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In early March of 1864, a snowstorm draped Virginia's mountain country in a cloak of white that extended over the countryside south of Clark's Mountain, where General Robert E. Lee had temporarily placed his headquarters. While Lee was back east in Richmond meeting with President Davis and other Confederate leaders, General Judson Kilpatrick and Colonel Uric Dahlgren led a force of Federal cavalry on a lightning raid against the Confederate capital, reportedly planning to free Northern prisoners, burn the city and assassinate President Davis and his cabinet. The raid ended disastrously for the Federals, Dahlgren was killed and many of his troops were captured. From Virginia's mountain country, however,some reports of a larger Federal advance.
Fearing an enemy move on Richmond from the west, Lee promptly returned to Clark's Mountain. Trudging through the snow in freezing weather, Lee and his troops prepared for battle. The Federal advance was a diversion, however, launched mainly to assist the failed Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid. Instead of engaging Lee, the Northern forces that had advanced along the eastern rim of the Appalachians quickly withdrew. The enemy, like the mountain snowstorm, had come and gone - but Lee knew "those people" would return and he again would be called to defend the Southern capital.