from Colonel John S. Mosby’s Memoirs, Letters and Reports.
(1) John Singleton Mosby, Memoirs of Colonel John S. Mosby (1887)
In my youth I was very delicate and often heard that I would never live to
be a grown man. But the prophets were wrong, for I have outlived nearly
all the contemporaries of my youth. I was devoted to hunting, and a
servant always had coffee ready for me at daylight on a Saturday morning,
so that I was out shooting when nearly all were sleeping. My father was a
slaveholder, and I still cherish a strong affection for the slaves who
nursed me and played with me in my childhood. That was the prevailing
sentiment in the South - not one peculiar to myself - but one prevailing
in all the South toward an institution which we now thank Abraham Lincoln
(2) John Singleton Mosby, Memoirs of Colonel John S. Mosby (1887)
We were incorporated into the First Virginia Cavalry, which Stuart had
just organized, now on outpost to watch Patterson. I had never seen Stuart
before, and the distance between us was so great that I never expected to
rise to even an acquaintance with him. Stuart was a graduate of West Point
and as a lieutenant in Colonel Sumner's regiment, the First Cavalry, had
won distinction and had been wounded in an Indian fight. At the beginning
of the war he was just twenty-eight years old. His appearance - which
included a reddish beard and a ruddy complexion - indicated a strong
physique and great energy.
In his work on the outposts Stuart soon showed that he possessed the
qualities of a great leader of cavalry. He never had an equal in such
service. He discarded the old maxims and soon discovered that in the
conditions of modern war the chief functions of cavalry are to learn the
designs and to watch and report the movements of the enemy.
(3) John Singleton Mosby, letter to his wife after the battle of Bull Run
(22nd June, 1861)
There was a great battle yesterday. The Yankees are overwhelmingly routed.
Thousands of them killed. I was in the fight. We at one time stood for two
hours under a perfect storm of shot and shell - it was a miracle that none
of our company was killed. We took all of their cannon from them; among
the batteries captured was Sherman's - battle lasted about 7 hours - about
90,000 Yankees, 45,000 of our men. The cavalry pursued them till dark -
followed 6 or 7 miles. General Scott commanded them. I just snatch this
moment to write - am out doors in a rain - will write you all particulars
when I get a chance. We start just as soon as we can get our breakfast to
follow them to Alexandria. We made a forced march to get here to the
battle - travelled about 65 miles without stopping. My love to all of you.
(4) John Singleton Mosby, Memoirs of Colonel John S. Mosby (1887)
In June, 1862, McClellan was astraddle of the Chickahominy; his right
rested on the Pamunkey, but there was a gap of several miles between his
left and the James. The two armies were so close to each other that the
cavalry was of little use, and it was therefore kept in the rear.
One morning I was at breakfast with Stuart, and he said that he wanted to
find out if McClellan was fortifying on the Totopotomy, a creek that
empties into the Pamunkey. I was glad to go for him and started off with
three men. But we found a flag of truce on the road and turned off to
scout in another direction - I did not want to go back without doing
something. We did not get the information for which we were sent, but we
did get intelligence of even more value.
We penetrated McClellan's lines and discovered that for several miles his
right flank had only cavalry pickets to guard his line of communication
with his depot at the White House on the Pamunkey. Here, it seemed to me,
was an opportunity to strike a blow. McClellan had not anticipated any
such move and had made no provision against it.
On discovering the conditions, I hastened back to Stuart and found him
sitting in the front yard. It was a hot day - I was tired and lay down on
the grass to tell him what I had learned. A martinet would have ordered me
to stand in his presence. He listened to my story and, when I had
finished, told me to go to the adjutant's office and write it down.
(5) John Singleton Mosby, letter to his wife (16th June, 1862)
I returned yesterday with General Stuart from the grandest scout of the
war. I not only helped to execute it, but was the first one who conceived
and demonstrated that it was practicable. I took four men, several days
ago, and went down among the Yankees and found out how it could be done.
