The Battle at Katy's Hollow
Historical Dates: 1865
Threat Level: Lost
Location: along Sands Rd
Also called "The Battle of Hamilton," "The Skirmish at Harmony." Over 100 of Colonel John S. Mosby's Conferdacy rangers hid near the "cut" of the railroad bed on Sands Road on March 21, 1865, awaiting the approach of some 1000 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.
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.
"Mosby at Hamilton" by Madison Cawein (1865-1914)
In commemoration of Mosby's last fight near Hamilton, March 21, 1865.
Down Loudoun lanes, with swining reins,
And clash of spur and sabre.
And bugling of the battle horn,
Six score and eight we rode at morn.
Six score and eight of Southern born.
Full in the sun at Hamilton,
We met the South's invaders:
Who, after fifteen hundred strong,
'Mid blazing homes had marched along
All night with Northern shout and song
To crush the rebel raiders.
Down Loudoun lanes, with streaming manes,
We spurred in wild March weather;
And all along our war-scarred way
The graves of SOuthern heroes lay,
Our guide-posts to revenge that day,
As we rode grim together.
Old tales still tell some miracle
Of saints in holy writing--
But who shall say while hundred fled
Before the few that Mosby led,
Unless the noblest of our dead
Charged with us then when fighting?
While Yankee cheers still stunned our ears
of troops at Harpers Ferry,
While Sheridan led on his Huns,
And Richmond rocked to roaring guns.
We felt the South still had some sons
She would not scorn to bury.
References and Links
Detailed information compiled by Donna Rogers
The integrity of this site is lost due to development.
The site is on Sands Rd, (Rt 709) halfway between the village of Lincoln and the town of Hamilton. A Manassas Gap RR historical marker is near the site.