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Hunting the Gray Ghost, Tour 1: The Mosby Mystique

First in the "Hunting the Gray Ghost" virtual guide series.

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Transcript of Hunting the Gray Ghost, Tour 1: The Mosby Mystique

Tour 1:
This tour will help you understand how Mosby operated and just how effective he was. Included in the tour are some of the classic still-extant pieces of the historical Mosby landscape. If you take just one tour of Mosby's Confederacy, this is a good tour to take. The tour begins at Aldie in Loudoun County, Virginia....
in Northern Virginia's Mosby Heritage Area
{a sesquicentennial virtual guide}
Stop 1:
& skirmish site.
Maps provided by the
Here in front of a plain 1851 Primitive Baptist Church at the intersection of the Carolina Road and Little River Turnpike, Mosby and fifteen Rangers held their first “rendezvous” before a raid early on the morning of January 28, 1863 in eight inches of snow. The raid would sally forth against the federal cavalry screen in Fairfax County, Washington’s early warning system. Such pre-raid gatherings would become the modus operandi for Mosby’s Command during 1863-65.

This church would be passed on dozens of raids and scouting missions by the Rangers over the next 27 months. Near here on June 22, 1863 a war correspondent for the famed New York Herald, Lynde Walter Buckingham, was chased by Mosby’s men as he sought to return to Washington to post his dispatches on the cavalry battles of Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville. He took a fatal fall from his horse. The church was then being used as a hospital; Buckingham died there. Well-known Civil War sketch artist Alfred Waud dug his grave in the churchyard next day. [He has since been moved.]
Mt. Zion Church,
In July 1864 Federal cavalry searching Loudoun for Mosby’s Rangers did not know that the Rangers had followed them out of Leesburg on the morning of July 6th. The “California Battalion” from the 2nd Massachusetts and 13th New York Cavalry stopped along the turnpike (Route 50) just east of Mount Zion Church in the late afternoon for coffee and to water their horses. Mosby’s men, using back roads, went around and further east of them.

Then, with cannon and cavalry, they attacked west along the turnpike. The federals formed a line of battle but were smashed, and the melee fell back to Mount Zion Church. The federals lost 13 killed, 37 wounded, and 55 captured. The church graveyard has markers for the federal soldiers lost that day. The Church is open fourth Sundays spring through fall, and is maintained by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. Interpretive markers grace the church and yard.
Born in Powhatan County, Virginia and raised within view of Jefferson’s Monticello, John Singleton Mosby was the ultimate Virginia citizen-soldier. University of Virginia-trained, he was a small town Virginia lawyer opposed to secession when the War broke out in 1861. But when his state called for her patriotic sons to respond, he enlisted, joining the 1st Virginia Cavalry.

He showed extra-ordinary ability as a cavalry scout. At the end of 1862 when Mosby was detached from General J.E.B. Stuart’s headquarters to operate behind enemy lines, he was a 29-year-old lieutenant raised on stories of Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox” of the American Revolution. Stuart’s chief scout, he was given the chance of a lifetime, the chance to prove a pet theory formed through years of studying military history, such as Napoleon’s Maxims. He believed that a minimal number of men staying at safe houses over a large rural area could launch surprise cavalry attacks by day or night when a signal for a rendezvous was given--with devastating impact. Attacks on outposts of the Union cavalry screen around Washington, guard stations, U.S. Military Railroad junctions, depots, trains, and supply wagon trains could not only weaken the morale of the enemy invader—fear is a powerful weapon--but tie up thousands of his troops much needed for operations against the main Confederate forces.

Mosby’s operations over 28 months proved he was right. He became known as “the Gray Ghost” by fearful federal forces, his raids became the stuff of legend, and nearly 14,000 Union troops were tied up by his operations. Some 1,911 men joined Mosby’s Rangers. In Mosby’s Confederacy, he was the law. After the War, stories of Colonel Mosby and his Rangers’ exploits were balm to a defeated South.

