After burning Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, Confederate cavalry under Gens. John McCausland and Bradley Johnson camped on August 6–7, 1864, in the fertile South Branch Valley at Old Fields, about three miles north of Moorefield, Hardy County. The generals ignored scout reports of union troops nearby and warnings from the local McNeill’s Rangers, Confederate partisans, that their position was exposed.
At dawn on August 7, Union troops under Gen. William W. Averell moved south from Keyser along the route of present Route 220. They attacked Johnson’s headquarters at the Willow Wall mansion owned by Daniel McNeill. The Confederates were routed and fled south into the town; the Union captured 500 men and 400 horses. ‘‘This affair had a very damaging effect upon my cavalry for the rest of the campaign,’’ commanding Confederate Gen. Jubal Early later wrote. The weakened Early would be repeatedly defeated by Sheridan and expelled from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, a Union victory which helped ensure Lincoln’s reelection that fall.
In a local skirmish north of Moorefield on November 28, 1864, Rosser’s Confederate cavalry and McNeill’s Rangers rebuffed Union Col. R. E. Fleming’s raid and spared the South Branch Valley from destruction. The battlefields are part of the Middle South Branch Valley rural historic district determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in 1998 although not added to the National Register. The district includes 15 major farms and plantations, laid out in ‘‘long lots’’ by Lord Fairfax or early settlers to include mountain land, hills, and river bottom land.
This Article was written by Bonni V. McKeown
Last Revised on October 20, 2010
Powell, Nancy H. What to See and Do in the Lost River and South Branch Valleys. Lost River: Lost River Educational Foundation, 1997.
Reed, Paula & Associates & Michael Baker Jr., Inc. Middle South Branch Valley Rural Historic District and Study Area: Architectural and Historical Documentation. Charleston: West Virginia Division Of Tourism, West Virginia Division Of Highways, Apr. 1998.
Smith, Stephen G. The First Battle of Moorefield: Early's Cavalry is Routed. Danville, VA: Blue & Gray Education Society, 1998.
Cite This Article
McKeown, Bonni V. "Battle of Moorefield." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 20 October 2010. Web. 24 February 2017.