Who Was Mosby?
Born in Powhatan County, Virginia and raised within view of Jefferson’s Monticello, Mosby was the ultimate citizen soldier. University of Virginia-trained, he was a small-town lawyer opposed to secession when the war broke out in 1861. But when his state seceded and called for her patriotic sons to respond, he enlisted, joining the 1st Virginia Cavalry.
He showed extraordinary ability as a cavalry scout. At the end of 1862 when Mosby was detached from General J.E.B. Stuart’s headquarters to operate behind enemy lines, he was a 29-year-old lieutenant raised on stories of Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox” of the American Revolution.
Stuart’s chief scout, he was given the the chance to prove a pet theory formed through years of studying military history, such as Napoleon’s Maxims. He believed that a minimal number of men staying at safe houses over a large rural area could launch devastating surprise cavalry attacks by day or night. Attacks on outposts of the Union cavalry screen about Washington, guard stations, U.S. Military railroad junctions, depots, trains, and supply wagon trains could not only weaken the morale of the enemy invader but tie up thousands of his troops much needed for operations against the main Confederate forces.
Mosby’s operations over 28 months proved he was right —he became known as “the Gray Ghost” by fearful federal forces. His raids became the stuff of legend, and nearly 14,000 Union troops were hamstrung by his operations. Some 1,911 men joined Mosby’s Rangers. In Mosby’s Confederacy, he was the law. After the war, stories of “Colonel Mosby” were balm to a defeated South. Mosby moved on, befriending Grant and working for Uncle Sam.