Battle of Moorefield
Other Names: Battle of Oldfields
Location: Hardy County, West Virginia
Campaign: Early's Raid and Operations against the B&O Railroad (June-August 1864)
Date(s): August 7, 1864
Principal Commanders: Brig. Gen. William W. Averell [US]; Brig. Gen. John McCausland [CS]
Forces Engaged: Divisions
Estimated Casualties: 531 total
Result(s): Union victory
Description: While returning to the Shenandoah Valley after burning Chambersburg, McCausland’s
and Johnson’s cavalry were surprised at Moorefield on August 7 and routed by pursuing Union cavalry. This defeat impeded
the morale and effectiveness of the Confederate cavalry for the remainder of the 1864 Valley Campaign.
|Battle of Moorefield Map
|West Virginia Civil War Map
E. Lee was concerned about Hunter's advances in the Valley during 1864, which threatened critical railroad lines and provisions
for the Virginia-based Confederate forces. He sent Jubal Early's corps to sweep Union forces from the Valley and, if possible,
to menace Washington, D.C., hoping to compel Grant to dilute
his forces against Lee around Petersburg, Virginia. Early was operating in the shadow of Thomas
J. "Stonewall" Jackson, whose 1862 Valley Campaign against superior forces was etched in Confederate history. (Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign: A History with Maps and Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign of 1862: Confederate Military
History) Early had a good start. He proceeded down the Valley without opposition, bypassed
Harpers Ferry, crossed the Potomac River, and advanced into Maryland. Grant dispatched a corps under Horatio G. Wright and other troops under George Crook to reinforce
Washington and pursue Early.
West Virginia became a state, breaking away from Virginia during the Civil War, on June 20, 1863. The Battle of Moorefield, also known
as the Battle of Oldfields, was one of several battles fought during Early's Raid and Operations against the B&O Railroad (June-August 1864).
The Battle of Moorefield was one of several battles fought during Early's
Raid and Operations against the B&O Railroad (June-August 1864). Early's Operations against the B&O Railroad, often
times referred to as Early's Raid or Early's Maryland Campaign, was part of the Shenandoah Valley Campaigns of 1864 and was the second of three principal campaigns fought throughout the valley
|Notable Generals at Battle of Moorefield
|Generals Averell, McCausland, and Johnson
|Battle of Moorefield, West Virginia, Map
|Civil War Battle of Moorefield Map
Background: Following the resounding Confederate victory
at the Second Battle of Kernstown on July 24, General Jubal A. Early dispatched cavalry under Generals McCausland and Bradley
Tyler Johnson to raid the towns of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and Cumberland, Maryland. On the 29th the cavalry force crossed
the Potomac west of Williamsport, Maryland, evading their Union counterparts under General Averell. As the Confederates moved
north towards their target, Averell mistakenly assumed they would turn east to attack Baltimore and moved his force to repel
such a maneuver. In doing so he allowed the Confederates to raid and burn Chambersburg virtually unopposed and then make off
for Cumberland and West Virginia.
On August 4, the Confederate cavalry continued with their objective of disrupting
traffic on the B&O Railroad by attempting to raid New Creek (present day Keyser, West Virginia). The raid proved to be
unsuccessful as the small Union garrison used topography to its advantage, emplacing fortified artillery atop the mountains
that surrounded the New Creek Valley. After aborting the raid the Confederates fell back towards Moorefield and made camp.
Having been operating virtually unopposed since he left Virginia, McCausland felt he was in no imminent danger and carelessly
set up his camp with his two divisions separated by the South Branch Potomac River.
While the Confederates attempted to raid New Creek, Averell's force crossed
the Potomac at Hancock, Maryland, and headed for Springfield, West Virginia. Upon arriving on August 6, they learned of the
Confederate raid and subsequent withdrawal to Moorefield. Averell determined not to let the Confederates escape him a second
time and departed for Romney the following day, sending his scouts ahead to reconnoiter the Confederate position. By 6 p.m.
that night his scouts met up with Averell at Mill Creek halfway between Romney and Moorefield. Because he was outnumbered
nearly 2 to 1, Averell planned a surprise attack on the Confederates by launching a night raid. The Federals marched from
Mill Creek at 1 a.m on August 7.
|Battle of Moorefield Map
|Map of Union and Confederate Movements
Battle: The Battle of Moorefield was a cavalry battle
in the American Civil War, which took place on August 7, 1864, at Moorefield, West Virginia, as part of the Valley Campaigns
of 1864. Brig. Gen. William W. Averell led Union troops to a victory over Brig. Gen. John McCausland and his Confederate troops
in Hardy County, West Virginia.
At approximately 3 a.m. the Union vanguard led by Capt. Thomas Kerr encountered
and captured the first Confederate pickets north of Moorefield. After the pickets were sent to the rear, Averell rode up and
prepared for his attack, placing Maj. Thomas Gibson in the center along the Moorefield road. Two columns under Col. William
Powell formed on the flanks of Gibson. Kerr again lead the vanguard. With his line formed Averell ordered the attack. Gibson's
column immediately smashed into the Bradley Johnson camp. Most of Johnson's men were asleep and woke up only in time to be
taken prisoner or rush off in full retreat. The commotion of Johnson's retreating men was enough to awake the men in McCausland's
camp on the other side of the river who were able to form a line and meet Gibson's advance at the river. Averell had planned
to meet resistance at the river and thus sent his two flanking columns to cross up and down stream respectively of Gibson's
crossing. The two columns soon crossed and poured into the flank of the hastily formed Confederate line causing it to break
into retreat. The Federal advance then pushed on encountering Brig. Gen. William Jackson's horse cavalry on the Winchester
pike east of town. Jackson tried to bring his guns up to fire on the Federals, but because the retreating Confederates were
so interspersed among them he could not get a shot off before they were overrun and captured.
|Civil War Moorefield Battlefield Map
|Battle of Moorefield, West Virginia
|Moorefield, West Virginia, Map
|Civil War Battle of Moorefield Map
Aftermath and Analysis: The Battle of Moorefield
was a cavalry battle in the American Civil War, which took place on August 7, 1864, at Moorefield, West Virginia, as part
of the Valley Campaigns of 1864. Brig. Gen. William W. Averell led Union troops to a victory over Brig. Gen. John McCausland
and his Confederate troops in Hardy County, West Virginia.
The official reports show that Averell captured 38 officers and 377 enlisted
men in addition to killing at least 13 and wounding 60. The Confederate losses to capture might have been higher, but due
to the speed of the advance many Confederates initially captured were able to escape as they were sent to the rear. The victory
cost Averell 11 killed, including 2 officers, 18 wounded, and 13 captured. Those captured were likely stragglers rounded up
by John Hanson McNeill's partisan command, which was operating in the area. The devastating loss crippled the Confederate
cavalry in the Valley. For the duration of the war in the Valley they would no longer have the dominance they previously enjoyed
throughout the war. Advance to Shenandoah Valley Campaigns: The Civil War Battles.
Moorefield is a town in Hardy County, West Virginia, and is also
the county seat for Hardy County. It was originally chartered in 1777 and named for Conrad Moore, who owned the land upon
which the town was established. Moorefield is located at the confluence of the South Branch Potomac River and the South Fork
South Branch Potomac River. See also West Virginia Civil War History.
(Sources listed below.)
Sources: National Park Service; Official Records of the Union and Confederate
Armies; Patchan, Scott C. Shenandoah Summer: The 1864 Valley Campaign. University of Nebraska Press; Lincoln, Ne. 2007.