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Shrouded In Mist And A Civil War Remembrance

Often as I drive through the mountains of Northern Virginia I am impressed at how completely shrouded in mist and a Civil War remembrance they can be.

At times entire mountains are invisible.

These are the mountains favored by Colonel John S. Mosby during the Civil War.  He and his band, Mosby's Ghosts, AKA Mosby's Raiders, AKA Mosby's Rangers, would use the mists of these mountains to hide and in the early morning hours swoop in and perform whatever his orders were to do.

Perhaps one of the greatest guerrilla warfare tacticians ever, his raids would be accomplished on horseback, and Mosby's Ghosts would ride in swiftly and suddenly.  Mosby's Raiders were lightning fast, and departed from the theretofore cavalry war techniques in that they used revolvers instead of sabers.

This Midnight Raid had made Mosby totally famous, very feared, and the target of Union retribution.

By 1864 the Civil War in Virginia had become a changed conflict, a war of attrition, and the North regarded civilians and their homes to be fair targets.  Union generals were also tired of Mosby and his band, and Grant decided to seek them out for destruction.  He was even ordered to find the families of Mosby's men, capture them and keep them prisoner at Fort McHenry in Baltimore.

Riding with 36,000 men General Philip H. Sheridan left Harper's Ferry to advance on what they called "Mosby's Confederacy."  Their orders were search and destroy, but to particularly seek out and eliminate Mosby and his men as much as possible.

Grant had ordered Sheridan to "Put himself south of the enemy and follow him to the death."

Grant wanted Sheridan to meet Mosby as Mosby was always seen, on horseback, and to rely more on cavalry than infantry, telling him, "Let your headquarters be in the saddle."

Sheridan was to "eat out Virginia clear and clean as far as they [soldiers] go, so that crows flying over it for the balance of the season will have to carry their provender with them." 

Not in the orders, but communicated by telegraph, was another chilling order by General Grant:  "When any of Mosby's men are caught, hang them without trial."  

In the early morning hours of August 13, a wagon train separated from, but supporting, Sheridan's army was resting on a side road near Berryville VA.  Sheridan's movement included many wagons full of food and supplies.

Suddenly, out of the mists of the mountain nearby, came a small group of men, setting up two small cannon.

The Union troops of the wagon train thought them to be friendlies, and paid them little attention.

Suddenly the cannon fired, destroying many wagons.  Mosby's Ghosts then came rumbling out of the mist, their horses heavy and loud, whooping and hollering.  They attacked with ferocity.  Some of the wagons burst into flames and the frightened horses attached to them fled, dragging the wagons behind them like roaring torches.

The wagon train squad was taken completely by surprise and fled in panic. A local woman watched as the Northern troops "hid behind the burning ruins, they crouched in the corners of fences, they begged for life, but their day of grace was past."  

Over in minutes, Mosby's victorious men had captured over 200 prisoners, 700 horses and mules, 200 cattle, and 100 supply wagons. This kind of raid was typical, and Mosby was serving notice that General Phil Sheridan had best be on guard while invading Mosby's "personal" territory.

This incident began a back and forth of viciousness and destruction that the locals referred to as "The Burning."  It continued until the end of the war.  The Union left much civilian destruction and death in its wake, all over Northern Virginia.

The Union had so much trouble getting supplies to Sheridan's front that one colonel estimated 500 cavalry would be needed to adequately protect a supply train.  Union troops, and particularly cavalry, so feared Mosby's Ghosts that some of the more battle hardened said they would rather charge into a hand-to-hand battle than patrol the misty, valley roads of Northern Virginia.

As I was driving in the morning hours along a rural, side road near Berryville VA, the mist was so thick I did not realize how close I was to the mountain side.  It was completely enveloped and shrouded in mist.  Not long after, the mists began to disappear.

I wondered if I was not near the scene described above!  When here it is easy to see how Colonel Mosby could use these mountains and their mists as hiding places to conduct his guerrilla warfare, and pick apart the Union troops and movements where ever he could.

 

 

 

 

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 34 commentsJay Markanich • May 12 2013 05:16AM

Comments

Fascinating. .John Mosby seemed to have an advantage over them. .he instilled fear among them. .

