Mosby After the War
When the Civil War ended, Mosby’s Rangers returned to their homes after Mosby disbanded the unit on April 21, 1865. Individually, they turned themselves into federal authorities to receive paroles. Mosby himself went to live with some family in Nelson County, Virginia. Ultimately, he sought parole in late June 1865.
Whenever he was seen in public, "the Gray Ghost" drew a crowd. In August 1865, he was arrested in Alexandria, Virginia, after a riot ensued following his appearance. He was arrested again in Leesburg in January 1866. In February his wife, Pauline, put an end to these arrests by visiting General Ulysses S. Grant at the War Department where she received a handwritten statement from the general. The statement began, “John S. Mosby, lately of the Southern army, will, hereafter, be exempt from arrest by military authorities, except for the violation of his parole . . .”
Mosby and his family moved to a “Road Island” house several miles north of Warrenton. He would walk from there to Warrenton to his law practice in the California Building near the courthouse. Along with other clients, Mosby handled the legal needs of former Rangers.It took several years before the former cavalry leader could earn enough money to buy a horse.
In 1872, Mosby became friends with an unlikely benefactor, General Ulysses S. Grant. Mosby felt that the South’s fortunes lay in peace, prosperity, and a diversified economy. While remaining politically conservative and uncomfortable with many of Reconstruction’s reforms, he nevertheless felt that Grant was the best candidate for president in 1872, and he campaigned for Grant’s re-election in Virginia. Mosby worked to convince Grant to issue a general amnesty to Confederate soldiers, restoring their right to vote. Such support of a Republican—the party of Lincoln—was not viewed positively by the citizens in Warrenton, and Mosby became reviled in many quarters.
In 1875, Mosby purchased the home Brentmoor on Main Street in Warrenton. Here Pauline gave birth to their sixth and final child; she died shortly afterwards. Mosby never quite got over the loss.
In 1877, someone took a shot at Mosby from the Warrenton depot. Fearing for the safety of his family, Mosby left Warrenton. In 1879, President Rutherford B. Hayes, who fought for the Union during the Civil War, appointed Mosby as the United States Consul to Hong Kong. He served there through the Hayes, Garfield, and Arthur administrations until the election of the Democratic President Grover Cleveland in 1885.
Leland Stanford, president of the Southern Pacific Railroad and friend of Grant, gave Mosby a job as a railroad attorney for the Southern Pacific Railroad. He served in this position until 1901. While in California, Mosby met the Patton family from Virginia. He would take walks with a young George S. Patton telling him about his exploits during the war.
In 1901, Mosby became a special agent for the General Land Office, on the trail of illegal fencers in Colorado, Nebraska, and Alabama. In 1904, he went to work as an assistant attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice, again relying on his Republican connections. He was relieved in 1910.
Mosby spent his last years in Washington, D.C., often taking rides with Henry C. Stuart, the nephew of General J.E.B. Stuart, at the wheel. They traveled into the Virginia countryside where he had conducted his military operations. This ended when Stuart became governor of Virginia in 1914. Sometime around 1915, Mosby came back to the Caleb Rector House, where he had officially signed papers forming the 43rd Battalion on June 10, 1863. He asked Mrs. Rector for permission to sit in the parlor, saying he “had a little history with this room.” Later when Mrs. Rector returned, she found Mosby with tears streaming down his face as he remembered those years long past.
Mosby died at Garfield Hospital in Washington on May 30, 1916. He lay in state at the Fauquier County Courthouse and is buried in Warrenton Cemetery with his wife and children.