In early April, 1863, a Confederate force led by Captain John H. McNeill's Rangers and four additional companies of Virginia cavalry left Rockingham County for West Virginia. At Moorefield, 20 miles south of Fort Mill Ridge, the force divided into several smaller units.
On April 6th, McNeill's Rangers surprised a Union foraging train near Burlington, 10 miles west of Fort Mill Ridge, capturing 5 wagons and 11 soldiers. A contingent of 50 Union cavalrymen sent to assist the foraging party headed south toward Moorefield by today's Route 220, west of Mill Mountain. A second larger Union cavalry force followed them.
The smaller Union force ran headlong into the Virginia cavalry and bid a hasty retreat back up the road. Near Purgitsville, they met with the larger Union force, which prepared to receive the Confederates. A hand-to-hand melee ensued before the outnumbered Confederates broke off the engagement and retreated south toward Moorefield.
Union infantry and artillery were sent to reinforce the cavalry. On the morning of April 7th, they surprised the Confederate encampment 5 miles south of Moorefield. After scattering the Confederates with artillery shells, the Union infantry crossed the swollen South Branch of the Potomac River in small boats and burned the camp. The Union forces then returned to Fort Mill Ridge, and McNeill's Confederates returned to Rockingham County.
A munday our wagon train went out after hay tords Morefield, our Cavary went out to gard them. four or five hundred Secesh Cavary made a dash on them and took five of our teams. Thair was som more of our Cavary went out. thay had a little fite.... Thair was a hundred of us on our regement and a Company of the 54 Pennsylvania started out at three in the eaving.... in the morning we started on. we went through Greanland Gap on to the river. then we shelled them out of thair camp. then about one hundred and fifty of us went across the river in shifts and went up the hollow into thair camp. thay cut the tung out of the wagon and left them. we burnt them, then crost the river back safe.
April 9, 1863 letter of Joshua Winters.