John S. Mosby

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John Singleton Mosby (1833–1916), also known by his nickname, the "Gray Ghost", was a Confederate army cavalry battalion commander whose guerrilla band frequently attacked and disrupted Union supply lines in Virginia and Maryland during the American Civil War.

Early Years

John Singleton Mosby, born on December 6, 1833 at Edgemont (Powhatan County) and later grew up in rural Albemarle County. His boyhood home is located about 23 miles southwest of Charlottesville.


Mosby began his education at a school called Murrell's Shop. When his family moved to Albemarle County in about 1840, Mosby attended school in Fry's Woods before transferring to a Charlottesville school at the age of ten years. He entered the University of Virginia in 1849 and graduated in 1852. While a student at the University, he shot and wounded a fellow student; his resulting jail sentence was later annulled by the state legislature.

Law Practice

In March of 1853, Mosby shot and severely injured George W. Turpin (the son of a local tavern keeper) during an altercation in Charlottesville. Mosby was prosecuted for this offense, with the attorneys Watson and Rives defending the accused while Judge W.J. Robertson served as Attorney for the Commonwealth. Mosby was ultimately convicted and sentenced to pay a $500 fine as well as being imprisoned in the county jail for 12 months. During this time, his legal counsel loaned him books on the study of law, which he read to pass the time and thus infused into him a passion for the subject. In 1855, Mosby was admitted to the bar, and he practiced law in Bristol, Virginia, until the start of the Civil War in 1861.

Civil War

In 1861, when the Commonwealth seceded he volunteered for service in the Cavalry, fought at the Battle of First Manassas and rose to the rank of Lieutenant. In most of 1862, he was engaged as a scout with General J.E.B. Stuart’s forces. It was not until January 2, 1863, that Mosby, with just nine men, launched the ranger attacks for which he is best remembered. Mosby and his Partisan Rangers (43d Battalion, Virginia Cavalry) used guerilla tactics to raid Union outposts, communications, and supply lines in Northern Virginia. On April 21, 1865, Mosby disbanded his rangers in Salem (present-day Marshall, Fauquier Co.), after learning of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston's surrender.

Postbellum activities

After the war, Mosby practiced law and was U.S. consul to Hong Kong (1879-1885). He died on May 30, 1916 in Washington, D.C.

Related facts

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