Tuesday, April 21, 2009

John Singleton Mosby - The Grey Ghost

I came across this photograph which brought back many memories.

My childhood was spent with scads of time spent re-enacting the exploits of a distant relative, the Grey Ghost, throughout our fields and woods. I would charge out of ravines and across creeks giving my best rebel yell while I controlled my imaginary horse and the raiders following me. Mosby, in my mind and my mother's stories, always was out front leading his men. Later, when I learned to ride I still had those thoughts and it made me ride a bit more upright.

For evening prayers my mother had taught me to ask God to bless "the General and his eyes beyond the horizon." Just before my father died he asked me one evening who had been Eisenhower's eyes beyond the horizon and why all those years I had held such a fascination for the General. My mother quickly left the room before I answered that the General and his eyes had nothing to do with President Eisenhower, but in fact were Robert E. Lee and J.S. Mosby. I quickly followed my mother before the explosion. I obviously was no fearless Mosby. My father, a Northerner and rock ribbed Unionist, resolutely maintained that all Confederate officers should have been shot at the end of the war for treason to their oaths. My mother's grandfather had been a Colonel with the Virginia 18th, Co E, Army of Northern Virginia.

The only time my mother responded to his spoken thought of firing squads was to gently point out to him that "such an odious act would make our marriage problematic."

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!"

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.