January 28 – February 1, 1864
Thomas L. Rosser, said Confederate cavalry Gen. Jeb Stuart when recommending him for promotion to brigadier general, was “an admirable outpost commander, vigilant, active and accurate in conclusions about enemy’s designs, in battle a bold and dashing leader, on the march and in bivouac a rigid disciplinarian, but at the same time exacting the confidence of his entire command.” Gen. Jubal A. Early commanding in the Shenandoah Valley, shared Stuart’s estimation of the young cavalry officer.
In January 1864 Early sent Rosser on a foraging and cattle-stealing raid into West Virginia, deep behind Union lines. Besides Rosser’s Laurel Brigade, an infantry brigade, and a battery of artillery, Old Jube himself decided to accompany the expedition.
With the Laurel Brigade leading the way, they left camp at New Market on January 28, 1864, and arrived in Moorefield, W. Va., the next day to find that a Union wagon train had recently passed through the town and was going south toward Petersburg., W. Va. Rosser and his men set out after the wagon train early on January 30 and found it in the town of Medley, protected by four Union infantry regiments. Though outnumbered, Rosser decided to attack. While Col. Elijah V. White’s 35th Virginia Cavalry Battalion of “Comanches” delivered a smashing frontal assault, Rosser’s other regiments attacked the flanks, and the Union force quickly gave way and fled in disorder, leaving the wagon train full of supplies to the Rebel horsemen. Joined by the infantry, the Rebels went to Petersburg, where they found more Union supplies and ammunition to confiscate. They then roamed the countryside, collecting cattle and sheep for the Confederate commissary.
By February 1, the Union government had reinforcements in the are, but they were too late. Rosser’s band was off to the east, well on their way back to the Shenandoah Valley with 95 Union wagons full of supplies, 1,200 cattle, 500 sheep, and 80 prisoners.
Fascinating Fact: Jubilant over their successful raid, all of the members of the Laurel Brigade re-enlisted shortly after they returned to Virginia.