The Yankees gave us a chase, but we escaped. I reported to General Stuart,
suggested his going down, he approved, asked me to give him a written
statement of the facts, and went immediately to see General Lee, who also
We were out nearly four days, rode continuously four days and nights,
found among the Yankee camps and sutlers' stores every luxury of which you
ever conceived. I had no way of bringing off anything. General Stuart gave
me the horses and equipments I captured. What little I brought off is
worth at least $350. Stuart does not want me to go with Floyd, -told me
before this affair that I should have a commission, on returning yesterday
he told me that I would have no difficulty in doing so now.
I met Wyndham Robertson on the street to-day. He congratulated me on the
success of the exploit, and said I was the hero, and that he intended to
write an account of it for the papers - made me promise to dine with him
to-day. I send you some captured things, the carpet was in an officer's
tent. There is no prospect of a battle here, heavy reinforcements have
been going to Jackson. I got two splendid army pistols. Stuart's name is
in every one's mouth now. I was in both cavalry charges, they were
magnificent. . . . I have been staying with General Stuart at his
headquarters. . . . The whole heavens were illuminated by the flames of
the burning wagons, etc. of the Yankees. A good many ludicrous scenes I
will narrate when I get home. Richmond in fine spirits, everybody says it
is the greatest feat of the war. I never enjoyed myself so much in my
(6) John Singleton Mosby, letter to his wife (9th December, 1862)
With nine men I stampeded two or three thousand Yankees. I see the
Richmond papers give Colonel Rosser the credit of it. He had nothing to do
with it, and was not in twenty-five miles of there. General Lee sent me a
message expressing his gratification at my success. I believe I have
already written of my trip around McClellan at Catlett's Station, when I
saw him leave his army at the time he was superseded by Burnside. The
courier by whom I sent the dispatch to General Stuart announcing it passed
five Yankee cavalry in the road. Not dreaming there was a rebel army in
their rear, they passed on by him, merely saying "Good morning." We did
not go in disguise, as spies, but in Confederate uniform and with our
arms. Had a slip from a Northern paper, which I lost, giving an account of
a squad of rebel cavalry having been seen that day in their rear. Aaron
thinks himself quite a hero, though he does not want to come again in such
disagreeable proximity to a bombshell.
I want you to send me some books to read. Send Plutarch, Macaulay's
"History" and "Essays," "Encyclopedia of Anecdotes," Scott's Works,
Shakespeare, Byron, Scott's Poems, Hazlitt's "Life of Napoleon," - if you
can get me a copy of "My Novel," send it, also "Memoirs of an Irish
Gentleman", "Corinne," and "Sketch Book."
(7) James Jeb Stuart commenting on John Singleton Mosby's success in
capturing Brigadier-General Stoughton (12th March, 1863)
Captain John S. Mosby has for a long time attracted the attention of his
generals by his boldness, skill, and success, so signally displayed in his
numerous forays upon the invaders of his native soil. None know his daring
enterprise and dashing heroism better than those foul invaders, those
strangers themselves to such noble traits.
His last brilliant exploit - the capture of Brigadier-General Stoughton,
U. S. A., two captains, and thirty other prisoners, together with their
arms, equipments, and fifty-eight horses - justifies this recognition in
General Orders. This feat, unparalleled in the war, was performed in the
midst of the enemy's troops, at Fairfax Court House, without loss or
injury. The gallant band of Captain Mosby shares his glory, as they did
the danger of this enterprise, and are worthy of such a leader.
