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Lady Val
Wed Apr 01 2009, 07:46PM
Registered Member #75
Joined: Sat Nov 01 2008, 03:22PM
Posts: 475
On March 31st, 1863, John Mosby (now an actual commissioned captain after his capture of Union General Edwin Stoughton - though he had claimed that rank while still a private soldier) picked up a "scratch" group of 69 "conglomerates" and went looking for trouble; they found it. Mosby was the only officer; there were no subordinates of lower rank or any kind of military organization. Of the 69, Mosby had seen only 12 before and most of them did not know any of the others.

In keeping with his usual practice, Mosby did not reveal his objective which was the Union picket post at Dranesville. It had been snowing, but had stopped by mid-afternoon; at sundown the group arrived at Herndon Station, 2 miles south of the area in which Mosby believed the post to lie. However, he learned from the locals that the post had been withdrawn behind "Difficult Run" and was therefore unassailable. Later in his career, Mosby would cancel missions that could not proceed, but at that time he later wrote that if he dispersed his men, he probably would never see most of them again. He had to keep them together and try another target on the next day, April 1st.

Because they had ridden a long way and everyone - including the horses - were tired, wet and hungry, Mosby returned to a place at which he knew he could get a place to spend the night and food and shelter for man and horse, "Miskel's Farm" which was located in junction of two rivers, the Potomac and Broad Run. Again, because he was uneasy giving these new men any orders but to fight, Mosby did not post videttes. However, as the nearest Union cavalry camp was nine miles away, he believed that they would not learn that he was in the area until at the earliest, the next day - and so he felt safe.

Unfortunately for Mosby, a Unionist woman had seen him and proceeded to the picket post, telling Maj. Charles F. Taggart of the 1st Vermont Cavalry that Mosby and some 70 men were in the neighborhood. Taggart chose one of his best officers, Capt. Henry Flint and 150 picked Vermonters to go get the man who had stolen their General and had made their lives miserable. It took them most of the night as they searched local houses, but eventually they learned that Mosby was at Miskel's. One of the houses they searched was that of Isabella Reed, two miles south of Miskel's. [censored] Moran, one of Mosby's men had spent the night with his friends there and seeing the Yankees, immediately set off across the woods to warn his commander.

Flint led the first squadron of 100 men and Capt. George H. Bean commanded the rear squadron of 50 men; before advancing to meet Mosby head on, Flint sent Bean around the house to prevent any of the raiders from escaping when - Flint was sure - they would try to run. As the Captain rode through the entry gate and into the enclosure of the farm, he believed he had Mosby in a cul-de-sac from which he could not escape. All of Mosby's horses were still inside the barnyard fence and his men were in various states of undress and confusion.

Flint had the first gate between the road and the lane to the farm closed and blocked with fence rails to prevent any escape that way. He then shouted to his men, "All right, boys; we will give Mosby an April fool!" and they responded with a hearty cheer.

At about that time, Mosby had stepped out into the backyard hatless and in his shirtsleeves after one of his men had told him that the men in a Union watch-post across the Potomac were acting strangely (they had seen Flint's approach and were cheering him on!). As he did so, Moran arrived through the woods bellowing in his "fog horn" voice, "Mount! The Yankees are coming!" Mosby ran to the plank fence and could see Flint's advance coming through the entry gate. His men, startled, frightened and confused, ran to him for orders; he told them to ignore the sporadic carbine fire coming from the advancing Yankees and to saddle and mount their horses - which they did. Then Mosby - still afoot - walked to the inner gate and kicked it open and with two Colt pistols in his hands, charged Flint and his men. Harry Hatcher, seeing Mosby dismounted, gave him his own horse; he soon picked up a riderless Yankee mount - and the fight began.

Meanwhile, as he proceeded with his men down the long fenced road to the barnyard, Flint had had his men draw their sabers. He had nothing but contempt for Mosby and his men and believed them unworthy of anything but "cold steel". Now, Flint found himself faced with an enemy who rather than running or surrendering, was charging and the confines of the fenced corridor did not permit his much superior numbers any advantage. (Mosby had about 30 men fighting at that time to Flint's 100.) On the other hand, Flint's sabers were useless against Mosby's Colt pistols; the bloodbath began.

