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Loudoun County in the American Civil War

Loudoun County in the Civil WarLoudoun County, Virginia, was destined to be an area of significant military activity during the American Civil War. Located on Virginia's northern frontier, the Potomac River, Loudoun County became a borderland after Virginia's secession from the Union in early 1861. Loudoun County's numerous Potomac bridges, ferries and fords made it an ideal location for the two armies to cross into and out of Virginia. Likewise, the county's several gaps in the Blue Ridge Mountains that connected the piedmont to the Shenandoah Valley and Winchester, were of considerable strategic importance. Indeed the opposing armies would traverse the county several times throughout the war leading to several small battles, most notably the Battle of Balls Bluff.

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.

Geography

Loudoun County's involvement in the war was shaped by its geography more than any other single factor. The County sits along the northernwestern frontier of Virginia and is bounded to the north by the Potomac River and Frederick and Montgomery counties in Maryland and to the west by the Blue Ridge Mountains (over which lie Clarke and Frederick counties, as well as Jefferson County, which became part of West Virginia during the war). To the south, Loudoun County is bordered by Fauquier and Prince William counties and to the east by Fairfax County.

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.

Slavery and settlement

The settlement of Loudoun County occurred through two distinct patterns. First, Quaker and German settlers moved from Pennsylvania into the northern Loudoun Valley, establishing small farming operations in and around the areas of Lovettsville and Waterford, and as far south as Lincoln. The small, self-sufficient nature of the farms they established, as well as their religious convictions, precluded the use of slaves in these areas. During the Civil War, this region stayed loyal to the Union cause.

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.

Secession

Election of 1860

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.

The Virginia Secession Convention

On February 13, 1861, the Commonwealth of Virginia convened a special convention in Richmond to decide Virginia's course in the rapidly developing conflict. To this convention, Loudoun sent John Janney and John A. Carter to advocate for maintaining the Union. Janney, a former Whig and well respected lawyer among the Virginia Bar, was named president of the convention. The sagacious Janney opened the convention saying, "It is our duty on an occasion like this to elevate ourselves into an atmosphere, in which party passion and prejudice cannot exist - to conduct all our deliberations with calmness and wisdom, and to maintain, with inflexible firmness, whatever position we may find it necessary to assume." Even as this convention was being held, Loudoun began to sway in its opinion, and prior to Fort Sumter, a meeting was held in Leesburg, in which a resolution was adopted endorsing an Ordinance of Secession.

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
Aldie 54 5
Goresville 117 19
Gum Spring 135 5
Hillsboro 84 38
Leesburg 400 22
Lovettsville 46 325
Middleburg 115 0
Mt. Gilead 102 19
Powells Shop 62 0
Purcellville 82 31
Snickersville 114 3
Union(Unison) 150 0
Waterford 31 220
Waters 26 39
Whaleys 108 0
Totals 1626 726

1861

Preparations for war

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.

Ball's Bluff

The first of several conflicts in Loudoun County involving regular units took place on October 21, 1861, on the banks of the Potomac northeast of Leesburg. Known to the Confederates as the Battle of Leesburg, history has recorded the event by the name the Federals gave to it—the Battle of Ball's Bluff. Hoping to drive the Confederates, under Brig. Gen. Nathan Evans, out of Leesburg, General McClellan advised the Union commander at Poolesville, Maryland, Brig. Gen. Charles P. Stone, that a small show of force on his part might cause Evans to abandon his position. On the night of the 20th, Stone sent of a reconnaissance party across the river into Loudoun County to scout the Confederate position and in the dim moonlight, mistook a row of hay bales for a Confederate camp.

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.

White's Rebels

During the Battle of Ball's Bluff, a local farmer, Elijah 'Lige' White, serving in the 7th Virginia Cavalry, was home on furlough and offered his services to Gen. Eppa Hunton during the battle. He was dispatched to the field where he served as a scout and courier. For his service he was granted permission to raise an independent company of cavalry for border service in the Provisional Army. In December, White established a recruiting office in Leesburg. With his new recruits, he promptly established a courier service between the garrison at Leesburg and Stonewall Jackson's command at Winchester. White's recruiting efforts quickly spread throughout Loudoun and by January 11 of 1862 the unit was formally recognized by the army and nicknamed "White's Rebels".

