Fight At Aldie - Background

Background

On January 24, 1863, Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart dispatched his scout John S. Mosby and 15 of his cavaliers to the lower Loudoun Valley in Fauquier County to conduct operations against Union forces occupying Northern Virginia. On January 28, the small band met at Mount Zion church, 0.5 miles (0.80 km) east of Aldie and set on their first raid against Federals in Chantilly. During the next month, Mosby and his men raided into Fairfax County twice more, besting larger Federal forces each time. On March 2, in response to the raids, Colonel Sir Percy Wyndham dispatched 200 troopers of the 18th Pennsylvania under Major Joseph Gilmore from Fairfax towards Middleburg to find and capture Mosby and his men. In the town, the Union force, many of whom were reportedly drunk, began searching local residences and arresting citizens in an attempt to smoke out Mosby's men. When this proved to be unsuccessful, Gilmore threatened to burn the town. Residents of the village, pleaded with Gilmore to spare them, claiming to have no knowledge of the whereabouts of Mosby's men. Gilmore apparently believed them and withdrew with his command east, toward Aldie. At Aldie, the 18th Pennsylvania encountered a 50-man detachment of the 1st Vermont on similar patrol in Loudoun. The drunken Major Gilmore mistook the 1st Vermont for Confederates and ordered a retreat. The 1st Vermont, overtook the 18th Pennsylvania and the mistake was recognized. The 18th Pennsylvania informed the 1st Vermont of their failure to locate Mosby and then withdrew for Fairfax, while the 1st Vermont returned to Aldie to water their mounts.

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