Flint tried to rally his men, but was shot out of the saddle, dead before he hit the ground riddled with 6 bullets; they killed his horse. Indeed, both officers riding with Flint's contingent save one died that day and the one - Lt. Josiah Grout - was so seriously wounded that he was mustered out within the year. Bean's men, seeing the panic and death reducing the ranks of their comrades did not respond in support (Bean was later cashiered for cowardice).

When the fleeing federals reached the gate that they themselves had blocked, a virtual massacre took place. Eventually, they broke through and the battle continued in a less confined area with Mosby's men chasing the remnants of the Vermonters almost to Dranesville.

Mosby had four wounded, one of whom later died. The casualty rate among the 1st Vermont was 74% with 9 dead (including two officers) and 17 wounded so seriously that they could not be moved. 92 prisoners were taken and over a hundred horses and equipment captured. Most of those who made it back across Difficult Run were themselves wounded.

Mosby's greatest achievement that day, however, was the fact that no man (not even himself) ever again questioned his ability to command or his courage. There were men with him that day - Sam and William Chapman to name two - who would have followed John Mosby into hell if he had told them to do so because they knew he would be the first one through the doors! John Mosby never had to feel uncomfortable again about his control over his men. His courage and his skill had saved them all - and they knew it.

Shortly after the "Miskel skirmish", Mosby was promoted to major - a two grade advance in rank in as many months.
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gpthelastrebel
Thu Apr 02 2009, 04:35PM

Registered Member #1
Joined: Tue Jul 17 2007, 02:46PM
Posts: 4075
Great story absolutely great. The Gray Ghost strikes again!!!

BTW who gave Mosby that name??

GP
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8milereb
Thu Apr 02 2009, 04:48PM

Registered Member #2
Joined: Thu Jul 19 2007, 03:39PM
Posts: 1030
It was Lincoln himself who named Mosby "The Gray Ghost." The Union Army's biggest fear in Washington was that Mosby would kidnap Lincoln from right beneath their nose. Lincoln, upon hearing several of his generals discussing Mosby and their fears, loudly announced, "Listen to you men, you speak of Mosby as though he is a ghost, a gray ghost." It wasn't until after the war that Mosby learned of this and that the nickname stuck.
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8milereb
Thu Apr 02 2009, 04:50PM

Registered Member #2
Joined: Thu Jul 19 2007, 03:39PM
Posts: 1030
Mosby's numbers rose from one dozen to a few hundred by the end of the war. Mosby's rank likewise rose steadily; his final promotion to colonel came in January 1865. Gen. Robert E. Lee cited Mosby for meritorious service more often than any other Confederate officer during the course of the war.
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gpthelastrebel
Thu Apr 02 2009, 06:23PM

Registered Member #1
Joined: Tue Jul 17 2007, 02:46PM
Posts: 4075
Thanks Mark interesting facts.

GP

[ Edited Thu Apr 02 2009, 06:23PM ]
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Lady Val
Fri Apr 03 2009, 02:15AM
Registered Member #75
Joined: Sat Nov 01 2008, 03:22PM
Posts: 475
The Lincoln story cannot be verified. I have tried to find some credible, valid source for it, but I have not been successful. However, it is true that Mosby never heard the term till after the war. Believe me, he would have found it preferable to what most Yankees called him - especially in the press!

Mosby was at his strongest at the end of the war. His numbers had risen precipitously as regiment after regiment collapsed and its men killed or capture. The escapees sought out Mosby. He was better armed, clothed and mounted than many Yankee commands - and certainly far better off than the wretched men of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Mosby became a full Colonel in January of 1865 while visiting Richmond after his most serious wound, that of December 21st, 1864. At that time, he was arranging to have his command made into a regiment of two battalions. Of course, time ran out before that happened, but he had over 800 and perhaps as many as 1,000 men under him at the time Lee surrendered.

