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: