As Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal Anderson Early’s withdrew from Washington, DC following the Battle of Fort Stevens, they were pursued by Union troops commanded by Major General Horatio G Wright. On July 15th 1864 as the two armies moved up the Valley, the Union troops were reinforced by parts of Brigadier General George Crook’s force. There were a couple of skirmishes on July 16th 1864, before Early crossed the mountain at Snickers Gap.
Early left a part of his force covering the rear of the army, at the main Shenandoah River crossing at Castleman’s Ferry. On July 17th 1864 Union cavalry moved through Snicker’s Gap but were held up by the Confederate force there.
The next day July 18th 1864 Union Generals Crook and Wright arrived at Snicker’s Gap and decided to attack what they thought was Confederate skirmish line. Wright wanted a small force to cross the river a short ways downstream and flank the Confederates at Castleman’s Ferry; he assigned Colonel Joseph Thoburn the job. The Confederates were alert to the movement and this allowed Confederate Major General John B Gordon to move troops unseen to the Ford. Confederate General John C Breckinridge backed him with more troops deployed on the left flank. Around 6pm the Confederates attacked along the exposed Union left flank, and the cavalry fighting un-mounted collapsed. The Confederates then ran up against a Union reserve line which was able to push them back to the river. After some spirited skirmishing along the river, Thoburn withdrew his troops from the river.