At the time of the Civil War, the South Branch Valley was comprised of many small, independent farms. The mid-19th century was a golden age of agriculture in the eastern United States, and the valley was among the most agriculturally productive areas in Virginia. With the coming of war the valley found itself part of the newly created northern state of West Virginia. However sympathies of the people of the valley were mostly with Virginia and the South, and many of their husbands and sons served with Confederate units.
Romney and the South Branch Valley held strategic significance because of their proximity to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The B & O Railroad was a vital transportation link for the North, linking the eastern and western states. Throughout the war, Confederates fought to disrupt traffic on the B & O Railroad. By controlling Romney and the South Branch Potomac Valley, the North could protect a critical stretch of railroad from Confederate raids.
Union troops under the command of Colonel Jacob M. Campbell were ordered to Romney in early March, 1863. Col. Campbell's command included the 54th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, the 1st (West) Virginia Volunteer Infantry, Battery E of the 1st (West) Virginia Light Artillery, and the Ringgold Cavalry (Co. A, 22nd PA Cav.)
Well Anne, We left North Mountain a Friday eaving on the cars, got to Green Springs a Satterday morning, staid thair till Sunday then started for Romney. we go this place at dark. the rodes was vary muddy and it was raining byt we got our knapsacks hauld. we ar campt in the same field we was in when we was hear before. it is a hard looking place. I was over in Romney yesterday and as I was goin down the windays like they did when we was hear befor I seen mules and horses asricking their heads out of the windays of sum of the best houses.
March 11, 1863 letter of Private Joshua Winters, Company G, 1st (West) Virginia Volunteer Infantry, from Civil War Letters and Diary of Joshua Winters edited by Elizabeth Davis Swiger