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The Great Burning Raid

Mosby relied heavily on the local farmers to supply forage for his men’s nearly 1,600 horses. Often leaving on two raids a day by the autumn of 1864, there was inevitably a detail led by Mosby’s quartermaster, Major Hibbs going on a “corn raid” for forage. By that time, resources in southern Loudoun and northern Fauquier were being exhausted, and the target became the nonparticipating Quaker families whose sons stayed home and whose farms accordingly prospered. Paid in Confederate money, scrip, and IOUs, these Quakers unhappily cooperated.

And so it was that exasperated federal troops decided to burn Mosby out, destroying his base of support—the local farmers.

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On November 28, 1864, on orders from General Sheridan, General Wesley Merritt and some 5,000 federal cavalrymen came from Winchester into the Loudoun Valley. They had orders to burn every barn, shed, grain mill; to destroy all crops and farm machinery; to confiscate all horses, cows, sheep, pigs, and goats; and to arrest all men between the ages of 15 and 50 regardless of their wartime sympathies. Over the next five days they did just that. The damage was horrendous to Confederates and Unionists alike.

Ketoctin Church recorded in its minutes:

"No congregation or preaching [be]cause some of the Federal cavalry were in the settlement . . .Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Burnt nearly all our barns with their contents, much corn, all the wheat, oats, hay and straw they could find, many outbuildings and fencing besides several valuable dwelling houses with their contents and robbing many others. They also drove off all the horses, cattle, and sheep they saw making loss to that part of the county where they made their depredations of from two to three millions of dollars. Therefore each and every person had as much as they could do on Friday and Saturday to get things in some kind of order . . ."