unit before they could sound an alarm. As they approached the reserve post on the Harpers Ferry-Lovettsville Road, they did not have such fortune, and the post could not be taken without gunfire. Believing their cover blown (though it had not been), the party charged the Union camp, only to discover it had recently been reinforced with an additional 200 men, bringing the total to 400. Under the cover of dark and blanket of fresh snow, the raiding party was able to surprise and capture 150 men and horses of the recently arrived reinforcements.
Union officer Captain Bell was able to assemble his undressed men and began to advance on the raiding party with pistols and carbines drawn. Unable to defend an assault by some 250 Union troops and hold 150 prisoners and horses, the raiding party broke off the attack, abandoning their prisoners except 50 horses and a dozen men. They made a quick retreat back to Woodgrove and disbanded, with the Federals unable to give meaningful chase in their unprepared condition.
The Comanches would not operate again in the county. At the end of the winter, they were mustered into regular service and re-absorbed into the Laurel Brigade of which White would assume command.
As the final days of the Confederacy were coming to an end as Lee retreated up the Appomattox River, White's Comanches served as the rear guard, protecting the army from the ever constant attacks of the Union cavalry who pressed hard on their broken opponent. It was in this capacity that on April 8 members of the Comanches, awaiting the oncoming Union Second Corp a Federal, were approached by Federal cavalry under a flag of truce. With them they carried a letter from Gen. Grant for Gen. Lee. The men of the 35th dutifully passed the message along. That fateful message contained Grant's terms of surrender that Lee would accept the following day.
White's Comanches did not surrender with Lee at Appomattox Court House, instead they rode through Union lines and returning home to disband. Mosby's Rangers too, did not surrender opting instead to disband as well, though Mosby did enter aborted talks with the Federals. John Mobberly, now acting independently of the 35th, was ambushed and killed near Lovettsville by a mixed band of Union soldiers and civilian bounty hunters. He died on April 6, 1865, the same day White became acting commander of the Laurel Brigade.