Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"The laurel is a running vine."...

...said Jubal Early when commenting about Rosser's Confederate cavalry after the debacle at Tom's Brook on Oct. 9, 1864. The Union victory at Tom's Brook gave Federal cavalry substantial control in the Shenandoah Valley.

On the eve of the battle, Confederate Major General Thomas Rosser showed a bit of arrogance in regard to the Union cavalry command, saying:

"That's General Custer, the Yanks are so proud of, and I intend to give him the best whipping today that he ever got,"

It wasn't to be so for Rosser or his men. On October 6, as Phil Sheridan began retreating up the valley and burning everything of military significance, Jubal Early in the Valley was reinforced by Kershaw's division, and Rosser arrived to take command of Fitz Lee's Confederate cavalry division. As the retreating Federal cavalry troopers were destroying crops, capturing livestock, and burning barns and outbuildings, Rosser's troopers began harassing them. Many men in Rosser's command were from the areas being burned, and a deep hatred toward the Yankees was also beginning to burn in the hearts of the Valley defenders.

On October 9, things changed significantly in the Shenandoah. The prey became the hunter, as Brigadier General Alfred Torbert's retreating troopers began to attack.  In a swift flanking maneuver, Custer turned the tables on Rosser's cavalrymen along the base of Spiker's Hill.  With little help available from the 800 or so men commanded by Lunsford Lomax in the vicinity of Tom's Brook, the Confederates were routed swiftly. 

The battle near Tom's Brook mockingly was referred to as "The Woodstock Races", due to the speed of the Confederate retreat. Sheridan now had a firm hold on the Shenadoah, and the Confederate fate in the Valley seemed dire. Much more fighting was to follow, but the Valley would remain in Union control.
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