(8) John Singleton Mosby, report sent to James Jeb Stuart (6th June, 1863)
Last Saturday morning I captured a train of twelve cars on the Virginia
and Alexandria Railroad loaded with supplies for the troops above. The
cars were fired and entirely consumed. Having destroyed the train, I
proceeded some distance back, when I recognized the enemy in a strong
force immediately in my front. One shell which exploded in their ranks
sufficed to put them to flight. After going about a mile further, the
enemy were reported pursuing. Their advance was again checked by a shot
from the howitzer. In this way we skirmished for several miles, until
seeing the approach of their overwhelming numbers and the impossibility of
getting off the gun, I resolved to make them pay for it as dearly as
possible. Taking a good position on a hill commanding the road we awaited
their onset. They came up quite gallantly, not in dispersed order, but in
columns of fours, crowded in a narrow lane.
At eighty yards we opened on them with grape and following this up with a
charge of cavalry, we drove them half a mile back in confusion. Twice
again did they rally and as often were sent reeling back. At last our
ammunition became exhausted, and we were forced to abandon the gun. We did
not then abandon it without a struggle, and a fierce hand to hand combat
ensued in which, though overpowered by numbers, many of the enemy were
made to bite the dust. In this affair I had only 48 men - the forces of
the enemy were five regiments of cavalry. My loss, one killed - Captain
Hoskins, a British officer who fell when gallantly fighting, - four
wounded. It is with pleasure I recommend to your attention the heroic
conduct of Lieutenant Chapman and Privates Mountjoy and Beattie, who stood
by their gun until surrounded by the enemy.
(9) James Jeb Stuart report on John Singleton Mosby during the Gettysburg
Campaign (15th June, 1863)
Major Mosby, with his usual daring, penetrated the enemy's lines and
caught a staff-officer of General Hooker - bearer of despatches to General
Pleasanton, commanding United States cavalry near Aldie. These despatches
disclosed the fact that Hooker was looking to Aldie with solicitude, and
that Pleasanton, with infantry and cavalry, occupied the place; and that a
reconnaissance in force of cavalry was meditated toward Warrenton and
Culpeper. I immediately despatched to General Hampton, who was coming by
way of Warrenton from the direction of Beverly Ford, this intelligence,
and directed him to meet this advance at Warrenton. The captured
despatches also gave the entire number of divisions, from which we could
estimate the approximate strength of the enemy's army. I therefore
concluded in no event to attack with cavalry alone the enemy at Aldie.
(10) John Singleton Mosby report to James Jeb Stuart (30th September,
On the morning of August 24, with about 30 men, I reached a point
(Annandale) immediately on the enemy's line of communication. Leaving the
whole command, except three men who accompanied me, in the woods,
concealed, I proceeded on a reconnaissance along the railroad to ascertain
if there were any bridges unguarded. I discovered there were three. I
returned to the command just as a drove of horses with a cavalry escort of
about 50 men were passing. These I determined to attack and to wait until
night to burn the bridges. I ordered Lieutenant Turner to take half of the
men and charge them in front, while with the remainder I attacked their
In the meantime the enemy had been joined by another party, making their
number about 63. When I overtook them they had dismounted at Gooding's
Tavern to water their horses. My men went at them with a yell that
terrified the Yankees and scattered them in all directions. A few taking
shelter under cover of the houses, opened fire upon us. They were soon
silenced, however. At the very moment when I had succeeded in routing
them, I was compelled to retire from the fight, having been shot through
the side and thigh. My men, not understanding it, followed me, which gave
time to the Yankees to escape to the woods. But for this accident, the
whole party would have been captured.
As soon as I perceived this, I ordered the men to go back, which a portion
of them did, just as Lieutenant Turner, who had met and routed another
force above, came gallantly charging up.
Over 100 horses fell into our possession, though a good many were lost in
bringing them out at night; also 12 prisoners, arms, etc. I learn that 6
of the enemy were killed. In this affair my loss was 2 killed and 3
wounded. I afterwards directed Lieutenant Turner to burn the bridges. He
succeeded in burning one.
During my absence from the command, Lieutenant Turner attacked an outpost
of the enemy near Waterloo, killing 2 and capturing 4 men and 27 horses.
About September 15 he captured 3 wagons, 20 horses, 7 prisoners and a
large amount of sutlers' goods near Warrenton Junction.