Mosby moved on after the Civil War, returning to the practice of law, with his office at No. 1 Wall Street, Warrenton. There he lived first outside of town at a house known as “Road Island” then moved in to town to “Brentmoor” at 173 Main Street. Brentmoor sits next to the Warrenton-Fauquier Visitor Center and can be viewed nicely from the outside. There are hopes it may yet be open to the public.
Mosby befriended Union General Ulysses S. Grant after the Civil War, and grew close to Grant when he was President. He became an active supporter of Grant when he ran for re-election in 1872, an unpopular thing to do in postwar Virginia, where Republicans were blamed for the “War of Northern Aggression,” Reconstruction, corruption, and, of course, being anti-Southern white. When someone shot at him one day in Warrenton because he had become a Republican, Mosby decided it was time to leave Virginia for his safety and that of his children. He took an appointment from President Hayes as U.S. Consul to Hong Kong, serving from 1879-1885. Later, he was an attorney for the Southern Pacific Railroad in San Francisco, working for Leland Stanford until 1901. After that, he worked again in federal service for both the Interior and Justice Departments, being forced to retire in 1910. In his last years, he visited the sites of his many exploits in the new-fangled motorcar (sometimes driven by Henry C. Stuart, J.E.B. Stuart’s nephew and Governor of Virginia 1914-18), starred in a movie about himself, and was generally his irascible, maverick old self. He died on Memorial Day 1916 in Washington, and after a funeral attended by 3000, was buried with his wife and children at Warrenton, Virginia. His grave is the last stop on Tour four.

In retrospect, we certainly do know this of Mosby: a regular Confederate colonel by the end of the Civil War, he was certainly no horse thief but a master of legalized guerilla tactics. Mosby’s understanding of cavalry, of reconnaissance and its value, and of the psychological aspects of war are among the most extraordinary ever to be seen in American military history. Himself inspired by the American Revolution’s “Swamp Fox”—Francis Marion—Mosby went on to be the inspiration for the Second World War’s General George S. Patton. In California, Mosby used to visit Patton’s family and take young Georgie down to the beach below the house to re-enact some of his exploits beside the Pacific. Today, he still inspires Army Rangers with his “outside the box” thinking.
Gray Ghost
Current Status:
Conserved, Park
Stop 2:
Aldie Mill,
Monday, March 2, 1863
site of "the Aldie Races,"
The 1807-09 Aldie Mills complex sat in the village of Aldie during the Civil War. There was a merchant mill, country mill, lumber mill, and likely a distillery here. The mill also sat in the Aldie Gap in the Bull Run Mountains, the first major Appalachian ridge west of Washington. Crossing through this gap into the Loudoun Valley by 1863 meant you had entered “Mosby’s Confederacy”—a fact that left Union soldiers suitably uneasy. Poet Herman Melville wrote of this region, “As glides in seas the shark rides Mosby through green dark . . .”

The 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry rode by Aldie Mill early on the morning of March 2, 1863 to search Middleburg for Mosby’s men, lining the shivering citizens up and taking several boys and old men captive when they found no Rangers.

The cavalry returned past Aldie Mill, heading east, and raced off the turnpike when they encountered cavalry—unknown to them, not Mosby’s men but the 1st Vermont. Watching amused, the 1st Vermont continued west and soon stopped for a coffee break at Aldie Mill, just in time for an infuriated Mosby with sixteen Rangers following to smash into them. His morning rendezvous had led him through Middleburg to hear the citizens’ tale of woe.
The Yankees, not knowing how many Rangers were involved, fled or jumped into the flour bins of the mill even though only initially seeing Mosby. Mosby was riding a recently captured Union horse and at the bridge just east of the mill, saw a wall of Yankees beyond. Unable to control his mount, with his famed squirrel’s grace, he decamped into Little River--a sight to see! The fight was short and sharp. Soon, a mud- covered Mosby, the captured flour-coated federals, and the freed Middleburg captives all proceeded to Middleburg, much to the satisfaction of local citizens. [Included in the group were several Middleburg slaves just liberated by the Pennsylvanians but abandoned in their panic upon seeing the Vermonters . . .]

