Hunter's Raid

Carte de visite of VMI in ruins following Hunter's Raid

1866 carte de visite by Adam Plecker of VMI in ruins following General David Hunter's raid. Courtesy of Seth Goodhart.

Hunter’s troops would go on to Lexington, where they burned selected houses and VMI and sacked Washington College before continuing their raid.  Ironically, their delay in order to punish Lexingtonians for their perceived sins enabled Confederates to shore up defenses in preparation for what would be a decisive defeat of Hunter on June 17-18 at the Battle of Lynchburg, sending his army in retreat to West Virginia.  One can only imagine the relief of Brownsburg’s white inhabitants when the divisions of Crook and Averell left.  “They have done us much injury.” Henry Boswell Jones wrote in his diary.  “Lord have mercy upon us and them.”  For some of the slaves, however, the perspective on the Federal troops must have been different.  The war did not begin as a struggle for freedom, but it had evolved into one.  The appearance of U. S. soldiers had offered an opportunity for liberation, and when the soldiers departed some of the slaves probably went with them.  Others remained, perhaps unsure about exchanging the only world they had known for a future less certain, perhaps influenced by the loyalty and affection that paternalism sometimes promoted notwithstanding the inequality inherent in it.

Newspaper clipping about Hunter's Raid and the wheat crop

Lexington Gazette clipping about Hunter's Raid and the wheat crop, August 1964.

“Black Dave” Hunter would be reviled by generations of Virginians for the ashes he left elsewhere in the Valley, but no buildings in Brownsburg were burned nor was any resident physically injured.  Condemned prisoner David Creigh, brought by the Federals to Rockbridge in chains, was less fortunate.  Hanged at Bellevue before Averell’s troopers broke camp on the morning of June 11, the hapless Creigh would be transfigured through his tragic death into “The Greenbrier Martyr.”

Hunter's Raid