Bradley Johnson and John McCausland

Brig. Gen. John McCausland

One thing I love about blogging, is that I can sit down and share some brief thoughts on small elements of Civil War history. My recent visit to Moorefield has prompted me to reflect on the problems that Brig. Gen. John McCausland experienced with subordinate Brig. Gen. Bradley Johnson at Moorefield.

First some background: Johnson had significant experience serving in Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. His prior attachment to that army and his membership in that most peculiar class of Confederate known as the Marylander have elevated his historical reputation well above his actual military accomplishments.
In the 1864 Valley Campaign, he proved careless on several occasions. He laxity on July 16, 1864 allowed a small force of Union cavalry to attack Early’s wagon train at the Purcellville Wagon Raid. That same evening, he failed to post pickets and a small Union force attached his camp and put his entire brigade to flight. Then we have Moorefield.

It is clear that McCausland warned Johnson of Averell’s approach several hours before the attack came. Johnson did not pass the warnings on to his regimental commanders. As a result, they and their men were sound asleep when Averell attacked after his Jessie Scouts “relieved” Johnson’s pickets. Johnson barely evaded capture.

When word of the debacle reached Early’s HQ in the Shenandoah Valley, Jed Hotchkiss related that the only wish there was that Johnson had been captured along with the hundreds of other Confederates at Moorefield. To be fair, McCausland had poorly positioned his command, with his two brigades separated by the South Branch of the Potomac River, a poor choice. But Johnson’s lax security finally caught up with him and cost Jubal Early more than 400 horsemen, 600 precious horses and a battery of horse artillery.

If you are interested in learning more about McCausland, Johnson, Moorefield and its impact on Jubal Early’s Valley Campaign, I cover it in detail in my 2007 Book Shenandoah Summer. See the link below:



Filed under Battles

4 responses to “Bradley Johnson and John McCausland

  1. Brian Monahan

    We note that my great grandfather, Trooper Robert Monahan [of Washington Township, Blair County, Pennsylvania] was at Moorefield, W.V. with the 14th Pennsylvania Cavalry in August 1864. Men pushed their limits on the ride from Chambersburg, McConnellsburg, Bedford, Cumberland. The topography is difficult.

    “Chambersburg” was the stirring cry as the steeds leaped forth furiously. The enemy expecting no mercy from their Pennsylvania antagonists whose little city they had pillaged and burned made a short but desperate life and death struggle. The solid columns of the 14th and 22nd Pennsylvania cavalry regiments struck the enemy so fiercely that the commands of McCausland and Bradly Johnston were thrown into confusion and completely routed… McCausland in his own memoirs says ‘that after the Moorfield assault of Averill, his cavalry never amounted to much’ ”

    [ Rev. William D. Slease, “The Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry in the Civil War”, Reprinted 2007 by the Mechling Bookbindery, Chicora, Pennsylvania, page 161.]

    Your thoughts and Rev. Slease’s account make a visit to the battlefield site mandatory.

    Brian Monahan Easton, Pennsylvania

    • Thanks Brian. The 14th Pennsylvania Cavalry was a splendid fighting regiment and perhaps one of my favorites overall in terms of Valley Campaign U.S. mounted units. I have to take issue with some of the stories in the regimental history. For example, it includes the 22nd Pennsylvania Cavalry as being in the charge at Moorefield. None of the 22nd was actually at Moorefield itself. The greater part of it was part of Duffie’s Division, not Averell’s or in a dismounted camp. The small detachment that was with Averell was assigned to duty to come up and cut off the retreat of McCausland’s force as it retreated toward the Shenandoah Valley from Moorefield. In this they were only partially successful. Check out “The Twenty-second Pennsylvania cavalry and the Ringgold battalion, 1861-1865,” for a detailed account of that regiment’s role at Moorefield.

      Look forward to hearing from you in the future.

      • Brian Monahan

        Thank You !! We have pre-ordered from Amazon your soon to be published Third Winchester. Rev. W. D. Slease’s Regimental History of the 14th PA Cavalry was “authorized” by Resolution at a Regimental Runion in 1913 and published thereafter. He actually has a disclaimer syled “note” in the very beginning indicating “omissions” and “imperfections” appear. Again, Thanks for your good work !

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