Brownsburg saw action during the American Civil War just prior to “Hunter’s Raid” on Lexington in June 1864. General David Hunter had been ordered by Ulysses Grant to cut off the Shenandoah Valley, which was a valuable supply corridor to General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. After destroying Confederate warehouses in Staunton, Hunter began marching towards Lexington in several columns. Union General George Crook’s column traveled from Newport to Brownsburg on the Brownsburg Turnpike, and the June 9 entry in a local resident’s diary stated “The Yankees are encamped at Brownsburg.” The local Confederate force under General John McCausland skirmished with Crook’s forces, then fell back towards Lexington in an attempt to protect the city and the Virginia Military Institute.
The following is the text from the Virginia Civil War Trails sign located in Brownsburg, VA.
Target of Hunter's Raid
"When Union Gen. David Hunter’s 18,000-man force left Staunton on June 10, 1864, Gen. George Crook’s infantry division and Gen. William W. Averell’s cavalry division advanced along the Brownsburg Turnpike. To delay their progress, Confederate Gen. John McCausland’s cavalry brigade charged the Federals five times, forcing the cavalry to dismount and the infantry to deploy. Averell left the turnpike at Newport with most of his men and came down the Walker’s Creek Valley in an unsuccessful attempt to get in McCausland’s rear. Averell bivouacked at Bellevue, the home of the Rev. James Morrison, on Hays Creek, two miles west of Brownsburg. David S. Creigh, a prominent resident of Greenbrier County, West Virginia, accompanied the Federals as a prisoner, convicted and condemned for killing a Federal soldier plundering Creigh’s house. Averell’s men hanged him behind Bellevue.
Crook and the main Union force skirmished with McCausland at Brownsburg before bivouacking there for the night. Crook’s officers included future presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and William B. McKinley. McCausland fell back to the Valley Turnpike and camped on the Andrew Cameron farm near Lexington on June 11, 1864. There on June 11-14, the raiders shelled and occupied the town, sacked Washington College, burned the home of Virginia Governor John Letcher and destroyed much of the Virginia Military Institute. The Confederates later burned Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in retaliation."