1862

Invasion

Following the debacle at Ball's Bluff, the Union army began amassing at Harper's Ferry in preparation for operations in the Shenandoah Valley. Part of this force, under the command of Col. John W. Geary, was charged with the undertaking of securing Loudoun County and the army's left flank from across the Blue Ridge as it operated in the Valley. On February 24, Geary set out across the Potomac from Harpers Ferry, but high water delayed his crossing, and it was not until the 27th that his force was fully across into Loudoun. Geary placed his artillery atop an eminence of the Short Hill Mountain and proceeded with his main force to occupy Lovettsville, a German settlement in the heart of Unionist Loudoun, where he established his headquarters.

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 Loudoun Rangers

During Geary's invasion of Loudoun County, local Unionist Samuel C. Means, of Waterford, who had been driven from the county and had all his property confiscated by Confederate authorities in early 1861, served as a guide for the Federal army. For his service, he was granted a commission of captain and charged with the authority to raise an independent company of cavalry to combat Confederate partisans, such as the Comanches, operating along the Potomac. In June, he began his recruiting effort in the northern Loudoun Valley, in the heart of Unionist Loudoun. From his efforts, the Loudoun Rangers were formed.

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.

The road to Antietam

Two days after the Second Battle of Manassas, on September 2, the 2nd Virginia Cavalry under Col. Thomas Munford entered Leesburg in advance of the rest of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, to clear the area of any Union resistance so that the army could safely cross into Maryland. Just north of town, they met units of Cole's Maryland Cavalry and the Loudoun Rangers, who had been left by Geary to hold the area when he joined the rest of the Army of the Potomac during the Northern Virginia Campaign. A pitched cavalry battle ensued, which became known as the Battle of Mile Hill. The 2nd Virginia successfully drove away the Union resistance, and two days later the main body of the army under Jackson entered town. Longstreet's divisions followed the next day. While in town, Lee made his headquarters at the Harrison house on North King Street. The army left town on the 6th and crossed the Potomac at Cheek's Ford the following day.

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.

The bombardment of Leesburg

At about the time the Battle of Antietam was occurring, Lt. Col. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, commanding ten companies of cavalry, left Washington to reoccupy Leesburg and clear any Confederates in the area. Upon arriving in Leesburg, Kilpatrick found the town held by Company A of the 6th Virginia Cavalry, forty or so infantrymen under the command Captain Gibson, and Colonel White and thirty of his troopers. As the infantrymen were largely convalescences and stragglers not fit to make the trek into Maryland, and with their force being greatly outnumbered, Gibson began to retreat from town. White, however, was not wanting to give up his hometown without a fight, persuaded Gibson to resist the Federals as long as possible. A skirmish broke out between the Federal advance guard and the ragtag Confederate force near the courthouse square. In retribution for the Confederates' stubborn resistance, Kilpatrick ordered his artillery brought up and commenced firing on the town forcing the Confederates to retreat west up the Winchester Pike. The degree of damage to the town is a matter of some dispute, with Confederates describing significant damage to buildings while Kilpatrick reported only that he fired a few shots over the town. Once the artillery barrage ceased, Kilpatrick sent in the 10th New York Cavalry, which encountered the Confederates on the western edge of town. White attempted to lead his men in a charge, but he was severely wounded in the process, whereupon the force retreated to Harmony (present day Hamilton) and Kilpatrick took control of Leesburg.

