George's Schoolhouse Raid


George's Schoolhouse Raid

The George's Schoolhouse Raid was a January 17, 1865 American Civil War attack on the Union garrison in Lovettsville, Virginia by Confederate partisans led by John Mobberly operating in Loudoun County. The raid was tactically inconclusive.

Background

At the end of 1864, the beginning of a very cold winter was setting in. Colonel Elijah V. White and his 35th Battalion of Virginia Cavalry were in winter quarters with the Confederate army in the Shenandoah Valley, 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 Mountain.

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 January 12, members of the 35th were attending a party in Hillsboro. They were surprised by the Loudoun Rangers, leaving one dead and two 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 John Mobberly's independent command.

The Raid

On the night of January 17, the raiding party led by Mobberly made its way up the Between the Hills valley 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 them 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 a 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 withstand an assault by some 250 Union troops and hold 150 prisoners and horses, the raiding party broke off the attack, abandoning all of 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.

Results

The raid was largely unsuccesful, but it did highlight the Federals' continuing inability to effectively deal with partisans in Loudoun. For the 35th, the raid was their last 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. For Mobberly, it was his last concerted action against the Federals in the county before he was gunned down on April 15.

Reference

*Crouch, Richard E., "Rough-Riding Scout: The Story of John W. Mobberly, Loudoun's Own Civil War Guerrilla Hero." Elden Additions: Arlington, Va., 1994.


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