Colonel John S. Mosby, the Grey Ghost
The Grey Ghost
John S. Mosby was a successful attorney, and with the outbreak of the Civil War he enlisted in the 1st Virginia Cavalry. He quickly moved up through the ranks, and eventually raised his own partisan unit. At first a battalion, his prowess and charisma allowed him to recruit it up to a regiment. The regiment became known as the famed "Mosby Raiders".
John Mosby was a key innovator in the tactics of Guerilla warfare. By 1863 his exploits were becoming legendary in the South, and viewed as a less than honorable way to fight by the North. Regardless of perspective he devised a new way of fighting by which a small agile force could harass and defeat a much larger force. In lightning fast raids, his raiders would move in and cut telegraph lines, ambush couriers or small parties, start fires, harass rail transport, and then disappear into the night. His quickness and stealth led to his now famous nickname, "The Grey Ghost".
Mosby’s exploits included a daring raid far inside Union lines at the Fairfax County courthouse in 1863, where his raiders captured some key Union officers, including General Stoughton, whom Mosby found in bed, waking him with a slap to his rear. Upon being so roused, the general exclaimed, "Do you know who I am?" Mosby quickly replied, "Do you know Mosby, general?" "Yes! Have you got the rascal?" "No but he has got you!"
The disruption of supply lines and the constant disappearance of couriers frustrated Union commanders to such a degree that General Phil Sheridan ordered the execution of all captured raiders. George A. Custer did execute several of Mosby’s men in 1864 in Front Royal, Virginia.
Often large forces were sent against him, but he always evaded and frequently defeated them. During the battle of Chancellorsville he attacked a Union cavalry unit, capturing several hundred prisoners. Near Chantilly, he defeated a large body of Union cavalry, leading General Lee to exclaim: "Hurrah for Mosby! I wish I had a hundred like him."
Near Dranesville, with 65 men, he defeated 200 of the enemy and captured 83 prisoners. One of his most daring adventures was a reconnaissance in the Federal lines, by order of General Lee, after the battle of Chancellorsville, in which he and one companion captured six men, and with two of them, rode undetected past a column of Federal cavalry.
He was also a vital element in the Confederate secret service, moving spies into and out of Washington; he frequently rode himself in disguise into the capital. Once while in Washington, Mosby sent of a lock of his hair to Abraham Lincoln as a gift. It is reported that Lincoln’s keen sense of humor fully appreciated the gesture. Mosby and his notorious raiders refused to surrender at the end of the war. While the group disbanded, they never surrendered.
Mosby spent his later years in San Francisco with friends and family. One particular family lived nearby with a young boy. The boy would often come over and eagerly listen to the stories of the old Grey Ghost. Mosby would entertain the young boy with tales of his gallant exploits and daring raids. The two became fast friends and would play war games outside. Mosby taught the young boy the secrets of Guerilla warfare. He taught him to fight like a raider, to fight like a guerilla.
The young boy was George S. Patton.
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