“Wait a minute. Strike that; reverse it. Thank you.”

Posted on January 13, 2014 by


Considering the quote from Willy Wonka, I think he would have loved the versatility of blogging over writing for print. But, apart from me finding the quote useful at this time, that’s the only connection that there is between this post and Willy Wonka…

So, what is it, exactly, that I want to “strike and reverse”?

For nearly 20 years, I’ve been under the impression that a particular chain of events surrounded the capture of James Draper Moore and his five pards, at Loudoun Heights. There is a source which I’m now trying to locate, once again, that mentions the capture of Cole’s pickets. In that all of the men captured in the fight were from Co. B, it only seemed to make sense that the six men were on picket.

In fact, there was mention of Mosby’s awareness (which makes sense, of course) of the Federal picket as they advanced on Cole’s Camp… especially of the pickets at the Hillsborough Road bridge that crossed Piney Run. Yet, there is also the suggestion that, when within a mile of this post, Mosby led his men off to the right, into the woods. Did he evade the picket without incident? As Mosby later reported, when he reached his objective, “the camp was buried in profound sleep… there was not a sentinel awake”.

Yet, there is no mention, in the few Mosby resources that I have, that the captured men were from Cole’s picket. So, where did this information creep in as part of the description of the fight?

Heck, going on whatever source that suggests it, it was just last week that I made a trip to Loudoun Heights just to get some sense of things, from the supposed picket site, on Piney Run. That’s what I thought happened.

Now, not so much.

There’s new information that very few were privy to before now… including myself… and it appears this information hasn’t been tapped when it comes to contemporary works regarding Mosby’s Rangers.*  

Jacob F. Breisch, of Clear Spring, Maryland… a veteran of Co. B, Cole’s Cavalry… wrote a 64-page book, Three Years Around the Camp-Fires in Virginia**, which provides a different story than that which seems to have stuck.

For nine days we were lying in camp undisturbed, and almost fancied that all danger had passed, when suddenly, at 4 o’clock on the morning of the 10th of January, Moseby [sic] with his demons came yelling into camp. They were firing into our tents, and three of them, my own among the number received seventy-seven balls into them. We were cut off from the officers, we could hear no word of command, and we were so panic stricken that we did not know what to do. A number had already been killed and wounded, most of them in their tents. At length one of the boys cried out at the top of his voice, “boys, get out of your tents, lay down on the ground, and shoot every man on horseback.” Taking my carbine in one hand, with my revolver in the other, I broke through their lines, as did many others. The men were dressed only in their night clothes, and many of them barefooted running over the frozen ground, opened up such a fire upon them, as to cause them to retire, but not without taking from us a number of horses, and a few prisoners. One young man, a friend of mine, by the name of James Moore, while in the tent dropped his carbine, and lay down, saying, “O my God.” Whether he was wounded or not, I do not know, for he was carried away, and I believe never heard from. 

Game-changing? For me… and anyone looking to know the details of the fight at Loudoun Heights (and even being a close follower of all things Mosby and/or Cole)… absolutely. I now have a better idea where to go, on the soon to be state park, when I want to reflect on the last minutes of James Moore’s life as a trooper in Cole’s Cavalry.

It is here…

Looking from the south, toward Cole's Camp. Mosby attacked from the northwest end of the camp, so... somewhere toward the left-back, in this image.

Looking from the south, toward Cole’s Camp. Mosby attacked from the northwest end of the camp, so… somewhere toward the left-back, in this image.

And not here…


*Also during my closer analysis of the fight, I took time to look at the moon phase for the night. One contemporary work about Mosby mentions something about it being a moonlit night… it was not. On January 9, there was a new moon. Except for the snow on the ground, it was probably as dark as could be.

**Just to give you an idea of just how rare this book is… do a Google search. Let me know when you come back with a result that is other than this post… and the two instances in which Breisch made presentations (Feb. and Oct., 1885), in Hicksville and Elyria, Ohio, respectively. I hear a copy, if found, can demand a fairly large amount of money. Thanks to fellow Cole’s Cavalry descendant, Mark Dudrow, for sharing a copy of the book with me.