On the 20th and 21st instant, I conducted an expedition along the enemy's
line of communication, in which important information obtained was
forwarded to the army headquarters, and I succeeded in capturing 9
prisoners and 21 fine horses and mules.
On the 27th and 28th instant, I made a reconnaissance in the vicinity of
Alexandria, capturing Colonel Dulaney, aide to the bogus Governor
Pierpont, several horses, and burning the railroad bridge across Cameron's
Run, which was immediately under cover of the guns of two forts.
The military value of the species of warfare I have waged is not measured
by the number of prisoners and material of war captured from the enemy,
but by the heavy detail it has already compelled him to make, and which I
hope to make him increase, in order to guard his communications and to
that extent diminishing his aggressive strength.
(11) Carl Schurz was an officer in the Union Army during the American
Civil War. He wrote about a meeting with Mosby's Partisan Rangers in his
autobiography that was published in 1906.
Perhaps two hundred yards ahead of us, we observed a troop of ten or
twelve of them, who advanced towards us. They looked rather ragged, and I
took them for teamsters or similar folk. But one of the orderlies cried
out: "There are the rebels!" And true enough, they were a band of Mosby's
guerrillas. Now they came up at a gallop, and in a minute they were among
us. While we whipped out our revolvers, I shouted to my bugler: "Sound the
advance, double-quick!" which he did; and there was an instant
"double-quick" signal in response from the infantry patrol close behind
us. We had a lively, but, as to my party, harmless conversation with
revolvers for a few seconds, whereupon the guerrillas, no doubt frightened
by the shouts of the patrol coming at a run, hastily turned tail and
galloped down the road, leaving in our hands one prisoner and two horses.
(12) John Singleton Mosby, Memoirs of Colonel John S. Mosby (1887)
During this campaign of 1864, my battalion of six companies was the only
force operating in the rear of Sheridan's army in the Shenandoah Valley.
Our rendezvous was along the eastern base of the Blue Ridge, in what is
known as the Piedmont region of Virginia. Fire and sword could not drive
the people of that neighborhood from their allegiance to what they thought
was right, and in the gloom of disaster and defeat they never wavered in
their support of the Confederate cause. The main object of my campaign was
to vex and embarrass Sheridan and, if possible, to prevent his advance
into the interior of the State. But my exclusive attention was not given
to Sheridan, for alarm was kept up continuously by threatening Washington
and occasionally crossing the Potomac. We lived on the country where we
operated and drew nothing from Richmond except the gray jackets my men
wore. We were mounted, armed, and equipped entirely off the enemy, but, as
we captured a great deal more than we could use, the surplus was sent to
supply Lee's army. The mules we sent him furnished a large part of his
transportation, and the captured sabres and carbines were turned over to
his cavalry - we had no use for them.
I believe I was the first cavalry commander who discarded the sabre as
useless and consigned it to museums for the preservation of antiquities.
My men were as little impressed by a body of cavalry charging them with
sabres as though they had been armed with cornstalks. In the Napoleonic
wars cavalry might sometimes ride down infantry armed with muzzle-loaders
and flintlocks, because the infantry would be broken by the momentum of
the charge before more than one effective fire could be delivered. At
Eylau the French cavalry rode over the Russians in a snowstorm because the
powder of the infantry was wet and they were defenseless. Fixed ammunition
had not been invented. I think that my command reached the highest point
of efficiency as cavalry because they were well armed with two
six-shooters and their charges combined the effect of fire and shock. We
were called bushwhackers, as a term of reproach, simply because our
attacks were generally surprises, and we had to make up by celerity for
lack of numbers. Now I never resented the epithet of "bushwhacker" -
although there was no soldier to whom it applied less - because
bushwhacking is a legitimate form of war, and it is just as fair and
equally heroic to fire at an enemy from behind a bush as a breastwork or
from the casemate of a fort.
