March 8, 1863  I Can’t Replace those Horses

Some sources report the general was “sleeping it off”, possibly following an evening’s celebration with a young lady of southern sympathies. 

Small and frail as a boy, John Singleton Mosby was often the target of much larger bullies.  Many years later, he’d write in his memoirs.  He never won a fight.  Seems that he never backed down from one, either.

Like fellow Virginian Robert E. Lee, Mosby opposed secession.  When it came, he left the Union along with his home state of Virginia.

Mosby participated in the 1st Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) as a member of the Virginia Volunteers Mounted Rifles, later joining James Ewell Brown “JEB” Stuart as a Cavalry Scout.  A natural horseman and gifted tactician, information gathered by Mosby aided Stuart in his humiliating ride around McLellan’s Army of the Potomac in June, 1862.

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Dr William Gunnell House

In 1863, JEB Stuart authorized Mosby to form and take command of the 43rd Battalion of the Virginia Cavalry, a regiment sized unit operating out of north central Virginia.  These “Partisan Rangers”, 1,900 of whom served between January 1863 and April 1865, were under the authority of Stuart and Lee and subject to their commands, but were not a traditional army unit.  “Mosby’s Rangers” shared in the spoils of war but had no camp duties, and lived scattered among civilian populations.

Known for lightning raids on the Virginia countryside, Mosby’s 43rd Cavalry would be called together to strike a specific target, dispersing afterward and making themselves next to impossible to run to ground.  So successful were they that parts of Virginia’s Piedmont region are known to this day, as “Mosby’s Confederacy”.

Portrait
Union Brigadier General Edwin H. Stoughton

In Early March 1863, a Federal brigade was stationed near Fairfax Court House south of Washington.  Mosby received word that two ranking officers, Brigadier General Edwin H. Stoughton and Colonel Sir Percy Wyndham, were headquartered in the town itself.

“Sir” Percy Wyndham was an English officer and adventurer, a professional soldier and veteran of the Italian Risorgimento, the French Navy and the Austrian Army’s 8th Lancers Regiment. In October 1861, the Englishman came to America, to offer his services in the American Civil War.

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Colonel Sir Percy Wyndham

For some time now, Wyndham had chased Mosby’s rangers across the Virginia countryside. There was a special kind of hate between these two men. Sir Percy had even gone so far as to call the man, a horse thief.  Mosby retorted “The only horses he had every stolen had Union troopers on their backs armed with two pistols and a saber.”

With his nemesis in sight, Mosby’s Rangers formed up for a raid on the night of March 8, 1863.

As it turned out, Wyndham was away that night, visiting in Washington city.   General  Stoughton was asleep in his quarters in the home of Dr. William Gunnell.

The “Gray Ghost” and a small detachment entered the Gunnell home in the small hours of March 9.  Mosby’s rangers quickly overpowered a handful of sleepy guards, and crept upstairs to where the General slept.

Let Mosby’s own words, paint the picture:

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The Fairfax Raid, by Civil War artist Mort Kustler

“There were signs in the room of having been revelry in the house that night. Some uncorked champagne bottles furnished an explanation of the general’s deep sleep. He had been entertaining a number of ladies from Washington in a style becoming a commanding general”.

Entering the chamber, Mosby lifted the general’s nightshirt and slapped his bare backside, with a sword. Confused, Stoughton sputtered awake, demanding “What is the meaning of this“. “General, did you ever hear of Mosby“, came the question.  Stoughton replied, “Yes, have you caught him?” “I AM Mosby,” said the Gray Ghost, “he has caught you. Stuart’s cavalry has possession of the Courthouse;.  Be quick and dress.”

That night, John Singleton Mosby and 29 rangers captured a Union General, two Captains, 30 enlisted men and 58 horses, all without firing a shot.  On hearing the story the next day, President Lincoln lamented:  “I can make another Brigadier in 5 minutes, but I can’t replace those horses“.

If you enjoyed this “Today in History”, please feel free to re-blog, “like” & share on social media, so that others may find and enjoy it as well. Please click the “follow” button on the right, to receive email updates on new articles.  Thank you for your interest, in the history we all share.
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March 8, 1863  The Gray Ghost

Late on the night of March 8, 1863, a light rain was falling when Mosby’s Rangers formed up for a raid on Fairfax Virginia, known at that time as Fairfax Courthouse. 

Like fellow Virginian Robert E. Lee, the Howardsville lawyer John Singleton Mosby opposed the destruction of the Union but, when secession came, he stayed with his state.  Small and frail as a boy, Mosby was often the target of much larger bullies.  Years later in his memoirs, he’d write that he never won a fight.  It seems that John Singleton Mosby never backed down from one, either.

Mosby participated in the 1st Battle of Manassas (1st Bull Run) as a member of the Virginia Volunteers Mounted Rifles, later joining James Ewell Brown “J.E.B.” Stuart as a Cavalry Scout.  A gifted horseman and natural tactician, information gathered by Mosby aided Stuart in his humiliating ride around McLellan’s Army of the Potomac in June, 1862.

