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Lincoln Preservation Foundation

The Battle at Katy's Hollow

Mosby and Men 43rd Battalion.jpg

Category: Event

Historical Dates: 1865

Threat Level: Lost

Location: along Sands Road

Also called "The Battle of Hamilton" and "The Skirmish at Harmony". Over 100 of Colonel John S. Mosby's Confederacy rangers hid near the "cut" of the railroad bed on Sands Road on March 21, 1865, awaiting the approach of some 1,000 Union troops who were marching through western Loudoun burning barns, buildings, and food. Mosby's men ambushed the soldiers and chased them back to Hamilton.

Detailed Information

Col. John S. Mosby was commander of the 43rd Battalion, Virginia Cavalry, known as Mosby’s Rangers. His forces so controlled Northern Virginia that the counties of Fauquier and Loudoun became known as "Mosby’s Confederacy". Mosby's lightning hit and run raids earned him the title of the “Gray Ghost".


On November 26, 1864, Union General Philip Sheridan informed Henry Halleck that..."1 will soon commence on Loudoun County, and let them know there is a God in Israel.” This was to retaliate against Mosby and the local people who had supported him and his men. “If the Federals can make the residents poor by destroying their property and comforts, the residents of that region will cry for peace.” Orders were given to "consume and destroy all forage and subsistence, bum all barns and mills and their contents and drive off all stock in the region.” This was to be known as the "Burning Raid".


Beginning on November 28, Federals burned 150 barns, 1000 haystacks, six flourmills, corn cribs,  and any other structures that would provide food or shelter to Mosby's men. Residents of Lincoln watched as accumulations of a lifetime disappeared in flames. Mosby's Rangers could do little to prevent the devastation.


On March 20, 1865, Union Army Col. Marcus Reno, in command  of a force of about one thousand  men (Ist US Veteran infantry, 12th Penn. Cavalry,  and the Loudoun Rangers), marched from Harpers Ferry through Hillsboro to Purcellville in search of the Mosby Rangers. As they traveled toward Hamilton (once called Harmony) they encountered sniper fire on the way as the Rangers followed their line of  march. Mosby and 128 of his men then assembled near the Quaker Meeting House in Lincoln.


On the morning of March 21, 1865, Reno's men moved east on Route 7 from Purcellville toward Hamilton. Mosby’s men left Lincoln (presumably by way of Foundry Rd),  rode up the old Manassas Gap railroad bed, and turned onto Sands Road. Mosby planned a brilliant ambush by placing his men in the woods and fields hidden by the deep cuts and turns in the road, in a hollow locally known as " Katy's Hollow" (now part of Stone Eden Farm development) south of Hamilton. He sent 25 men as decoys into Hamilton to attack Reno's column. Union Lieutenant John H. Black was ordered to attack. Mosby’s men galloped south on Sands road toward Lincoln, chased by the Federals. As the Union troopers charged down Sands Road, Mosby's men attacked from the front and side. There was a sudden reversal of roles, from attacker to defender, causing confusion and panic among the Federals. There was fierce fighting and close combat. The Northerners turned and fled toward Hamilton and the safety of the Infantry with the partisans in close pursuit.


Mosby's chase halted when Federal infantry deployed behind a hedgerow near town began firing. Mosby lost two men killed and five others were wounded. The Union troops lost nine men killed, 12 wounded and 10 taken prisoner. Mosby's men withdrew to the Hatcher farm about 3 miles south of Hamilton. That only 128 cavalrymen could out-maneuver and out-fight over 1000 well-armed Federal troops was an example of the bravery  and determination of Mosby and his  men.


20 days later on April  10, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox and the war was ended. The Battle of Hamilton/Katy’s Hollow was swept away as Loudoun and its people began the long recovery from America’s bloody Civil War.

Lt. John Black, the badly wounded Union leader, was snatched up and nursed back to health by several local Quaker families.

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