(13) John Singleton Mosby, letter to Philip Sheridan (11th November,
Some time in the month of September, during my absence from my command,
six of my men who had been captured by your forces, were hung and shot in
the streets of Front Royal, by order and in the immediate presence of
Brigadier-General Custer. Since then another (captured by a Colonel Powell
on a plundering expedition into Rappahannock) shared a similar fate. A
label affixed to the coat of one of the murdered men declared "that this
would be the fate of Mosby and all his men."
Since the murder of my men, not less than seven hundred prisoners,
including many officers of high rank, captured from your army by this
command have been forwarded to Richmond; but the execution of my purpose
of retaliation was deferred, in order, as far as possible, to confine its
operation to the men of Custer and Powell. Accordingly, on the 6th
instant, seven of your men were, by my order, executed on the Valley Pike
- your highway of travel.
Hereafter, any prisoners falling into my hands will be treated with the
kindness due to their condition, unless some new act of barbarity shall
compel me, reluctantly, to adopt a line of policy repugnant to humanity.
(14) General Philip Sheridan, letter to General Henry Halleck (26th
I will soon commence work on Mosby. Heretofore I have made no attempt to
break him up, as I would have employed ten men to his one, and for the
reason that I have made a scapegoat of him for the destruction of private
rights. Now there is going to be an intense hatred of him in that portion
of the valley which is nearly a desert. I will soon commence on Loudoun
County, and let them know there is a God in Israel. Mosby has annoyed me
considerably; but the people are beginning to see that he does not injure
me a great deal, but causes a loss to them of all that they have spent
their lives in accumulating. Those people who live in the vicinity of
Harper's Ferry are the most villainous in this valley, and have not yet
been hurt much. If the railroad is interfered with, I will make some of
them poor. Those who live at home in peace and plenty want this war to go
on; but when they have to bear the burden by loss of property and
comforts, they will cry for peace.
(15) John Singleton Mosby's mother kept a diary during the final stages of
the American Civil War (March-April, 1865)
Saturday, March 6: To-day will be a day never to be forgotten. We heard
the Yankees occupied Charlottesville last evening and are advancing up
here. All is consternation and confusion. We are trying to get our things
out of the way. Rumor after rumor arrives, and we know not how to proceed.
We expect to be driven from our homes. Oh! may we be spared, and our
house, and the vile Yankees driven back.
Saturday, April 3: There is a craven spirit abroad with our people. If
overpowered we will have to submit to the powers that be, but I would feel
that the Yankees themselves would despise us, if we recanted our Southern
principles. They would have no confidence in us and look with contempt on
us, as they should do. I think a deserter on either side the most degraded
human being that breathes. Yes, we hate them, and the Yankees do too, and
they will hiss them.
Sunday, April 9th: I went out and heard the deep toned cannon, carrying
hundreds and perhaps thousands to that long sleep that knows no waking.
Oh, how my heart went up for our great, our noble Lee, that God would give
him strength in weakness to bring us out of battle a victorious people. If
God does see fit to crush us and bow us down, because of our sins and the
sins of this nation, I feel it will be in justice and mercy, and will even
believe he death all things well; but there are hearts too noble to be
conquered. Our Lee will stand out a man in all the nations of the earth,
nobler and greater in adversity than any other man with a crown on his
head. I hear of fearful desertions. Poor craven spirits - I hope the
Yankee bullets will yet pierce their hateful hides.
(16) John Singleton Mosby, Memoirs of Colonel John S. Mosby (1917)
MY first meeting with General Robert E. Lee was in August, 1862, when I
brought the news of Burnside's reinforcement of Pope, a story I have told
in the preceding pages. The next time we met was at his headquarters in
Orange, about two months after Gettysburg. He did not seem in the least
depressed, and was as buoyant and aggressive as ever. He took a deep
interest in my operations, for there was nothing of the Fabius in his
character. Lee was the most aggressive man I met in the war, and was
always ready for an enterprise. I believe that his interest in me was
largely due to the fact that his father, "Light Horse Harry", was a
partisan officer in the Revolutionary War.
