"the Gray Ghost"
(1833 - 1916)
Home State: Virginia
Education: U. of Virginia
Command Billet: Scout
Branch of Service: Cavalry
He had attended University of Virginia, but while there was convicted of shooting a fellow student, reportedly over the "good name" of a woman. His fine was later remitted and he was pardoned by the Governor, but by then he had served the jail sentance. While imprisoned he studied law and, in 1852, passed the bar and began to practice at Bristol, Virginia.1 In April 1861 he enlisted as private in the lst Virginia Cavalry, Colonel J.E.B. Stuart, and was promoted to First Lieutenant in February 1862. Prior to the Peninsula Campaign (May 1862) he joined the staff of General Stuart as scout, and helped plan the famous ride around the Army of the Potomac in June.2
On the Campaign
Mosby recalls the Maryland Campaign:
" I rode just behind Jackson when he marched at the head of his columns through Frederick City, Md., in September, 1862, with his band playing 'My Maryland.' But I never heard the story of Barbara Frietchie shaking the Stars and Stripes in his face until I read Whittier's poem. I am sorry the story is a myth, for, as the poet tells it, the respect which the Confederates showed her was a great contrast with the treatment an order of a certain general required to be shown to a woman who by word, sign, or gesture should be disrespectful to the U. S. soldier or flag."
" I only once saw Stonewall Jackson in battle. At Antietam I rode with Stuart by some batteries where Jackson was directing their fire on the flank of a column that was advancing against him, and I stopped a minute to look at the great soldier who was then transfigured with the joy of battle. In a quiet way he was giving orders. McClellan had sent three corps in succession against him—Hooker's, Mansfield's, and Sumner's—and each in turn was repulsed. While I was near him, the last onset was made, but Jackson held the same ground at sunset that he held in the morning."
"I rode on and overtook Stuart, but the killed and wounded were strewn on the ground 'like leaves of the forest when autumn hath blown', and I had to be careful not to ride over them. Whole ranks seemed to have been struck down by a volley. Although hundreds were lying all around me, my attention was in some way attracted to a wounded officer who was lying in an uncomfortable position and seemed to be suffering great agony. I dismounted, fixed him more comfortably, and rolled up a blanket on which he rested his head, and then got a canteen of water for him from the body of a dead soldier lying near him. As I passed a wounded soldier, I held the canteen toward him so that he could drink. He said, 'No, take it to my Colonel [Wistar, 71st Pennsylvania Infantry], he is the best man in the world.' "3
The rest of the War
After Sharpsburg he was made Captain and authorized to raise a unit of "rangers"—partisan cavalry—for operations in occupied Northern Virgina. This became the 43rd Virginia Cavalry Battalion. Mosby was appointed Captain, Provisional Army of the Confederate States (PACS) on 15 March, and Major on 16 March 1863. He was appointed Lieutenant Colonel in January 1864 and Colonel, of what was by then Mosby's (Va.) Cavalry Regiment on 7 December.2 Mosby became one of the most famous Confederates of the war because of his audacious and successful raids behind Federal lines for the the duration of the War. "The four counties of Virginia nearest Washington became known as Mosby's Confederacy."
After the War
Mosby disbanded his Regiment after General Lee's surrender, rather than surrender the unit, and was arrested in January 1866. He was released from his parole by General Grant in February 1867. 4 He resumed the practice of the law and dealt in real estate in Warrenton. He publically endorsed Grant in the election of 1872—feeling the country needed to be brought together—and was largely ostracized in the South thereafter. Afterwards he was US Consul to Hong Kong (1878), a lawyer with the Southern Pacific Railroad (1885 to 1901), at Omaha for the Department of the Interior, and Assistant Attorney General in the US Department of Justice (1904-1910).5,6
References & notes
Photo above is of Captain Mosby, January 1863, from that found in his Memoirs.7
More on the Web
See more about his gravesite from Find-a-grave.
12/06/1833; Powhatan County, VA
05/30/1916; Washington, DC; burial in Warrenton Cemetery, Warrenton, VA
1 Mosby, John Singleton, and Charles W. Russell, editor, The Memoirs of Colonel John S. Mosby, Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1917, pp. 6-11 [AotW citation 341]
2 Biographical sketch citing source as: Jones, Virgil Carrington Ranger Mosby, Chapel Hill: U of NC Press (1944).
Sifakis, Stewart, Who Was Who in the Civil War, New York: Facts on File, 1988 [AotW citation 342]
3 Mosby, John Singleton, and Charles W. Russell, editor, The Memoirs of Colonel John S. Mosby, Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1917, pp. 144-145 [AotW citation 343]
4 Mosby, John Singleton, and Charles W. Russell, editor, The Memoirs of Colonel John S. Mosby, Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1917, pp. 360-364 [AotW citation 344]
5 From the biographical notes by editor Charles W. Russell, in the Introduction to Mosby's Memoirs.
Mosby, John Singleton, and Charles W. Russell, editor, The Memoirs of Colonel John S. Mosby, Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1917, pg. xvi [AotW citation 345]
6 Coombs, Kathryn, and Jeff Smith, Biography of Col. John Singleton Mosby, Mosby's Rangers, Published c. 2000, first accessed 15 December 2005, <http://www.mosbysrangers.com/bio/>, Source page: /bio4.htm [AotW citation 346]
7 Mosby, John Singleton, and Charles W. Russell, editor, The Memoirs of Colonel John S. Mosby, Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1917, pg. 150 [AotW citation 347]