Quote of the Day: John S. Mosby

 

“Historic truth ought to be no less sacred than religion.”

I live in Loudoun County, which, as you may know, is becoming ground zero in the Critical Race Theory battle in the schools. It is also a hotbed of name-changing to whitewash (can I still say that?) history.

The latest report is that the county supervisors are studying which road names to change.  Lee Highway is a perennial favorite, but they are also looking at John Mosby highway. I am very much against these name changes as it is another step in ignoring the complexity of our history in an attempt to make it all black-and-white. (Can I still say that?)

Take Mosby for example. He had grown up as a weakling and was bullied as a kid. In college, he shot and wounded a man who had insulted him and was jailed for his crime. During this time, he became friends with the prosecutor who had him convicted and who then helped to study law, with Mosby eventually becoming a lawyer.

His relationship to slavery was mixed. He opposed it – although his family had owned slaves – and was against secession. During the war, he did have a slave – Aaron Burton – who moved to New York after the war and Mosby stayed in contact with him and supported him until the 1890s.

Like Robert E. Lee, he felt that he was defending “his country” by fighting on the Virginia side during the war.

He joined the regular Confederate Army and fought at the first battle of Bull Run, but was not happy being in the regular army and was authorized to form a “guerilla army” to fight the Union. During this time, Mosby was known as the “Gray Ghost” for his quick raids and then disappearing. This area of Northern Virginia is known as “The Mosby Confederacy.”

After the war, since he and his men were not part of the regular army, they were not offered a pardon like the regular army soldiers. This led to harassment by ex-Union Generals until he was finally given a letter from President Grant exempting him from further arrest.

He and Grant became good friends and Mosby campaigned for Grant and the GOP in Virginia. This and his refusal to back the “Lost Cause ” Narrative of the war caused many Virginians to consider him a traitor. He was threatened and his childhood home was burned down. He was appointed as Consulate to Hong Kong by President Garfield to remove him from this dangerous place. After Hong Kong, he served as a lawyer for Southern Pacific Railroad for 16 years before returning to the Washington area. He died in 1916.

I have a particular interest in Mosby, due in part to my meeting an elderly man in Lincoln, VA ( about 6 miles south of me) who had seen Mosby in his later years in a barbershop in Warrenton where he was a lawyer.

We are a very young country and I would hate to lose any of our history.

If you have gotten this far, here are several choices for “Quote of the Day”

Mosby:
While I think as badly of slavery as Horace Greeley did I am not ashamed that my family were slaveholders, it was our inheritance—neither am I ashamed that my ancestors were pirates and cattle thieves,” Mosby wrote in 1907. “People must be judged by the standard of their own age.

“More vindictiveness ( was) shown to me by the Virginia people for my voting for Grant than the North showed to me for fighting four years against him.”

Many years later, when a Baptist minister asked him if he knew what hell was, Mosby replied: “I certainly do. Anyone who has lived in Virginia and voted Republican knows what hell is.”
 
Grant
Since the close of the war, I have come to know Colonel Mosby personally and somewhat intimately, He is a different man entirely from what I supposed.”

Napoleon III (quoted in the title page of the book “Partisan Life)
“Historic truth ought to be no less sacred than religion.”

Notes:
Much of this was taken from this article.

I have a copy of “Ranger Mosby” written by Virgin Carrington Jones in 1944. It is an easy read and I’d recommend it – especially for anyone with a knowledge of the towns and area around Loudoun County.

A much more detailed description of the war years is “Partisan Life with Col. John S. Mosby” by Major John Scott. This was written in 1867.

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  1. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring
    @WillowSpring

    How do I limit the amount of the post shown “above the fold”?

    • #1
  2. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    I thought I remembered Herndon VA having something to do with Mosby so I checked it out.  It’s a bit east of you, but there’s a an actual historical marker in the town.

    • #2
  3. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring
    @WillowSpring

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    I thought I remembered Herndon VA having something to do with Mosby so I checked it out. It’s a bit east of you, but there’s a an actual historical marker in the town.