The Affair at Glenmore Farm

On October 16, First Lieutenant Frank Myers, in nominal command of White's Battalion, while White recovered from his wounds inflicted at Leesburg, was ordered by Stonewall Jackson's quartermaster to secure cattle from the Lovettsville area. Myers made an attempt but was thwarted by the presence of General J.R. Kenly's Maryland infantry and cavalry. In retribution, a scouting party under John DeButts, later a member of Mosby's Rangers, was dispatched to harass Kenly, which they successfully did, driving his force back to Harpers Ferry. Thinking the area was clear of Federals and safe to raid, Captain Treyhorn, a new addition to the company, led a scouting party towards Berlin, Maryland, stopping in Lovettesville for the night on the 19th. The Federals, however, took notice of the Confederates, and General Geary was dispatched from Harpers Ferry with two infantry brigades and 300 men from the Col Thomas Devin's 6th New York Cavalry to engage the scouting party.

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.

The Road From Antietam

Following the bloody fight at Sharpsburg, J.E.B. Stuart set out from Williamsport, Maryland north towards Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and then southeast to encircle McClellan's army for the second time in less than a year in order to reconnoiter their strength and movements. On October 10 he crossed back into Virginia at White's Ford, bringing with him some 1,200 horses he and his men had captured. He rested for a day after the crossing northeast of Leesburg before moving south to the town to pick up the Winchester Turnpike west into the Shenandoah Valley by way of Snicker's Gap.

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.

1863

Mosby's Rangers

On January 1, shortly after the Battle of Fredericksburg, J.E.B. Stuart dispatched his trusted scout John Singleton Mosby with nine men of the 1st Virginia Cavalry to the area around Middleburg to harass the Federals protecting Washington and occupying the counties of Virginia north of the Rappahannock River. On the 10th, the men struck a Union outpost at Herndon Station. Following the raid, Mosby and his patrol returned to Stuart, and Mosby requested to return with a detail of fifteen handpicked men, to which Stuart acquiesced. On the 18th, Mosby and his fifteen men, who would become the core of his partisan Rangers, returned to the Loudoun-Fauquier area.

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.

The Skirmish at Miskel Farm

The Ranger's greatest escape came on the morning of April 1 in what became known as the Skirmish at Miskel Farm. Afer returning from an unsuccessful raid on Dranesville, Mosby and seventy men from various partisan units stopped to spend the night in a barn at the Miskell farm near Broad Run of the Alexandria Turnpike. Federal authorities were tipped off to Mosby's movements, and at midnight the 1st Vermont under Capt. Henry Flint was dispatched from Difficult Run down the Alexandria Turnpike to ambush Mosby at Miskel Farm. Early the following morning before dawn, ranger Dick Moran set out for a friends who live off the Turnpike; while there, he sighted the 1st Vermont approaching.

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.

The Gettysburg Campaign

Following the Battle of Chancellorsville, the Army of Northern Virginia again marched north to cross the Potomac. While Lee's main body this time stayed west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, he sent the divisions of John Bell Hood and George Pickett east of the mountains through Loudoun County to guard the mountain passes and protect his right flank. In addition to Hood and Pickett, J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry was kept east of the mountains to prevent the Union cavalry from pinning down the location of the Confederate Army. While moving through Loudoun County, Stuart engaged in a series of battles along the Ashby's Gap Turnpike (present-day US 50) as Union cavalry commander Brig. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton attempted to break through Stuart's screen and locate the Confederate army.

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.

The Restored Government of Virginia

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.

1864

Loudoun Heights

During the summer of 1863, Mosby's reputation and command began to grow as he raided Union camps, supply depots and trains with great success. That summer, the first real rival to Mosby's command emerged. Much more adept than the Union commanders in Fairfax, Maj. Henry Cole and his Independent Maryland Cavalry routinely invaded Mosby's Confederacy and engaged the Rangers in partisan combat. Operating out of Unionist northern Loudoun, Cole's men went into winter quarters in Loudoun Heights, where they has been ordered to guard the bridge to Harpers Ferry and the Union garrison stationed there. Ranger, and fellow former Stuart scout, Capt. Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow came to Mosby early in the year with a bold plan to surprise attack the camp by sneaking through a dense woods along the banks of the Potomac between the Blue Ridge and Short Hill and then scrambling up a steep rocky escarpment into the eastern edge of the camp.

