Miskel's Farm

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The Battle at Miskel’s Farm

The Battle at Miskel’s Farm placed the Confederate scout forces of John Singleton Mosbys’ Partisan Rangers against the Union forces of Major Charles F. Tagert on 31 March 1863, on a small farm in Loudon County, Virginia in a battle that would display the ferocious confidence and unwavering tenacity of Captain John Singleton Mosby who was never captured by the Union forces. This battle, won by Mosbys’ Rangers, highlights the Principles of Offense, Unity of Command, Security, and Surprise, and the Tenents of Initiative and Agility. Additionally present were the violations of the Battlefield Operating System of Intelligence and Command and Control. This victory cemented Captain John Mosby’s reliability as a confident and credible leader for the Confederates during the Civil War.

The Battle at Miskel’s Farm


The Battle at Miskel Farm occurred on Thomas and Lydia Miskel’s farm in Loudon County, Virginia where Broad Run empties into the Potomac River on 31 March 1863. Once serving as a scout under the 1st Virginia Calvary, John Singleton Mosby raised a troop of 69 Partisan Calvary men authorized under the Confederate government’s Partisan Ranger Act of 1862 to operate behind enemy lines and raid federal supply trains.3 This allowed them to obtain valuable intelligence and supplies from the Union forces in order to help sustain the Confederate forces. This battle emphasized the effective use of Offensive Manuevers, Security and Surprise, and the Tenets of Initiative and Agility. It also conclusively demonstrated that the lack of security and ability to surprise does not always overcome a solid unity of command. One primary source was used, William J. Stier, Civil War Times. Secondary sources include Mosby’s Rangers by Jeffry D. Wert, and several references provided by the AMEDD History Department.

Strategic Setting

John Mosby’s troop of Rangers was organized in 1862 under the Confederate government’s Partisan Ranger Act. 1 During his leadership he concentrated on the counties of Loudon and Fauquier in northern Virginia. John Mosby proved his tenacity by capturing the Union Brigadier General Edwin H. Stoughton and his 320 man force at Fairfax Court House on March 9, 1863 with only 29 Rangers.1 Captain John Mosby was known for his untraditional employment of movement and maneuver tactics. Mosby’s men would scatter across the countryside after an engagement rather than encamp like regular cavalry units.3 So it was a few weeks after the March 9, 1863 capture of Union forces that Mosby was again mobilizing a now 69 man ranger patrol for a mission to over run the isolated outposts of the Union Calvary at Dranesville. (Newborn, 2000) Once arriving at Dranesville, Mosby and his men discovered that due to the lack of forage the Union Calvary unit had moved down the Leesburg-Alexandria Turnpike. (Newborn, 2000) Mosby’s Rangers followed the path of the Union’s Federals down the turnpike eventually arriving at Miskel’s Farm around 10 p.m. and deciding to rest for the night. Once the Rangers had left Dranesville, a local woman in the town sent her brother to inform the Union’s commander, Major Charles F. Taggert, 2nd Pennsylvania Calvary of the numbers and direction the Rangers were headed. Major Taggert recognized the opportunity immediately and appointed Captain Henry C. Flint, commander of Company I of the 1st Vermont Calvary to deploy 150 skilled soldiers to capture and bottleneck Mosby’s Rangers in between the Broad Run River and the Potomac River on Miskel’s Farm.3 This would revenge the unscrupulous capture of the Union Brig. Gen. Stoughton three weeks earlier and crush the famed Mosby and his Rangers.

The military techniques of Captain Flint and Captain Mosby will come into the battke as being profoundly different. Captain Flint believed in using the saber to fight while Captain Mosby was known for his dexterity in shooting...
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