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Mosby's Midnight Raid

Robert E. Lee is said to have exclaimed, "Hurrah for Mosby!  I wish I had a hundred like him!"  Ulysses S. Grant told General Philip Sheridan that "where any of Mosby's men are caught, hang them without trial."  It was Abraham Lincoln who game him his moniker of "The Gray Ghost," when, as his reputation increased, the Union Army's biggest fear in Washington was that Mosby would kidnap Lincoln from right beneath their nose.  Lincoln, upon hearing several of his generals discussing Mosby and their fears, loudly announced, "Listen to you men, you speak of Mosby as though he is a ghost, a gray ghost." It wasn't until after the war that Mosby learned of this and the nickname stuck.

It was General Lee, through General J.E.B. Stuart, who authorized John Singleton Mosby to organize the 43rd Battalion Virginia Calvary "to weaken the armies invading Virginia by harassing their rear."  They operated in my neighborhood, throughout Northern Virginia, in an area known, during the Civil War, and even in the Northern press, as "Mosby's Confederacy."  Not exactly rag tag, they were not the disciplined, military regiment that all might imagine. 

The regiment was formed to disrupt Union supply and communication lines.  Mosby's Rangers would stay individually in many locations, coming together for raids.  They also became known as Mosby's Raiders or Mosby's Ghosts.

Their most famous raid occurred around 2am on 9 March 1863, when Mosby and 29 men suddenly appeared in the town of Fairfax Court House, VA., 10 miles behind the Union lines.  This garrison contained many Union troops, with thousands surrounding the area.

 

 

They made their way through the complex of buildings, including the court house seen here.  This is how the Fairfax Court House looked in 1863 and its preserved appearance today.  They ended up at what is today known as "The Dr. William Gunnel House."  It was used as a headquarters by Union General Edwin H. Stoughton.

Arriving at the door, and politely knocking, a lieutenant aid had little choice but to open it to Mosby and his men.  They went upstairs to find General Stoughton sleeping in bed.  Colonel Mosby pulled off the blankets, lifted the general's night shirt, and smacked him on the behind with his glove!  Angry at being so rudely awakened, the general shouted, "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM!?"  Mosby quickly responded, "Do you know Mosby, general?" "Yes! Have you got the rascal?" "No, but he has got you!"  Mosby then allowed him to dress, and escorted him out to the street to see what else the raid had captured.

The raid took only one hour and a half!  Mosby's Rangers, never having fired a shot, rode out of town with a collection of prisoners and horses.  They left the garrison using a roundabout route to confuse any pursuers, and made it safely back to Confederate territory. Reporting to Gen. "Jeb" Stuart, Mosby wrote: "The fruits of this expedition are 1 brigadier general, 2 captains, and 30 men prisoners. We also brought off 58 horses, most of them very fine... I had 29 men with me; sustained no loss. They all behaved admirably."

President Lincoln, upon hearing of the raid, is said to have been more concerned for the horses than for his general!  He said, "I can make brigadier generals, but I can't make horses."

Interestingly, after the war, Mosby believed it necessary to reconcile with the North.  He even campaigned for Ulysses Grant's presidential bid.  This was highly controversial among southerners.  Grant later helped get him a job as a lawyer in San Fransisco for the Southern Pacific Railroad.  While there Mosby struck up a close friendship with a family named Patton.  He was especially fond of their young son, George S. Patton.  During visits to their southern California ranch, Colonel Mosby would re-enact Civil War battles with young George.  While riding horses, Mosby would play himself and let George play the part of Robert E. Lee as he would recount Civil War battles. 

These many stories, and re-enactments, as taught by one of the greatest guerrilla fighters of all time, must have had a huge influence on young George, and played heavily on his later sense of bravery, duty, honor and war tactics.

In his autobiography, Ulysses S. Grant wrote about John Singleton Mosby.  It says, "Since the close of the war, I have come to know Colonel Mosby personally and somewhat intimately.  He is a different man entirely from what I supposed.  He is able and thoroughly honest and truthful."

Such a legacy, as expressed by a former enemy, is profound indeed.

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 30 commentsJay Markanich • October 14 2010 07:26AM

Comments

Great story,  Thanks for the history Jay!

Posted by Jim Allhiser, Salem, Oregon Home Inspector (Perfection Inspection, Inc.) over 8 years ago

As a Civil War buff, I find stories like this interesting. One of the old plantation houses a stones throw from me was the only house that was the home to Generals on both sides of the war. It was also where the 5th Tennessee Calvary trained. Every now and then I find a spent round...

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 8 years ago

You're welcome Jim!  I have about 8 or 10 such history blogs on AR.  But you can also find them on my website, www.jaymarinspect.com

Michael - when they enlarged the parking lot at the Stone House at the Manassas Battlefield, about which I have written twice here on AR, people found lots of stuff when the soil was disrupted.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Excellent story Jay.  Living here in the south we are immersed in Civil War lore which is both fascinating and sad. 

Posted by Anita Clark, Realtor - Homes for Sale in Warner Robins GA (ColdwellBanker SSK Realtors ~ 478.960.8055) over 8 years ago

I am glad you enjoyed it Anita!  Yes, lots of lore and I have more such posts here on AR.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Love our local history and the fact that we can still see so much of it today in building throughout the area.