Many folks think that everything is known about Mosby, but the period surrounding the end of the war continues to be one of great mystery. There were charges of his involvement in Lincoln's assassination that apparently "disappeared" although one of the conspirators was a former Mosby's Ranger, Lewis Powell and two paroled Rangers accosted Booth and Herold. Then there was the business of Lt. Thomas Harney and the alleged attempt to blow up the White House killing Lincoln and his Cabinet; the facts about that business make no sense at all! Then there is Mosby's odd period of outlawry where he was supposedly hunted by some of his own men while (again supposedly) many federal officers knew of his whereabouts and protected him. No, there is still a great deal of mystery surrounding "the Gray Ghost" and one wonders if any of it will ever be revealed.
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gpthelastrebel
Fri Apr 03 2009, 06:21AM

Registered Member #1
Joined: Tue Jul 17 2007, 02:46PM
Posts: 4075
Interesting Thank you. Perhaps you will be the one who solves some of these riddles.

GP

[ Edited Fri Apr 03 2009, 05:02PM ]
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8milereb
Fri Apr 03 2009, 04:07PM

Registered Member #2
Joined: Thu Jul 19 2007, 03:39PM
Posts: 1030
I'll take you to task on your last post Lady. Read just this one source Gray Ghost (Biography) James A Ramage..the truth is out there. Also bet you did not know this as well? its in a OR and a Offical letter he wrote On Sept. 22, 1864, frustrated Union soldiers hanged or shot six of Mosby's men they recently captured. Mosby included a Richmond Times-Dispatch account of the incident in his Memoirs: "Two of their prisoners the Yankees immediately hung to a neighboring tree, ... The other four were tied to stakes and mercilessly shot through the skull, each one individually". Mosby made it clear he did not wish to execute the Union prisoners, but he likewise could not abide leaving his dead men unavenged. Such murders were outside the bounds of the Southern notion of honor. Revenge killings, however, were not. Within two months, Mosby executed the same number of Union soldiers in retaliation. In a Nov. 11, 1864 letter to Major Gen. P.H. Sheridan, the commanding Union officer in the Shenandoah Valley, Mosby wrote: "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". Truth be known there is very little mystery remaining about Mosby. http://ahivfree.alexanderstreet.com/View/501027
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8milereb
Fri Apr 03 2009, 04:27PM

Registered Member #2
Joined: Thu Jul 19 2007, 03:39PM
Posts: 1030
The bottom line with Mosby is that the Press like today in politics was a force multiplier for him and his Rangers.. btw he was 5'7" and weighed about 128 pounds dripping wet... the "frailest and most delicate" of his unit.
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8milereb
Fri Apr 03 2009, 04:42PM

Registered Member #2
Joined: Thu Jul 19 2007, 03:39PM
Posts: 1030
Answer to the question:

It was Lincoln himself who named Mosby "The Gray Ghost." The Union Army's biggest fear in Washington was that Mosby would kidnap Lincoln from right beneath their nose. Lincoln, upon hearing several of his generals discussing Mosby and their fears, loudly announced, "Listen to you men, you speak of Mosby as though he is a ghost, a gray ghost." It wasn't until after the war that Mosby learned of this and that the nickname stuck.

Additional Sources:
www.civilwarhome.com
www.wtv-zone.com/civilwar
xroads.virginia.edu
www.framery.com
www.pattonsgallery.com
www.visitloudoun.org
www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk
www.mosbymuseum.org
docsouth.unc.edu
www.mosbysrangers.com

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8milereb
Fri Apr 03 2009, 04:46PM

Registered Member #2
Joined: Thu Jul 19 2007, 03:39PM
Posts: 1030
Also it was Colonel Custard (yes that one) who murdered-executed 7 of Mosby's men. Mosby later took revenge out on a equal number of Custards men, leaving a note one of them....the killings stopped after that (Ref /OR)
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