By winter of 1865, hunger and defeat stalked the armies of the Confederacy. In the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan's command had wrecked Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early's Confederate legions and ravaged the fertile valley, the suffering was particularly acute. Entire regiments had been temporarily sent home to relieve the critical shortages in rations and forage. Only a remnant of Early's infantry and Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Rosser's half-clothed and badly mounted cavalry division remained.
Early in January, Rosser learned that at Beverly, West Virginia, more than 75 miles from his camp near Staunton, Virginia, a Union depot, guarded by 1,000 troops, bulged by supplies. Though fierce cold and heavy snow blanketed the region, Rosser determined to undertake a raid. Securing permission, he asked for volunteers and organized a force of 300. Dividing it into 2 detachments of 150 men each, commanded respectively by Cols. Alphonso F. Cook and William A. Morgan, Rosser marched about January 7th or 8th.
The Confederates struggled through the deep drifts, their suffering intensifying with each mile. On the night of the 10th, the raiders camped on a mountainside near a road that intersected the Philippi Turnpike north of Beverly. Before daylight, the Confederates, most of them dismounted, advanced over the frozen snow. A mounted detachment, sweeping ahead, rode into the camps of the 34th Ohio and 8th Ohio Cavalry. The sleeping Union soldiers, completely surprised, scattered under the onslaught.
Handfuls of Union troops offered little resistance before surrendering to the charging Confederates.
The Confederates killed 6 and wounded 32 Union men while losing only 1 killed and a few wounded themselves. One of the wounded, Col. Cook himself, had to have his left leg amputated that night. Rosser's men seized 580 prisoners, 100 horses, about 600 arms and equipment, and 10,000 rations, which the famished Confederates immediately enjoyed. Rosser then returned to the valley, where the stores temporarily relieved the hunger of his command.