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The Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley

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On December 6, 1833, Virginia McLaurine Mosby, wife of Alfred Daniel Mosby, gave birth to a son and named him John Singleton, after his paternal grandfather. Mosby lived in Nelson County, Va. until the age of six when his father moved to adjoining Albemarle County, four miles from Charlottesville and within viewing distance of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. After showing proficiency in Greek during grade school, he enrolled at the University of Virginia on October 3, 1850. But after shooting a fellow student after a dispute, Mosby was expelled from the University, and took up several months of study in a local law office. He soon passed the bar and set up his own practice in nearby Howardsville, also in Albemarle County.

A town visitor, Pauline Clarke, captured Mosby's affection. After courting her, he moved to her hometown of Bristol, on the Tennessee border. On December 30, 1857 they were married. Their first child, a daughter named May, was born on May 10, 1859. When Virginia followed other Southern states and voted to secede from the Union following Abraham Lincoln's election to the presidency in 1860, Mosby decided to enlist in the Confederate army.

At first Mosby followed a local company of infantry, but quickly transfered to the cavalry corps of Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, and became acquainted with the duties of a scout. Before too long, however, Mosby became anxious to form his own command, that would not be bound by traditional army conventions. In January 1863, Stuart approved Mosby's plan and gave him a few men to begin his operation. Mosby and his partisan rangers were later incorporated into the regular Confederate army. Their primary objective consisted of destroying railroad supply lines between Washington and Northern Virginia, as well as intercepting dispatches and horses and capturing Union soldiers. 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.

Mosby retreated into a self-imposed exile after the war until he acquired his parole from General U.S. Grant (see full text). He settled down in Warrenton, Va. in Fauquier County to re-establish his law practice. Politics, however, called to him. When Grant became president in 1869, Mosby visited him in the White House and offered his support. Mosby publicly backed the Republican in his 1872 re-election bid, and Grant carried Virginia. Under Hayes, Grant's successor, Mosby became a consul to Hong Kong (1878-1885). After returning to the United States, he became active on the lecture circuit and penned his war reminiscences and several other works for magazines and newspapers, spreading his account of his exploits during the war. After a series of physical debilitations, Mosby died on May 30, 1916 at the age of 82.

Who gave John Mosby the moniker,"Gray Ghost"? The answer is at the bottom of the page.

The Gray Ghost-Colonel John Singleton Mosby

A Tour of Mosby's Confederacy

Mosby and the Scout Toward Aldie

Mosby Biography from Confederate Military History

Reports by Colonel Mosby in the Official Records

Tours and tour guides in Mosby's Confederacy

Colonel John Mosby at War

Harsh Words in the Valley

Col. John Mosby and the Southern code of honor

Shadows in the Valley

Reports of Capt. John S. Mosby, Virginia Cavalry

Mosby Monuments At Prospect Hill Cemetery in Front Royal

History of Mosby's Artillery Company

The Scout to Adlie by Herman Melville

Mosby's Rangers Killed In Action

Biography of Col Mosby

Memoirs of John S. Mosby (On-line)

Company D of the 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry

Honorable Violence

Mosby and Oath-taking

Mosby Family Genealogy Forum

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Mosby's Haunts

Village of Paris & Old Ashby Gap Turnpike

Brentmoor - Spilman/Mosby House

John Singleton Mosby Museum

John Singleton Mosby Heritage Area

Roster of the 43rd Battalion Virginia CAVALRY

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A tour of 'Mosby's Confederacy' gives a taste of the famed cavalryman's hair-raising exploits.

Mosby's Confederacy

Historic Old Town Warrenton

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.

Partisan Rangers


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