    Yes, Mrs. Spring and I lived just outside of Herndon and the area between there and Frying Pan park has several areas of  Civil War interest.  MerryBrook – just across the Dulles Toll Road – was owned by the Hanna family.  The small family graveyard is located in a cluster of trees between Elden Street and the Dulles Marriott hotel.  Laura Radcliff is buried there.  She was a friend of Jeb Stuart and introduced by him to Mosby

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  4. Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler Member
    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler
    @Muleskinner

    The current struggle is not about some historical figures, but with all history. The past stands in the way of mankind’s glorious future, under Socialism. Besides, history requires a lot of work.

    Perhaps I’m a bit biased in this as some of my great grand father’s brothers served with Mosby in Company D of the 1st VA Cavalry, and another was a Ranger. And maybe it was Mosby who provided part of the cover for my Grandparents to become Republicans, even after all the family lost during Reconstruction.

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    WillowSpring: The latest report is that the county supervisors are studying which road names to change.  Lee highway is a perennial favorite, but they are also looking at John Mosby highway.  I am very much against these name changes as it is another step in ignoring the complexity of our history in an attempt to make it all black and white. (Can I still say that?)

    I agree, WillowSpring. I think these examples force us to face our history, the parts we are proud of and the parts that we aren’t. Then we have an opportunity to talk about those times and how our country has grown. That is a discussion worth having. Thanks.

    • #5
  6. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    I was amazed to find out while reading about a group of science fiction films that one of them was deliberately produced in the Carolinas during the early 1950’s or 60’s as so many Northern people had heart felt sympathy for what Southerners had gone through during the war. The filming brought jobs to that area and employed some local people as extras.

    This means that the anti-South meme so currently embedded in the hearts and minds of many progressives is a new phenomena. Perhaps brought about by the propaganda system of our “liberal” education.

     About three years ago, I called into our local prog radio station to offer up the view that few people born into a Southern plantation family in the 1830’s would have left their life of luxury and ease to go off to  live with Aunt Maude, the abolitionist in her third floor tenement flat in Chicago. The switchboard lit up, with many callers stating how proud they were of their distant great great grandfather who had served as a Union soldier. You would have thought that they had served in that war personally themselves. My comment was relegated to the loony bin. How dare I – or anyone – offer up any suggestion that the people in the South were simply acting the way people act. The Southerners were evil and barbaric, case closed.

    • #6
  7. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    The article you  linked to was a decent summary of one man’s experience in that awful war, and the time period afterwards.

    As a kid, during summer vacations, I would roam along meadows and forests outside Fredricksburg VA, often imagining if George Washington as well as  Civil War soldiers had ever stood on the ground my playmates and I used for our games of hide and seek.

    Of course everything was romanticized. I thought of soldiers bravely fighting, never considering what their wives and families went through operating the small businesses and farms that needed to be kept up and running. Or any of the difficulties of how people would face in re-building their lives when the war ended.

    Mosby certainly had a much tougher time than many. To go through such a dreadful war and then lose his home after the battles had ceased is astonishing.

    • #7
  8. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    WillowSpring: “More vindictiveness ( was) shown to me by the Virginia people for my voting for Grant than the North showed to me for fighting four years against him.”

    I like this one best.

    What an interesting post! As much as I loathe the Confederacy, this iconoclastic moment we are currently trapped in makes me sick to my stomach.

    • #8
  9. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    WillowSpring: After the war, since he and his men were not part of the regular army,

    Mosby and Lee acted very carefully during the war to demonstrate that he was not a guerilla and was part of the regular army. I think he would be be offended at your characterizations. 

    • #9
  10. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    This is the Quote of the Day. July’s sign-up sheet is here,  and there are still plenty of dates available.  Please sign up today!

    If you’re new at this game, it’s a easy way to get your feet wet and start a conversation; if you’re an old-timer, you already know the ropes.  Either way, please sign up to speak up.

    Another ongoing project to encourage new voices is our Group Writing Project. July’s theme is “We Hold These Truths (or Fictions).”  If you’d like to weigh in, please sign up for Group Writing too!

    • #10
  11. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    I seem to remember a TV show from the 50’s about Mosby entitled “The Gray Ghost.”