I wonder what happened to him at the end? 

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) over 7 years ago

I found it. .

he became a US consul to Hong Kong under president Ulysses S Grant

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) over 7 years ago

Great descriptive post on a big part of our local civil war history.   Mosby's midnight raids were a bit different than the Mindnight ride of Paul Revere :-)

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) over 7 years ago

Hi Jay,

Very nice story. But who won the war? I can't remember....

We have a very large amount of history here as well.

I am going to post some of the history lessons later this year.

Have a good Mother's day in Bristow.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 7 years ago

Jay, Thanks for the history lesson!  Love that part of Virginia, so much has happened there over the years.

Posted by Liz and Bill Spear, RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton) (RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 www.LizTour.com) over 7 years ago

It is explained in the link in the post Fernando.  Especially interesting is his relationship with George S. Patton.

http://www.jaymarinspect.com/mosbys-midnight-raid.html

http://www.jaymarinspect.com/mosby-grave

Yes, Cindy, Mosby actually made his rides - Paul Revere did not.  Really.  Dozens of other people did, the rider getting the furthest was a 16 year old girl named Jenny.   But Revere was drunk and in jail.

Virginia is still a free state Clint, so obviously Virginia did.

I enjoy riding around Bliz.  Often I see things and battlefields that are not labeled or preserved as such.

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

The Gray Ghost of The Confederacy!

     Jay, I am in the middle of "Mosby's Rangers", by Jeffry D. Wert.  It is an excellent book, very thorough, very balanced.

     Colonel Mosby will always be a hero in our household.  His exploits are legendary. 

     Grant did indeed order "Summary Execution" for Mosby and his Rangers, should they be captured.

     As for Phil Sheridan - after his "Scorced Earth Warfare" during the Civil War, Sheridan set his sights upon the Plains Indians.  Granted, the Indians of the West were mostly savages, but Sheridan's Total War against them was brutal and cruel.  Sheridan died of a heart attack from obesity and excessive drinking at the age of 57.

     After the War, Colonel John Mosby served in various government offices.  He lived to the age of 82, passing away in 1916.

                     

 

 

Posted by Fred Griffin Tallahassee Real Estate, Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker (Fred Griffin Real Estate) over 7 years ago

Fred - Grant actually got to like him after the war.  The link in this post brings up an interesting relationship between Mosby and George S. Patton.

You must not be aware, but Mosby follows me around during inspections, and I have many thermal images of him.

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

Jay - many of the men who fought on different sides in the War Against Northern Aggression had been friends, acquaintances, and even compatriots during years prior, and during the Mexico-America War.  After the Civil War, many were again friends.  Forgive and forget!

 

Posted by Fred Griffin Tallahassee Real Estate, Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker (Fred Griffin Real Estate) over 7 years ago

Of course Fred.  Lee was kick butt, a leader and highly thought of as a student at West Point.  He placed very high in his class.  Grant was there at the same time, famous for demerits.  He did not place high in his class.  He admired Lee at West Point and was impressed to meet him again in Mexico City during the war.  At Appomattox Grant mentioned their meeting to Lee, who did not remember it!

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

Jay, as a Southerner I am torn by the War of Northern Aggression. I have a dairy of my Great, Great,Great Uncle.(Hope that was enough Greats) His unit was involved in the capture of Jeff Davis. Well, the war is over and the Yankees won.

Posted by Mark Horan, "The Resident Chef" - Resident Team Realty LLC & (Resident Team Realty, LLC & Toni's Property Management LLC) over 7 years ago

Yep, and Mr. Lincoln's objective was met in keeping the country whole Mark.  His Second Inaugural was not met though, and because of that things drag on.

I find certain war figures to be very interesting and write about them now and then!

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

Thanks, Jay, for the Civil War history lessons. It is a good time to visit Civil War battlefields and to read some more books that discuss the events of the time. 

I re-blogged this post.

Posted by Roy Kelley (Realty Group Referrals) over 7 years ago

Thanks Roy, and I am very glad you enjoyed it too!

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

Morning Jay my wife is just fascinated by that time era and would love to visit that part of the country.  We plan on doing a lot of driving in the next two years.  I'll put that area on my list.

