Although the campaign between [Union General Phil] Sheridan and [Confederate General Jubal] Early ended with the Union victory at Cedar Creek, the Federals had remained in the lower Shenandoah Valley. Sheridan had not forgotten about Mosby nor Mosby about Sheridan. Raids and counterraids still characterized the duel that had never really ceased. On November 7, for instance, Colonel William Powell's cavalry division, entering Fauquier through Manassas Gap, rode through Markham, Piedmont, Rectortown, Upperville and Paris, collecting cattle and horses and burning crops and a few barns.
Mosby countered several days later, dispatching Richard Montjoy and Company D to the Valley. Montjoy raided along the Valley Pike between Winchester and Newtown on the fifteenth. His men bagged about twenty prisoners and their mounts. Starting back for Fauquier the next day, Montjoy's men dispersed en route, with the Rangers who boarded in Loudoun County turning northeastward to cross the Shenandoah River at Castleman's Ferry. Montjoy, with thirty men, proceeded toward Berry's Ferry and Ashby's Gap. About two miles west of the crossing, a detachment of Blazer's Scouts attacked the Rebels. The Yankee's gunfire killed Ranger Edward Bredell and scattered the others. Mountjoy and Lieutenant Charles Grogan rallied the men a mile or so to the east at "Vineyard," the home of John Esten Cooke, one of Jeb Stuart's staff officers. But the Scouts came on with a relentlessness, gunning down William A. Braxton, wounding five other Rangers and capturing two. The remaining Confederates splashed across the river and escaped.
The above comes from Jeffry Wert's excellent book and, if you're interested in Civil War history, I recommend you pick it up.
Edward Bredell was killed in action on November 16, 1864, about two miles west of Berry's Ferry, in a skirmish between his company and a group from Blazer's Scouts, a unit that was specifically tasked with finding and eliminating Mosby's guerrillas. While he died near Ashby's Gap, he did not die in the Battle of Ashby's Gap, which was a seperate engagement that took place in July 1864. Incidentally, the skirmish in which Bredell was killed took place very near to what is today John Mosby Highway (U.S. Route 50). Two days after Bredell's death, Mosby would effectively destroy Blazer's Scouts at the Battle of Kabletown.
While Custer did not order the execution, Mosby held him personally responsible for the conduct of his men and Wert wrote that Mosby "instructed his men that whenever a member of Custer's command was captured, the prisoner should be separated from other captives and not forwarded to Richmond. Mosby told Robert E. Lee in a letter of October 29 precisely what he had decided: 'It is my purpose to hang an equal number of Custer's men whenever I capture them.' Lee gave his approval..." By the time Mosby received word of Lee's approval, on November 6, another of his men had been executed by Union forces.
On November 6, at Rectortown, Virginia, seven Union prisoners, who had served under Custer, were selected by lot. Four were ordered to be shot and three to be hanged, just as Mosby's men had been. Of the four who were to be shot, two escaped and two were shot in the head but survived their execution. The other three were not so lucky and were hung, one with a note pinned to his chest that read "These men have been hung in retaliation for an equal number of Colonel Mosby's men hung by order of General Custer, at Front Royal. Measure for measure."
Interesting, Mosby, after the botched executions, did not seek to execute more of Custer's men, deciding that he had made his point. On November 11, he wrote a letter to Sheridan, delivered under a flag of truce, stating what he had done and why he had done it. He also stated that he would not execute any more prisoners "unless some new act of barbarity shall compel me reluctantly to adopt a course of policy repulsive to humanity." The execution of prisoners in the Shenandoah Valley, by both Union and Confederate forces, ended at that point. However, when Mosby's Rangers and Blazer's Scouts fought on November 16, the executions must have been fresh in the minds of all who took part in the battle and those engagements that took place around that time must have been desperate affairs. In the back of Bredell's mind, and that of his comrades, must have been the thought that they would be executed if taken prisoner. William Barclay Napton actually heard that Bredell had been executed and wrote as much in his journal.
In the above photo of Mosby's men, John W. Munson is in the second row, third from the left. Munson, after the war, wrote a book entitled Reminiscences of a Mosby Guerrilla and in this book he mentions Bredell. He tells a rather poignant story about visiting Bredell's grave that I want to share with you:
At the close of the war, or rather two years after, I went to St. Louis to live, taking with me a letter of introduction to the father of Edward Bredell, whom I found to be an old Eastern shoreman of Maryland, and distantly related to family connections of mine. Upon my first visit to the old gentleman he took my hand and escorted me to the beautiful grounds in the rear of his house, where we two sat by the grave of the Partisan Ranger and talked of him as we had known him in the flesh. I called frequently at the Bredell home and I have not the slightest doubt that it gave the old man no little pleasure to hear me recount the exploits o his brave son, and to repeat, time and time again, the story of the fight in which the boy fell and died. Many a time I have sat near him in the shade of the trees that spread their limbs over the simple grave, and caught him gazing wistfully at the green mound that covered his son's body. He tried to take his sorrows philosophically, but I cannot forget his first remark as we stood together:
"Maybe it is all right to give your only boy to your country, but I wish I had mine back again."
Bredell's obituary appeared in the Daily Richmond Examiner on December 28, 1864:
Killed, on the 16th of November, in a skirmish between Mosby's cavalry and the enemy, Lieutenant Edward Bredell, of Saint Louis, Missouri, in the twenty-sixth year of his age.
This gallant young man left a luxurious home, where he was the idol of his parents, and surrounded by every comfort and enjoyment that wealth could supply, to enter the Southern army. He bravely unsheathed his sword in the cause of the oppressed, and laid down his life a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom, never faltering or turning aside from the path of honor he had chosen, though it led him to the grave. He has found his last resting place far from home and kindred, but still among friends, and his best record will be written in the hearts of those in whose defence he fought and died. For his stricken parents, who have lost in him their one great object in life, let them be assured of earnest, unfeigned sympathy. Their bereavement is great, yet they have much to comfort them and might say with the Spartan father:
"I am too proud by far to weep
Though earth had naught so dear;
As was that soldier youth to me,
Now sleeping on his bier.
It were a stain upon his fame,
Would do his laurel crown a shame
To shed a single tear;
It was a glorious lot to die
in battle and for liberty."