This famed incident has come to be known as “the Aldie Races” in deference to its nature. The mill is open on Saturdays and Sundays April to November and still grinds when water flow is sufficient. It is operated by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.
Park - open to public
Current Status:
Mosby's Hill,
A little less than half a mile west of the village of Aldie rises a long, low, barren hill paralleling the John S. Mosby Highway (Route 50)—the old turnpike. Mosby often watched federal turnpike traffic from this hillside perch, which usually left him perfectly silhouetted against the sun, and thus mysterious and foreboding. Some Union forays simply turned back upon seeing him as it was unclear how many others accompanied him. Mosby, who often scouted alone, was wonderfully adept at his use of psychological warfare and the power of suggestion.
a psychological tool used by the Gray Ghost against federal soldiers.
Stop 4:
Stop 3:
a crossroads often used as a Ranger Rendezvous.

This tiny crossroads village and mill site east of Middleburg served as Mosby’s rendezvous before the most famous of all his raids, the Fairfax Courthouse Raid of March 8 & 9, 1863, that “gobbled up” the youthful Union General Edwin H. Stoughton from his bed and delivered him to Confederate General Fitzhugh Lee. The main house, the original roads, and the small mill building on the right are still here from 1863. Few of the Rangers leaving Dover knew that their snow-bound target was ten hours away--through the Union’s outer defenses of Washington.
home of Mosby’s compatriot
Stop 5:
& Civil War Middleburg mayor.
Mosby worked to retain excellent relations with his military superiors and members of the Confederate civilian government, keeping in regular touch with General J.E.B. Stuart, General Robert E. Lee, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Similarly, as Provost Marshal of Loudoun and Fauquier counties, he met with local government officials to keep the wheels of his mission grinding smoothly. Here at Middleburg Mayor Lorman Chancellor’s fine stone home, Mosby ate dinner before the vaunted Fairfax Courthouse Raid, Sunday March 8, 1863. He told the mayor before leaving on the raid, “I shall mount the stars tonight or sink lower than the plummet ever sounded.” On January 29-30, 1863, the first federal hunt for Mosby took place after his raid from the initial Mount Zion Church rendezvous. Mosby and Ranger Font Beattie were staying at the Chancellor House. Awakened by a servant, Mosby and Beattie rapidly departed, gathered a squad of seven Rangers, and boldly attacked Colonel Percy Wyndham’s column as they departed Middleburg after a fruitless search.
Stop 6:
Red Fox Inn,
J.E.B. Stuart
& Mosby,
June 17, 1863
Known as Beveridge’s Hotel in 1863, Mosby met with the arriving General J.E.B. Stuart here on the afternoon of June 17 with crucial intelligence concerning the arrival of federal cavalry to the south and east. Keep in mind that Mosby’s primary function was the collection of valuable military intelligence.

Drinking much coffee, Mosby could ride for almost two days, and had the ability to retain amazing details for his superiors. Stuart used this inn as his headquarters as the series of cavalry actions developed at Aldie on that steamy Wednesday, June 17, 1863, and subsequently, at Middleburg and Upperville during June 18-21.

Mosby would provide crucial intelligence for Stuart’s shift north into Pennsylvania, and would doggedly support his former commander after the War when Stuart was criticized for his late arrival at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Rector’s Crossroads (Atoka),
Stop 11
ground zero of the Mosby operation.
Rector’s Crossroads was the intersection of the road to Rectortown that went south to Warrenton and beyond, the road to Union (or Unison) that went north to Snickers Gap in the Blue Ridge, and the Ashby’s Gap Turnpike (today’s Route 50) that went west over Ashby’s Gap in the Blue Ridge to Winchester, or east to Aldie, continuing on to Alexandria as the Little River Turnpike. At this tiny crossroads village sat Denton’s Store where the current Atoka store sits, a blacksmith’s shop and home, the stone Caleb Rector House, and a stone springhouse. Thus the needs of man and horse could be met before a raid. The Atoka Store serves sandwiches and beverages still if you’re off on a raid or tour. Today Route 50 bypasses the small village that saw more Mosby rendezvous than any other site. By 1864, as many as three separate raids or reconnaissance missions might leave Rector’s Crossroads on a single day.
site of
Known in 1863 as “Denton” or “Western View,” Mosby stayed here on several occasions, sometimes with his wife Pauline. Most notably, they were here on the night of June 8-9, 1863 when this home of James Hathaway was surrounded by troopers of the 1st New York Lincoln Cavalry.

After a fruitless eight-hour search in which only Mosby’s wife, spurs, and horse were found, Mosby climbed in his bedroom window from the large branch of the adjacent black walnut tree in which he had been hiding. Mosby, the very definition of “squirrely,” was just 5’6” tall and 125 pounds.

Earlier in the War, Mr. Hathaway had given famed Confederate cavalry leader Turner Ashby his favorite white horse, “Tom Telegraph.”
Before we get started,
you really
Five Points,
Stop 8:
Stop 9:
site of Mosby’s near death and magnificent

deception, December 21, 1864
This Virginia farm and its many slaves belonged to Ludwell Lake. The stone home served as a Mosby safe house for Rangers Ludwell Lake Jr., William H. Lake, and Henry H. Smith. Here Mosby dined during a sleety reconnaissance with Ranger Tom Love on ribs, biscuits, gravy, and coffee on the night of December 21, 1864. They had earlier been to the wedding of Ranger Jake Lavinder and a local safe house girl at Rosenvix, southwest of Rectortown, when federal cavalry had appeared at Rectortown.

Mosby and Love took a patrol to watch and warn their Rangers should it be necessary. Mosby was not much of a party animal, by all accounts! With the nasty night, Mosby let down his guard, and allowed both himself and Love to eat with Lake, his wife, and two daughters, Landonia Lake Skinner and Sarah Lake, without any watch.

The house was surrounded by Company E of the 13th New York Cavalry. A shot through the window hit Mosby, and Love was captured. Mosby put blood from his wound into his mouth, convincing the Union surgeon that he was a badly wounded Lieutenant Johnson of the 6th Virginia Cavalry. The surgeon decided the wound was fatal and left Mosby behind. Imagine the federals’ dismay when they learned who they’d cornered and then let go!

Note -This story continues at Tour 3, Stop 5 }
The Rangers immediately saw their trick. Knowing the local landscape better, Mosby’s men headed here to Five Points by a faster route to cut them off. While Mosby’s men had only about 30 men against 80, the power of their focused charge at Five Points and the immediate loss of the Union commander, Captain Albert M. Hunter, led to a frantic flight by the Union force in all directions in search of cover. Many were chased into a frigid stream; 35 of the 80 Union cavalrymen were captured. By the end of the day, the captured “Yankees” were suffering from frostbite. By the end of the War, two-thirds of the Union cavalrymen captured at Five Points had died in Southern prisoner-of-war camps, some at the much-feared Andersonville. Fighting Mosby was a brutal business.
rendezvous and skirmish site
Lake Field School,
Stop 10:
used to form Mosby's Rangers
Field schools were common in antebellum Virginia—several farmers would pool together to build a small primary school and hire a teacher.

At this stone version just south of Rector’s Crossroads, Mosby’s Rangers waited on Wednesday June 10, 1863 as Mosby formed Company A of the 43rd Virginia Battalion of Cavalry (“Mosby’s Rangers”) on orders from the Confederate government. The first “election” of officers for Company A was held here. Mosby had appointed those who would be elected at the Rector House at the crossroads earlier in the day.
Stop 12:
Goose Creek Bridge,
a piece of highway history
The 1803 Goose Creek Bridge just west of Rector’s Crossroads once carried the Ashby’s Gap Turnpike, and later, until 1957, Route 50. The bridge was the site of a significant cavalry battle on June 21, 1863 between J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry and the federal cavalry of Alfred Pleasonton told about on the Virginia Civil War Trails sign at the bridge overlook.