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.

Blackleys Grove and 2nd Dranesville

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.

Point of Rocks and Mt. Zion Church

On July 2 Mosby was informed of General Jubal Early's plans to invade Maryland. In order to aid Early's raid, Mosby planned a raid of his own into Maryland and accordingly ordered a rendezvous of the Rangers the following morning at Rectortown. 250 Rangers responded to the call. The Rangers reached the Potomac on the morning of July 4, whereupon a Union force at Point of Rocks was discovered, Mosby determined this would be the Rangers target and they set out east down the Potomac to that village.

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..

Early's Washington Campaign

Following General Jubal Early's invasion of Maryland and aborted attack on Washington D.C. at the Battle of Fort Stevens on July 11-12, he and his 2nd Corp retreated back towards Virginia. On the 14th they crossed over the Potomac at Conrads Ferry and set up camp at Big Springs. The pursuing Federals made up of the VI Corps lead by Maj. Gen. Horatio Wright and the XIX Corps lead by Maj. Gen. W. H. Emory arrived nearly in Poolesville across the river a day later on the 15th. That day while both armies were encapmed on opposite sides of the river, Confederate Cavalry under Bradley Johnson and Mudwall Jackson scouted out the Loudoun Valley to ensure the line of retreat to the Blue Ridge was clear of Federals, while cavalry units under Ransom, Mclausand and Smith maintained a picket line at Ball's Bluff occasionally exchanging fire with their Federal counterparts across the river. A brief cease fire was observed in the middle of the day so that men from both sides could travel to Harrison's Island to trade coffee and tobacco.

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.

The Burning

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.

1865

The George's Schoolhouse Raid

At the end of 1864, the beginning of a very cold winter was setting in. Colonel White and the 35th Battalion were in winter quarters with the Confederate army in the Shenandoah, watching their rations dwindle. White, facing the desertion and starvation of his ranks, managed to obtain permission to take the 35th back to home to Loudoun County so that he might try and obtain forage and resume Partisan activities. The Federals too were settling into winter quarters, though with far greater rations and prospects for the spring campaign season. Around Christmas 1864, Col. Thomas C. Devin's cavalry brigade from the Harpers Ferry garrison, who regularly patrolled Loudoun, made camp outside the Unionist village of Lovettsville in the vicinity of George's Schoolhouse, just east of the Short Hill.

Upon returning to the county on January 3, 1865, White and his men witnessed the devastation of the Burning Raid and the toll from the Federal incursion in the county. A little more than a week later, on the 12th, members of the 35th were attending a party in Hillsboro. They were surprised by the Loudoun Rangers, leaving 1 dead and 2 captured. Colonel White became convinced not to spend the winter in the midst of the enemy without taking action. The Federals were wholly unable to disrupt communication between the partisan groups operating in the county, and White was able to bring together a raiding party of 80 or so men composed of members of the 35th, Mosby's Rangers and Mobberly's independent command.

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.

Harmony

On March 20, Col. Marcus Reno, commanding nearly 1000 troops including the Loudoun Rangers, set out from Harpers Ferry down through Between the Hills to Purcellville in search of Mosby and his Rangers, before moving onto Harmony (present day Hamilton). Rangers and other partisans had been sniping the Federal column since they entered Loudoun County, but it was in Harmony that Mosby decided to put up organized resistance. With 100 men, he waited south of Harmony hidden in Katy Hollow, while he dispatched six riders to Harmony to lure the Federal cavalry to his force. The cavalry took the bait and rode into the ambush, suffering 15 dead and 12 wounded before retreating with the Rangers hot in pursuit. The Federal cavalry fell back to Hamilton and the safety of the infantry. As the Rangers followed, it was them who this time fell into an ambush as the Union column fired, killing 2 and wounding 7. The Rangers retreated and the Federals did not pursue, thus ending the skirmish, one of the last in Loudoun County before the close of the war.

The Final Days

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.

References

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