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) over 7 years ago

Jay,

Great report and an illustration of home field advantage. :)

Steve

Posted by Steve Hoffacker, Certified Aging In Place Specialist-Instructor (Steve Hoffacker LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay -- thanks for taking something that seems commonplace, and helping us to tie it to important historical events!

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) over 7 years ago

Jay, great history lesson.  When I read Fred Griffin's comment it was hard to imagine someone with Sheridan's particular line of work managed to get so fat! 

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) over 7 years ago

There are many sites and spots here that are not a part of the "official" battlefield locations, which themselves are all over the place James.  You would have a great time.

Steve - he knew what he was doing!  He is still studied in war colleges!

I was out in the boonies, and for all I know right on one of Mosby's campsites, Steven!

Pat - thanks!  Sheridan is not a well-like character in Northern Virginia.  He did a lot of unnecessary damage and left sadness and destruction in his wake.  Mosby's job was to try to curtail that, which he did.

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

Jay

Very interesting post. Hope you have a wonderful week. 

Posted by Alan Kirkpatrick, Alan in Austin (Austin Texas Homes) over 7 years ago

Thanks Alan.  I come out with these from time to time.

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

I hate war of all sorts, so don't get the same sense of admiration for brutal butchers on either side of this conflict, as others do.  But I can imagine the feeling you get from traveling through the misty mountains, imagining the riders appear seemingly out of nowhere.  You are a bit of a romantic, no? 

Posted by Joetta Fort, Independent Broker, Homes Denver to Boulder (The DiGiorgio Group) over 7 years ago

Jay, I think many forget that the Civil War was the bloodiest in American History. I published stats yesterday on it. (must be on the brains of many of us lately... interesting.) I also think we don't teach enough about it. I am always interested in American history and enjoyed reading this post. I may hate the thought of war, but do find it fascinating that most understand so little about it when it cost us so dearly in the loss of life and property on our own soil by our fellow countrymen!

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) over 7 years ago

Good morning Jay.  Like all wars, the Civil War was a horror, and of course, impacted civilians just as all wars do.  But the countryside of Virginia looks dazzling and I am sure that riding through it conjures up all kinds of ghosts.  Thank you for sharing.

Posted by Joanna Cohlan, Designing, Decorating & Staging Westchester Homes (Fresh Eyes For Your Home) over 7 years ago

Hey, Jay!  I included this post in today’s Last Week’s Favorites.  Please drop by and check it out, and and have a terrific week!

 

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) over 7 years ago

I think it was brutal too Joetta.  In his mind's eye, Mosby was all defense.  He did not kill willy nilly, and was a just man.  After the war he supported Grant, who said Mosby was the most honest man he had ever met.  Grant set him up with many jobs.

Andrea - that's true because only Americans fought in it!  People don't understand what the Civil War was because of.  Slavery wasn't it.

Joanna - all around here there is reason for memory, some of which is being overrun by ball parks and strip malls.

Thanks Pat!  I do every week!

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

Cool story.

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) over 7 years ago

Thanks Lyn.  Some truth, some my imagination.  But very fun overall!

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

Jay-when Larry and I moved to Leesburg VA we fell in love with Civil War History.  We visited every battlefield we could, made several trips to Harper's Ferry and Gettysburg and more museums than you can count.  What a fascinating part of our history this is. Thank you. 

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) over 7 years ago

There were a couple of battles in and around Leesburg Kathy.  And Anteitam is just up the road!

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

Thanks for the history lesson Jay, it is always a thrill to think of the history of places we travel through.

Posted by Bob Crane, Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671 (Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams Fox Cities) over 7 years ago

Bob, one of the great things about Jay sharing stories like this is that for him, it really isn't "history."  He was actually there when some of these things happened.  I mean, he knew some of these men personally.

Great job, Jay!

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 7 years ago

That was funny, sometimes I too feel like I have been there for a little too much history too.

Posted by Bob Crane, Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671 (Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams Fox Cities) over 7 years ago

Bob - my backyard was where the set up their tents...  I served cracker barrel every night.

Karen Anne - I have posted many thermal images of Mosby as he has followed me around.  Not me pointing him out!  And the thermal image looks like it was taken from a Civil War era Brady photo glass.

 

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

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