Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Mosby, John Singleton
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Mosby, John Singleton
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|Edition of 1900. See also John S. Mosby on Wikipedia, and our Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography disclaimer.|
MOSBY, John Singleton, soldier, b. in Powhatan county, Va., 6 Dec., 1833. He entered the University of Virginia, and before completing his course shot and seriously wounded a student who assaulted him. He was fined and sentenced to imprisonment, but was pardoned by the governor, and his fine was remitted by the legislature. He studied law during his confinement, and soon after his release was admitted to the bar, and practised in Bristol, Washington co., Va. At the beginning of hostilities in the spring of 1861 he enlisted in a company of cavalry, and served in the campaign of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston in the Shenandoah valley and the Manassas operations, and on picket duty on the Potomac during the winter. At the expiration of twelve months he and a friend were the only soldiers in his company that were willing to re-enlist without first receiving a furlough. On 14 Feb., 1862, he was made adjutant of his regiment, but two months later, when the colonel, William E. Jones, was displaced, he returned to the ranks. Gen. James E. B. Stuart, the brigade commander, observed Mosby's abilities, and invited him to serve as a scout at his headquarters. He guided Stuart's force in a bold raid in the rear of Gen. George B. McClellan's position on the Chickahominy, 14 June, 1862. In January, 1863, he crossed the Rappahannock into northern Virginia, which had been abandoned the year before to the occupation of the National army, and recruited a force of irregular cavalry, with which, aided by the friendly population of Loudoun and Fauquier counties, he harassed the National lines, and did much damage by cutting communications and destroying supply-trains in the rear of the armies that invaded Virginia. His partisan rangers, when not on a raid, scattered for safety, and remained in concealment, with orders to assemble again at a given time and place. Several expeditions were sent to capture Mosby and his men; but he always had intelligence of the approach of the enemy, and evaded every encounter, though the district was repeatedly ravaged as a punishment to the people for harboring and abetting the guerillas. Many cavalry outposts were captured by them, and the National forces were compelled to strengthen their pickets, sometimes to contract their lines, and to use constant vigilance against stratagems, surprises, and nocturnal attacks. His force was made up of deserters from the Confederate ranks, of volunteers from civil life, and of furloughed cavalrymen who had lost their horses and joined him temporarily in order to obtain remounts captured from the enemy. One of his boldest lieutenants was a deserter from the National army. At Chantilly, on 16 March, 1863, he made a counter-charge, and routed a cavalry force much larger than his own. At Dranesville, on 1 April, 1863, he defeated a detachment sent specially to capture him. While the armies were engaged at Chancellorsville he surprised a body of cavalry at Warrenton Junction, but was routed by a detachment that came to the rescue. He raised a new force, obtained a howitzer, passed to the rear of Gen. Hooker's army, wrecked a railroad-train, inflicted severe damage on the troops that surrounded him, and finally cut his way through the lines. In May, 1864, Mosby captured a railroad transport near Aquia creek, and compelled Gen. Grant, while his army was engaged in the Wilderness, to detach a cavalry force to protect his communications. Mosby received a captain's commission in March, 1863, and two weeks later that of a major, and he reported to Gen. Stuart till the time of that officer's death in May, 1864, and after that to Gen. Robert E. Lee. Before the close of the war he was made a full colonel. He received several bullet-wounds. His partisan rangers, under an act of the Confederate congress, stood on the same footing as the cavalry of the line, and received the same pay, besides being allowed to retain captured spoils. On 21 April, 1865, he took leave of his partisans, saying: “Soldiers of the 43d regiment: I have summoned you together for the last time. The vision we have cherished of a free and independent country has vanished, and that country is now the spoil of a conqueror. I disband your organization in preference to surrendering it to our enemies. I am now no longer your commander.” Remaining in Fauquier county, where he was at the close of the war, he opened a law-office in Warrenton, and obtained a lucrative practice. In 1872 he incurred much obloquy in the south by publicly supporting the Republican presidential candidate, Ulysses S. Grant, who had extended his protection to Mosby's guerillas at the surrender in 1865. He defended his course on the ground that the south, which had already accepted the enfranchisement of the negroes, might consistently support the Republican party, and thereby most quickly attain tranquillity and home rule. During President Grant's second term he exerted himself to appease the spirit of dissatisfaction in the south, but declined all favors from the administration. He supported the candidacy of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, in a letter to the New York “Herald,” in which first appeared the phrase “the solid south.” He was appointed consul at Hong Kong, introduced reforms in the consular service, and remained there more than six years, but was removed on the accession of President Cleveland. On his return to the United States he settled in San Francisco and resumed the practice of law. In December, 1886, he delivered in Boston a lecture on Stuart's cavalry, which was repeated in other places, and published in a volume entitled “War Reminiscences” (Boston, 1887). See also “Partisan Life with Mosby,” by John Scott (New York, 1867); and “Mosby and his Men,” by J. Marshall Crawford (1867).