Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 27.djvu/280
272 Southern Historical Society Papers.
knew us only by report. No doubt, in imagination, he confounded us with the Western bands of outlaws, whose inhuman deeds the Confederate government disowned; and that he shared the general belief of the North that I was a leader of banditti a chief of brig- ands a Fra Diavolo "on yonder rock reclining." Any absurd story will finally gain credence if often repeated. Victor Hugo said that if it were published a number of times that he had robbed Notre Dame of one of its towers, he would have to leave Paris. A major- ity would accept it as true a few might question his ability " to walk off with a church tower." Grant's dispatch bears internal evidence, and read between the lines shows the delusion he was under in re- gard to my men. He says "the families of Mosby's men are known and can be collected" which implies that their homes were all in Sheridan's lines, when in fact they were scattered all over the South, and some States in the North. Sheridan made no attempt to execute the order, because it was impossible. I wish he had; it would have been the most effective way of destroying his army. He would have dispersed it over a half dozen States, catching and cor- raling women and children. That would certainly have been an advantage to us; the Shenandoah Valley would have been cleared of his army. Only one of my men hung at Front Royal was from the Valley one was from Georgia. Grant evidently thought that these Children of the Mist lived in a territory a few miles square. But Sheridan knew better. Grant's dispatch reflects the idea that prevailed at the North and survives to-day, of the character of my- self and my men. The beings painted by war correspondents as Mosby's men were as purely ideal creations as Blue-Beard and Jack- the-Giant-Killer. Yet the tales told about them made a lasting im- pression just as the kissing of pilgrims has worn away stones. They were as pure inventions as the fictions of Titus Gates. We all dis- like to see our , images broken and to part with cherished illusions. It is probable that the gods of mythology, and the legendary heroes of antiquity had a common-place origin. I still love to read Gulli- ver and the Arabian Nights, and once thought it was impiety to even doubt they were true. A reporter once asked my opinion of Weyler. I answered that I had never read anything worse about Weyler than I had read about myself, and that if Weyler wouldn't believe what he had heard about me, I wouldn't believe what I had heard about him. Weyler, in reply to American criticisms, said that he learned the art of war in the Shenandoah Valley. He didn't learn it from me. But General Grant admits in his memoirs the