    • #11
  12. colleenb Member
    colleenb
    @colleenb

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    I seem to remember a TV show from the 50’s about Mosby entitled “The Gray Ghost.”

    I don’t know about that but Disney made a tv movie about Mosby – Kurt (the guy not married to Goldie Hawn) was the youngster in the show.

    • #12
  13. colleenb Member
    colleenb
    @colleenb

    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler (View Comment):

    The current struggle is not about some historical figures, but with all history. The past stands in the way of mankind’s glorious future, under Socialism. Besides, history requires a lot of work.

    Perhaps I’m a bit biased in this as some of my great grand father’s brothers served with Mosby in Company D of the 1st VA Cavalry, and another was a Ranger. And maybe it was Mosby who provided part of the cover for my Grandparents to become Republicans, even after all the family lost during Reconstruction.

    I hate that history is being flattened so much in these current times. History has a lot of nuances, a lot of good and bad in people and times. History, in other words, reflects the human condition. 

    • #13
  14. John Stanley Coolidge
    John Stanley
    @JohnStanley

    Here is a more modern history of Mosby’s Rangers.

    https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Mosbys-Rangers/Jeffry-D-Wert/9780671747459

     

     

    • #14
  15. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring
    @WillowSpring

    Skyler (View Comment):

    WillowSpring: After the war, since he and his men were not part of the regular army,

    Mosby and Lee acted very carefully during the war to demonstrate that he was not a guerilla and was part of the regular army. I think he would be be offended at your characterizations.

    Like a lot of things back then, it seems to be complicated.  I agree that Mosby and Lee were careful to not be considered to be outside of the regular army, I think that it is also true that he and his rangers were not pardoned after Appomattox and it took intervention from Grant.

    • #15
  16. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Napoleon III (quoted in the title page of the book “Partisan Life)
    “Historic truth ought to be no less sacred than religion.”

    That’s rich, coming from the guy who commissioned the biggest urban renewal project any major city had ever seen, flattening vast areas of Paris to build the city we now know. About the only time it worked out for the better, too, but that’s another post. 

    • #16
  17. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    WillowSpring (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    WillowSpring: After the war, since he and his men were not part of the regular army,

    Mosby and Lee acted very carefully during the war to demonstrate that he was not a guerilla and was part of the regular army. I think he would be be offended at your characterizations.

    Like a lot of things back then, it seems to be complicated. I agree that Mosby and Lee were careful to not be considered to be outside of the regular army, I think that it is also true that he and his rangers were not pardoned after Appomattox and it took intervention from Grant.

    History is often complicated.  Mosby was very effective, and embarrassed powerful members of the Army of the Potomac, some of the most incompetent became influential post war.  

    So who are you going to believe?  Corrupt politicians, or patriotic Americans along with Grant?  I go with the patriotic Americans.

    • #17
  18. Kelly D Johnston Coolidge
    Kelly D Johnston
    @SoupGuy

    Love your post, both as a northern VA resident (and former Loudoun County homeowner), and amateur Civil War historian.

    Mosby has so much influence over our history, in our region. Bruce Caton and others have captured his raids well in various history books. 

    A favorite story involves stretch of land near Vint Hill, south of I-66, along what is now Route 29 towards Charlottesville, the “Buckland Races.” Basically, Mosby’s troops enticed Union Calvary officer George A. Custer to attack a small band of Confederate calvary. As he chased them over a hill, Mosby’s calvary happily counterattacked. A decisive Confederate victory. Custer’s impetuousness would be on famous display again at the Battle of Little Big Horn several years later. 

    Just a couple of miles away is Vint Hill vineyards, which first served as a covert listening station for the US Army during WWII. Turns out the geology and geography of the land made it a unique place to capture high-frequency radio signals from around the world, including Germany. A local farmer and ham radio operator bragged enough that the Army showed up one day to buy his farm. In 1943, the post captured communications from Japan’s Ambassador to Germany with details on German fortifications along France’s Normandy coast. That intelligence would be instrumental during Operation Overlord, known as D-Day, in June 1944. 

    Go for the great wine. Stay for the history.

     

     

    • #18