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) over 8 years ago

A lot has been preserved Cindy.  And I love to stop by and see the different spots!  There is a sense and a spirit there.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay:  This was a great history lesson.  I was particularly interested in the link between Mosby and George Patton. That is a very cool link that I never knew.  Thanks!

Posted by Kathryn Maguire, Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach (GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881) over 8 years ago

Kathryn - I have never heard that before either, but I do know from Patton's history that he felt a very close connection to the past and to past generals.  Maybe this is one reason why.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Great post.

It goes to show you even back then people have always assumed things of others especially the enemy as Grant said   "He is a different man entirely from what I supposed"       

Luv a good story

Enjoy the day

Posted by Don MacLean, Realtor - Homes For Sale - Franklin MA (Simolari & MacLean REMAX EXECUTIVE REALTY) over 8 years ago

Great post.

It goes to show you even back then people have always assumed things of others especially the enemy as Grant said   "He is a different man entirely from what I supposed"       

Luv a good story

Enjoy the day

Posted by Don MacLean, Realtor - Homes For Sale - Franklin MA (Simolari & MacLean REMAX EXECUTIVE REALTY) over 8 years ago

And, Don, I am glad you enjoyed it twice!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

NIce bit of history. Gettysburg Gerry is providing a view from the norther front as well.

Posted by Glenn Roberts (Retired) over 8 years ago

Jay - I've always been fascinated with Civil War history and have lived on and around some of the major sites for the Battle of Atlanta.  My grandfather once had a great collection of Civil War artifacts, including a well-preserved musket found on Kennesaw Mountain in a hollow log. (Sadly, his entire collection was stolen while on loan to the museum at Kennesaw Mountain National Park)

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) over 8 years ago

Thanks Glenn.  Who is Gettysburg Gerry?

John - amazing!  Did they compensate your family for that?  Ridiculous...  Did General Sherman march through your yard?  It's interesting to drive around there and see the path he and his troops burned on their way to the sea.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay - Actually, we're pretty sure that an employee took the items, and the FBI did an investigation but could never prove anything--and no they did not compensate the family.  I once owned property at the foot of Kennesaw mountain in an area where they unloaded supplies and had a battery aimed on the mountain.

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) over 8 years ago

Jay, there's no question that Patton was known to be an avid student of history, especially as relates to war. Interesting to read that he got his inspiration at the foot of one of the most controversial generals of the civil war. Very interesting, thanks for sharing.

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) over 8 years ago

John - that is a real tragedy.  Would be an interesting thing to sweep through all those former employee's houses, under the guise of the Patriot Act, and see what they have inside!   ;)

Ed - Patton was very connected to history, even thinking that he had roles in previous wars and battles, believing in the concept of reincarnation.  He felt he was destined, because of past lives, to become a general and warrior.  Mosby, a colonel, was far more controversial after the war.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Enjoyed it thoroughly Jay.  Thanks for the history.  Really.

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) over 8 years ago

Glad you did Jack!  I will have a follow up.  Plan to go up the road to Warrenton and stop in at the gravesite and take a couple of photos.  They will be included with the post.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Thank you Jay for all these history posts!  I REALLY enjoy them!

Posted by Bill Warner, Infrared Thermal Inspector (BC Warner Inspections) over 8 years ago

I'm glad you do too Bill.  They are very fun to research and to travel around my area getting photos and putting together the posts.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay ~  Thank you so much for this post!  The photos are excellent and brought back so many memories of my days spent in that very courtroom as a Court Reporter.  Wonderful history lesson!

Posted by Tish Lloyd, Broker - Wilmington NC and Surrounding Beaches (BlueCoast Realty Corporation) over 8 years ago

Jay, thanks for taking the time to write such a historical, informative blog.  Virginia certainly has a rich and diverse history.

Posted by Damon Gettier, Broker/Owner ABRM, GRI, CDPE (Damon Gettier & Associates, REALTORS- Roanoke Va Short Sale Expert) over 8 years ago

Thanks Tish.  It was fun to research and write.  And getting Mosby's crew to sit still long enough for that photo was a job in itself!  Did you know that George and Martha Washington's wills are still in that building?

Damon - I have a bunch more here on AR too.  You might enjoy them.  You can read them on my website too under Jay's History Blogs.     www.jaymarinspect.com

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay, yes I certainly am.  It is well worth the visit just to see them.  By the way, showing houses all afternoon and found myself looking for gutters and paying particular attention to the roof angels.

Posted by Tish Lloyd, Broker - Wilmington NC and Surrounding Beaches (BlueCoast Realty Corporation) over 8 years ago

Well, Tish, with enough blog information we might make a home inspector out of you yet!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Wow, thanks for sending me the link to this.  I had no idea who he was, although I had heard the term "Gray Ghost" before.  Very interesting!

Posted by Jeremy Wrenn, C.O.O., Winslow Homes (Winslow Homes) over 7 years ago

Jeremy - he was all over where I live.  I actually live in what local historians call the Mosby Heritage Area.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Neat!  I'll keep that in mind if we're looking for a hisotical area to investigate!

Posted by Jeremy Wrenn, C.O.O., Winslow Homes (Winslow Homes) over 7 years ago

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