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The following year, Stuart authorized Mosby to form and take command of the 43rd Battalion of Virginia Cavalry, a regiment-sized unit operating out of north central Virginia.  These “Partisan Rangers”, 1,900 of whom served between January 1863 and April ’65, were under the command of Stuart and Lee and subject to their authority, but were not a traditional army unit.  Mosby’s Rangers shared in the spoils of war but had no camp duties, and lived scattered among civilian populations.

Known for lightning raids of the Virginia countryside, Mosby’s 43rd Cavalry would be called together to strike specific targets, dispersing afterward and making themselves next to impossible to run aground.  So successful were they that, to this day, parts of Virginia’s Piedmont region are known as “Mosby’s Confederacy”.

Late on the night of March 8, 1863, a light rain was falling when Mosby’s Rangers formed up for a raid on Fairfax Virginia, known at the time as Fairfax Courthouse.  Deep in the midst of several thousand Federal soldiers and only fifteen miles from the White House, Union Brigadier General Edwin H. Stoughton was sleeping in his headquarters.  Some sources indicate that he was “sleeping it off”.  The “Gray Ghost” entered the Union General’s quarters in the small hours of March 9, his rangers quickly overpowering a handful of sleepy guards.

mar8map

Entering the bed chamber as others went to the stables and gathered horses, Mosby lifted the General’s nightshirt and slapped his bare backside with a sword. General Stoughton sputtered awake, demanding “What is the meaning of this!?” “General, did you ever hear of Mosby“, came the question.

Mosby himself later recalled, “There was no time for ceremony, so I drew up the bedclothes, pulled up the general’s shirt, and gave him a spank on his bare back, and told him to get up”.  Stoughton replied, “Yes, have you caught him?” “I AM Mosby,” said the Gray Ghost, “and I have caught You. Stuart’s cavalry has possession of the Courthouse; be quick and dress.

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As prisoners came to the realization that they’d been captured by such a puny force, many melted into the woods, and escaped.  In the end, Mosby and his 29 rangers had captured a Union General, two Captains, 30 enlisted men and 58 horses, without firing a shot.  On hearing the story the next day, President Lincoln lamented:  “I can make another Brigadier in 5 minutes, but I can’t replace those horses”.

Mosby_Monument

If you enjoyed this “Today in History”, please feel free to re-blog, “like” & share on social media, so that others may find and enjoy it as well. Please click the “follow” button on the right, to receive email updates on new articles.  Thank you for your interest, in the history we all share.

March 8, 1863 The Gray Ghost

Entering the chamber where the General slept, Mosby lifted his nightshirt and slapped his bare backside with a sword

John Singleton Mosby was a Virginia lawyer, when Civil War broke out in 1861.  Like fellow Virginian Robert E. Lee, Mosby opposed secession. When it came, he left the Union along with his home state of Virginia. Small and frail as a boy, Mosby was often the target of much larger bullies. He’d write in his memoirs that he never won a fight. It seems that he never backed down from one, either.

MosbyMosby participated in the 1st Battle of Manassas (1st Bull Run) as a member of the Virginia Volunteers Mounted Rifles, later joining James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart as a Cavalry Scout. A natural horseman and gifted tactician, information gathered by Mosby aided Stuart in his humiliating ride around McLellan’s Army of the Potomac in June, 1862.

In 1863, Stuart authorized Mosby to form and take command of the 43rd Battalion of the Virginia Cavalry, a regiment sized unit operating out of north central Virginia. These “Partisan Rangers”, 1,900 of whom served between January 1863 and April 1865, were under the authority of Stuart and Lee and subject to their commands, but they were not a traditional army unit. Mosby’s Rangers shared in the spoils of war, they had no camp duties, and lived scattered among civilian populations.

Mosby himself would often reconnoiter a target himself, in disguise.  Known for lightning raids of the Virginia countryside, Mosby’s 43rd Cavalry would be called together to strike a specific target, dispersing afterward and making themselves next to impossible to run to ground.  He was the “Gray Ghost”, so successful were his Rangers, that parts of Virginia’s Piedmont region are known as “Mosby’s Confederacy”, to this day.

Late on the night of March 8, 1863, Mosby’s Rangers formed up for a raid on Fairfax Mosbys-Rangers750Courthouse, Virginia. Union Brigadier General Edwin H. Stoughton was sleeping in his headquarters there, some sources say he was “sleeping it off”. The Gray Ghost entered the Union General’s headquarters in the small hours of March 9, his rangers quickly overpowering a handful of sleepy guards.

Entering the chamber where the General slept, Mosby lifted his nightshirt and slapped his bare backside with a sword. The general sputtered awake, demanding “What is the meaning of this”. “General, did you ever hear of Mosby”, came the question. Stoughton replied, “Yes, have you caught him?” “I AM Mosby,” said the Gray Ghost, “and I have caught you. Stuart’s cavalry has possession of the Courthouse; be quick and dress.”

John Singleton Mosby and 29 Rangers had captured a Union General, two Captains, 30 enlisted men and 58 horses, without firing a shot. On hearing the story the next day, Lincoln lamented. “I can make another Brigadier in 5 minutes, but I can’t replace those horses”.

Mosby 3rd Reunion 7-1-1896
Mosby’s Rangers, Third Reunion, 1896