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John D. Imboden
John D. Imboden.jpg
John Daniel Imboden
photo taken in the 1860s
Born (1823-02-16)February 16, 1823
Died August 15, 1895(1895-08-15) (aged 72)
Place of birth Staunton, Virginia
Place of death Damascus, Virginia
Place of burial Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia
Service/branch Confederate States Army
Years of service 1861–65
Rank 35px Brigadier General
Other work lawyer, writer

John Daniel Imboden (/ɪmˈbdɛn/; February 16, 1823 – August 15, 1895) was a lawyer, teacher, Virginia state legislator. During the American Civil War, he was a Confederate cavalry general and partisan fighter. After the war he returned to practicing law, began writing, and also was active in developing natural resources.

Early life and careerEdit

Imboden was born near Staunton, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley. He attended Washington College (now Washington and Lee University), but did not complete his degree. He taught at a school for the deaf, dumb, and blind, and then attended law school and became a lawyer in Staunton. He was twice elected to the House of Delegates of the Virginia General Assembly. Imboden also was active in the creation of the Staunton Artillery while serving in Virginia's militia.[1]

Civil War serviceEdit

Despite having no military training, Imboden received a commission as captain in the Staunton Artillery of the Virginia State Militia on November 28, 1859. He commanded the unit during the capture of Harpers Ferry. While commanding an artillery battery at the First Battle of Bull Run, Imboden perforated his left eardrum firing an artillery piece, causing subsequent deafness in that ear. On September 9, 1862, Imboden left the artillery to recruit a battalion of partisan rangers and was promoted to colonel of the 62nd Virginia Mounted Infantry (1st Partisan Rangers). He fought with Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson in the Valley Campaign at Cross Keys and Port Republic. He was promoted to brigadier general on January 28, 1863.[2]

Along with Brig. Gen. William E. "Grumble" Jones, Imboden led the famous Jones-Imboden Raid of 3,400 troopers into northwestern Virginia against the B & O Railroad, destroying rail track and bridges. During the raid he also captured thousands of horses and heads of cattle and ruined the petroleum fields in the Kanawha Valley.[1] This raid covered 400 miles (640 km) in 37 days. In the Gettysburg Campaign, Imboden's brigade served under Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart as the rearguard for Gen. Robert E. Lee's movement north through the Shenandoah Valley. (His brigade did not participate in Stuart's foray away from Lee's army, but instead raided the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad between Martinsburg, WV, and Cumberland, MD[3]) They spent the Battle of Gettysburg guarding ammunition and supply trains in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. During the Confederate retreat, Imboden was in charge of escorting the wagon trains of thousands of wounded soldiers back to Virginia. On July 6, 1863, the Potomac River was flooding at Williamsport, Maryland, and Imboden's wagon train was trapped. He put together a defensive force that included an artillery battery and as many of the wounded who could operate muskets. This hastily organized force turned back attacks from Union cavalry generals John Buford and Judson Kilpatrick, saving the wagon train. Robert E. Lee praised Imboden for the way in which he "gallantly repulsed" the Union cavalry.

Returning to the Shenandoah Valley, Imboden responded to a request from General Lee to distract the enemy in his front by leading a raid on the vulnerable Union detachment at Charlestown, West Virginia, on October 18, 1863 at the Battle of Charlestown. Imboden reported,

The surprise was complete, the enemy having no suspicion of our approach until I had the town entirely surrounded. ... To my demand for a surrender Colonel Simpson requested an hour for consideration. I offered him five minutes, to which he replied, 'Take us if you can'. I immediately opened on the buildings with artillery at less than 200 yards, and with half a dozen shells drove out the enemy into the streets, when he formed and fled toward Harper's Ferry.
Union Brig. Gen. Jeremiah Cutler Sullivan soon sent a rescue column from nearby Harpers Ferry and drove Imboden back up the valley. Sullivan reported, "The cavalry came up with the enemy this side of Charlestown, and drove them through the town. Artillery coming up, drove them about 4 miles. A portion of infantry force..., reaching them, the enemy were driven from every position they took, to near Berryville."

Imboden and John C. Breckinridge's forces defeated Union Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel's command at the Battle of New Market on May 15, 1864. He returned to Virginia and commanded a brigade in Maj. Gen. Robert Ransom's cavalry division of the Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia under Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early in the Valley Campaigns of 1864. He was incapacitated by typhoid fever and left the active cavalry service.[1]

Beginning on January 2, 1865, Imboden commanded Camp Millen, Georgia, then the prison camp at Aiken, South Carolina as well as other prison camps in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi throughout 1865 until the end of the war. He was paroled in Augusta, Georgia on May 3 of that year.[2]


After the war, Imboden moved to Richmond, Virginia, where he resumed his work as a lawyer, serving first in Richmond and then in Abingdon, the county seat of Washington County.[1] Around 1886, he moved to southwestern Virginia and where he hoped to mine coal and iron ore deposits at Damascus, Virginia, a town he founded, which became a lumber center in the late 19th and early 20th century.[4] He died in Damascus in 1895, and is buried in the Generals section of Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Dupuy, p. 363.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Eicher, p. 363.
  3. Spencer, Tucker (2002). Brigadier General John D. Imboden: Confederate commander in the Shenandoah. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky. pp. 144. ISBN 978-0-8131-2266-3. 
  4. Damascus, Virginia, history website


  • Dupuy, Trevor N., Curt Johnson, and David L. Bongard. The Harper Encyclopedia of Military Biography. New York: HarperCollins, 1992. ISBN 978-0-06-270015-5.
  • Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.

Further readingEdit

  • Brown, Kent Masterson. Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, & the Pennsylvania Campaign. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8078-2921-8.
  • Tucker, Spencer. Brigadier General John D. Imboden: Confederate Commander in the Shenandoah. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2003. ISBN 978-0-8131-2266-3.
  • Wittenberg, Eric J., J. David Petruzzi, and Michael F. Nugent. One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4–14, 1863. New York: Savas Beatie, 2008. ISBN 978-1-932714-43-2.

External linksEdit

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