Mosby’s Rangers and pursuing federal cavalry used this turnpike bridge regularly during 1863-65. The bridge is an excellent place to touch history. Walk across this ancient stone causeway and feel where Mosby’s Rangers were. One of the things that most affects visitors to the Mosby Heritage Area is the totality of the physical Mosby story still in existence at every turn of our winding roads.
Rector’s Crossroads was the intersection of the road to Rectortown that went south to Warrenton and beyond, the road to Union (or Unison) that went north to Snickers Gap in the Blue Ridge, and the Ashby’s Gap Turnpike (today’s Route 50) that went west over Ashby’s Gap in the Blue Ridge to Winchester, or east to Aldie, continuing on to Alexandria as the Little River Turnpike.

At this tiny crossroads village sat Denton’s Store where the current Atoka store sits, a blacksmith’s shop and home, the stone Caleb Rector House, and a stone springhouse. Thus the needs of man and horse could be met before a raid. The Atoka Store serves sandwiches and beverages still if you’re off on a raid or tour. Today Route 50 bypasses the small village that saw more Mosby rendezvous than any other site. By 1864, as many as three separate raids or reconnaissance missions might leave Rector’s Crossroads on a single day.
The Caleb Rector House at Rector’s Crossroads is renowned for Major Mosby using it to establish the 43rd Virginia Battalion of Cavalry on June 10, 1863. The home belonged to Caleb Rector and his wife MaryAnn; they shared the farm with eight slaves. Here in the parlor (front left of the house) Mosby appointed Captain James William Foster, 1st Lieutenant Thomas Turner, 2nd Lieutenant William L. Hunter, and 3rd Lieutenant George H. Whitescarver as the first officers of Company A of the newly formed 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry. They were subsequently elected by the men of Mosby’s command as required by Confederate Law.

Mosby would use Rector’s Crossroads many times for rendezvous between 1863-65. General J.E.B. Stuart had his tent pitched here the night of June 22-23 following the cavalry battles at Upperville on the 21st, and here received his orders from General Lee to proceed north across the Potomac, which ultimately would be to Gettysburg. A very aged Mosby revisited this house in 1915 or 1916 and was seen by a Rector descendent to be lost in tears with his memories as he sat in a corner chair of the parlor. He had indicated that “he had a little history with the house” when he made this unannounced visit just months before his death.
where the 43rd
Virginia Cavalry
Heritage Area
of the
was formed;
Rector Springhouse
This stone springhouse sat next to a blacksmith shop opposite the Rector House at Rector’s Crossroads, right along the Ashby Gap Turnpike. It was one of the reasons Mosby often used the location for rendezvous. Rangers stopped here to water their horses and fill their canteens on the way east to the rendezvous at Dover on Sunday March 8, 1863 just before the famed Fairfax Courthouse Raid.
Rector’s Crossroads was the intersection of the road to Rectortown that went south to Warrenton and beyond, the road to Union (or Unison) that went north to Snickers Gap in the Blue Ridge, and the Ashby’s Gap Turnpike (today’s Route 50) that went west over Ashby’s Gap in the Blue Ridge to Winchester, or east to Aldie, continuing on to Alexandria as the Little River Turnpike.

At this tiny crossroads village sat Denton’s Store where the current Atoka store sits, a blacksmith’s shop and home, the stone Caleb Rector House, and a stone springhouse. Thus the needs of man and horse could be met before a raid. The Atoka Store serves sandwiches and beverages still if you’re off on a raid or tour. Today Route 50 bypasses the small village that saw more Mosby rendezvous than any other site. By 1864, as many as three separate raids or reconnaissance missions might leave Rector’s Crossroads on a single day
While the blacksmith shop that sat between the store and springhouse at Rector’s Crossroads in 1863-65 is now gone (replaced by a still-standing white 1926 filling station), the blacksmith’s house remains standing behind the store.