After General Stuart was killed, in May, 1864, I reported directly to
General Lee. During the siege of Petersburg I visited him three times -
twice when I was wounded. Once, when I got out of the ambulance, he was
standing near, talking to General Longstreet. When he saw me hobbling up
to him on crutches, he came to meet me, introduced me to General
Longstreet, and said, "Colonel, the only fault I have ever had to find
with you is that you are always getting wounded." Such a speech from
General Lee more than repaid me for my wound.
The last time I saw him during the war was about two months before the
surrender. I had been wounded again. He was not only kind, but
affectionate, and asked me to take dinner with him, though he said he
hadn't much to eat. There was a leg of mutton on the table; he remarked
that some of his staff officers must have stolen it.
After dinner, when we were alone, he talked very freely. He said that in
the spring of 1862, Joe Johnston ought not to have fallen back from the
Rapidan to Richmond, and that he had written urging him to turn against
Washington. He also said that when Joe Johnston evacuated his lines at
Yorktown, in May of that year, he should have given battle with his whole
force on the isthmus at Williamsburg, instead of making a rear-guard
(17) In 1867 John Singleton Mosby, was interviewed in the Philadelphia
Post about the merits of the different generals in the Union Army during
the American Civil War.
Whom do you consider the ablest General on the Federal side?" "McClellan,
by all odds. I think he is the only man on the Federal side who could have
organized the army as it was. Grant had, of course, more successes in the
field in the latter part of the war, but Grant only came in to reap the
benefits of McClellan's previous efforts. At the same time, I do not wish
to disparage General Grant, for he has many abilities, but if Grant had
commanded during the first years of the war, we would have gained our
independence. Grant's policy of attacking would have been a blessing to
us, for we lost more by inaction than we would have lost in battle. After
the first Manassas the army took a sort of 'dry rot', and we lost more men
by camp diseases than we would have by fighting."
(18) Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant (1885)
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.
(19) John Singleton Mosby, Memoirs of Colonel John S. Mosby (1887)
I first met General Grant in May, 1872, after Mr. Greeley had been
nominated for the presidency by a convention whose members called
themselves Liberal Republicans - although, as a matter of fact, many of
them had been the most radical element of the party, but had seceded on
account of personal grievances.
In common with most Southern soldiers, I had a very kindly feeling towards
General Grant, not only on account of his magnanimous conduct at
Appomattox, but also for his treatment of me at the close of hostilities.
I had never called on him, however. If I had done so, and if he had
received me even politely, we should both have been subjected to severe
criticism, so bitter was the feeling between the sections at the time.
No doubt, in those days, most Northerners believed the imaginative stories
of the war correspondents and supposed that my battalion fought under the
black flag. General Grant was as much misunderstood in the South as I was
in the North. But time has healed wounds which were once thought to be
irremediable; and there is to-day no memory of our war so bitter,
probably, as the Scottish recollection of Culloden. Like most Southern
men, I had disapproved the reconstruction measures and was sore and very
restive under military government; but since my prejudices have faded, I
can now see that many things which we regarded as being prompted by
hostile and vindictive motives were actually necessary, in order to
prevent anarchy and to secure the freedom of the newly emancipated slave.
I had given little attention to politics and had devoted my time to my
profession, although I was under no political disability. As we had all
been opposed to the Republican party before the war, it was a point of
honor to keep on voting that way.
When Horace Greeley was nominated, I saw - or thought I saw - that it was
idle to divide longer upon issues which we acknowledged to have been
legally, if not properly, settled; and that if the Southern people wanted
reconciliation, as they said they did, the logical thing to do was to vote
for Grant. I have not changed my opinion, nor yet have I any criticism to
make of those who differed with me. We were all working for the same end.
Some said they couldn't sacrifice their principles for Grant's friendship;
I didn't sacrifice mine.