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Entrance to Fort Monroe, Virginia, where Shadburne was held

George D. Shadburne entered Confederate service on December 16, 1861, near Centreville, Virginia, and served with passion throughout the Civil War. He joined the Jefferson Davis Legion as a private, but quickly rose to sergeant in Company A. The Legion served gallantly in the East and took part in Jeb Stuart's skirting of the Union army in June 1862. The next year the Legion served under Wade Hampton and fought at Brandy Station, Gettysburg, and Bristoe Station. Late in 1863 Shadburne was assigned to Hampton's 2nd South Carolina Cavalry. When Hampton took command of the Army of Northern Virginia's cavalry corps, he ignored Shadburne's low rank and made him chief of his scouts.

Wade Hampton said of Shadburne, "as soon as a fight began he was instantly transformed into the dashing cavalryman, his whole soul seemed to be in the battle.... Armed with at least two pistols and often three, he would dash against the enemy firing with a rapidity and precision not surpassed by even Mosby who was very handy with his pistol." During the summer of 1864 Shadburne became one of Hampton's notorious "Iron Scouts," who hid along the Blackwater River just two miles from Grant's lines near City Point, Va. Wearing Yankee uniforms, they skillfully eluded capture while they killed and captured Union pickets and couriers and interfered with wagon trains and telegraph lines. Shadburne also informed Hampton of some 2,500 head of poorly protected cattle that were just five miles south. Shadburne helped lead the Beefsteak Raid, which netted much needed meat, Union supplies, and 304 Yankee prisoners.

Shadburne was captured on March 6, 1865, near Fredericksburg. He was sent to Fort Monroe, Va., then to Wallkill, a Union prison barge at City Point. Charged with being a spy, he faced hanging, but escaped on March 10th and returned to the Iron Scouts. After the war he went to San Francisco, where he became a lawyer and family man.