The “Ground-Hog Scenario” & The 1862 Valley Campaign

Happy Groundhog Day!

Recently, I was reading John S. Robson’s memoirs titled How A One-Legged Rebel Lives and found this reference to a groundhog story in his account of the 1862 Valley Campaign. Robson marched and fought in the  52nd Virginia Infantry Regiment, and he later called himself a “high private” in the “foot cavalry” in an attempt to sell more books. 

The historical setting of this excerpt is during the 1862 Valley Campaign after the Confederates had fought the First Battle of Winchester and captured a lot of supplies. Transporting the valuable plunder further south in the Valley while Generals Fremont and Shields started closing in on them created a scenario where speed was essential to the Confederates…and tenacity like someone digging to find a groundhog.

On Sunday morning, June 1st, 1862, we walked out on the Wardonsville road and held service with Gen. Fremont’s advance, which we checked, and finally drove his people back so far as to give us wagon room and let all our trains get safely past this dangerous point.

We fully expected Gen. Shields to take part in the exercises, which would have rendered them much more interesting to us, and knowing him to have been at Front Royal we knew it would be comparatively easy for him to do, but his failure to appear satisfied us that he had taken the Page Valley route, and now we were in for a race to New Market Gap. It is related, on good authority, that “once upon a time” a traveller[sp] found a boy, with hoe and crowbar, hard at work digging under a big rock, and inquired what he was after. “Ground-hog under here,” was the sententious reply. “Do you expect to get him out?” asked the traveller. “Expect to get him!” said the boy – “get[got] to get him; preacher be at our house today, and we’re out of meat.”

It was a “ground-hog case” now with “Stonewall” for this fourteen-mile wagon train carried the visible fruits of our victory over Banks, and we “get[got] to get” to New Market Gap ahead of Shields or he’d cut our train off. We did get there, but it was busy job, especially for Ashby and the rear guard, and the light batteries and sharpshooters kept up on continual roar all the way—day and night—as they contested, mile by mile, the advance of Fremont’s column which had taken the road in our rear when we left Strasburg.


John S. Robson, How A One-Legged Rebel Lives. Accessed through Library of Congress. (Pages 39-40)

2 Responses to The “Ground-Hog Scenario” & The 1862 Valley Campaign

  1. For me Robson’s small booklet (in several editions) is one of most honest, interesting, and amusing accounts of a humble private to be found. He lost his leg at Cedar Creek in October 1864 which ended his service in the 52nd Virginia. Disabled and finding employment impossible, Robson decided to write his memoirs hoping to earn enough to sustain himself. “I’m no applicant for charity” he wrote, a refreshing declaration of pride and independence and a lesson for today. Kent Masterson Brown wrote a fine introduction to a 1984 edition published by Butternut Press.

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