Partisan Leader

The Partisan Leader: John Mobberly

In the narrow northwestern Loudoun valley known as “Between the Hills” between the Blue Ridge and Short Hill, the much-feared Confederate partisan leader John Mobberly roamed from 1863-65. Born and raised five miles north, he was a hero to some, a sadistic outlaw to others. The swarthy young Loudouner and his “gang” raided Union outposts and Union sympathizers in this valley as far south as Hillsboro, north to Harpers Ferry and beyond, and east over Short Hill towards Lovettsville.

While Mobberly occasionally rode with E.V. White’s 35th Virginia Cavalry in regular Confederate service, he and his men often struck out on their own. Barricades they erected along the Hillsboro-Harpers Ferry Turnpike could be deadly to Union cavalry lured from their base at Harpers Ferry. Mobberly’s men would sweep down from the mountains, strike hard and fast, and be instantly and mysteriously gone. His comrade Magnus Thompson wrote that Mobberly personally killed more “Yankees” than any man in Lee’s whole army.

Mobberly vowed he would never be taken alive and swore he didn’t want to live in a defeated South. Too true—he was ambushed and killed on April 5, 1865 when going to purchase a horse at the Luther Potterfield farm west of Lovettsville by a party that included four Loudoun Rangers led by Sgt. Stewart. Gen. Stevenson, having called Mobberly leader of “a gang of murderers,” then displayed the body in front of his Harpers Ferry headquarters.

Days later, with the War ending, ladies from “Between the Hills” somberly buried Mobberly at Salem Church, just south down the turnpike he had once patrolled. The inscription and poem they placed on his gravestone in the old churchyard by State Route 671 leaves the visitor curious, for on the stone is written that John Mobberly “was assassinated April 5, 1865.” His fellow guerilla Magnus Thompson would just have mused, “Mobberly . . . was reckless beyond all reason and fearless of danger; in fact, he courted it.”