It is a classic simple two-room-down, two-room-up Virginia house, ca. 1830. Blacksmith Hamilton Davis was very helpful servicing horses before a Mosby raid.

Rector’s Crossroads
Blacksmith’s House
At this intersection of several roads creating five “points,” Mosby’s Rangers often met in rendezvous. It allowed them to head in a myriad of directions. At the time of the Civil War, many of these lanes were lined with stone fences, literally, a stone wall with a low worm fence constructed on top for the purpose of keeping horses, cattle, sheep, and goats in their proper fields. One might wonder as well if their purpose was for Mosby’s equestrian Rangers to use as mere “show off” points, as they often leapt them in escape during running battles when their frustrated Union opponents could not. This intersection was also a skirmish site.
On Friday, January 1, 1864, it dawned fair and cold, but soon clouded up and began to snow. Eighty Union soldiers of Cole’s Maryland Cavalry based at Harpers Ferry arrived at eight in the morning to frisk nearby Upperville for Mosby’s guerillas, and then headed on to Rectortown—two miles south of this intersection--to search further. A rendezvous of Mosby’s Rangers for a New Year’s Day raid was coincidentally planned at Rectortown for about noon. With the Union cavalrymen there in the village, the Rangers eerily formed on hillsides around the village in plain view of those hunting for them. Cole’s cavalry began their return to Harpers Ferry by pretending to go south towards Salem (now Marshall) and Warrenton to fool the Rangers. But then they cut overland across the fields to get to the road north to Rector’s Crossroads (now Atoka).
Directions: This historic intersection comes where Five Points Road hits Atoka Road, Route 713. Here Atoka Road (going two ways), Carter’s Mill Road, and Five Points Road (going two ways) intersect, creating 5 points.
Directions: At the Route 50/Route 15 traffic circle at Gilbert’s Corner just east of Aldie, VA (12 miles south of Leesburg, 20 miles west of Fairfax Courthouse), head east on Route 50 one mile. Mount Zion Church stands at the south side of the third traffic circle to the east at #40309 John Mosby Highway. The small, brick, unsteepled church is signposted.
Directions: Aldie Mill sits along Route 50 in Aldie at 39401 John S. Mosby Highway, Aldie VA 20105—you will see it on the south side of the highway (on your left heading west) after crossing the narrow stone bridge over Little River.
Directions: Look for Champe Ford Road on your left as you head west from the village limits of Aldie; it is approximately 0.5 mile. You can get up close to Mosby’s Hill by heading down this dirt lane and looking right just past a narrow bridge, or you can pull off on the left-hand (south) side of Route 50 by the four silver and black Virginia historical signs to look through the trees lining the road for a glimpse of the hill—barren in winter, tree-lined in summer. The photo was taken from Champe Ford Road.
Directions: Dover sits just under two miles west of Aldie Mill and a third of a mile beyond Mosby’s Hill; it is signposted and lies at the Intersection of Route 50 and Cobb House Road. You can pull over easily here.
Directions: The stone Lorman Chancellor House sits on the South (left) side of Route 50 at the top of the hill entering Middleburg at the near (southeast) corner of South Jay Street.
Directions: The Red Fox Inn sits on the northeast corner of Route 50 and North Madison street at the lone stoplight in downtown Middleburg. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a hunt country atmosphere and offers lodging. The still-used bar top is said to have been used as an operating table in June of 1863.
Directions: Head west through Middleburg to where Route 50 becomes a divided highway. Take the first crossover in the median to Zulla Road (Route 709) on the south side of the highway. Follow Zulla for 3.0 miles to Young Road (Route 708) on the right; the Hathaway House is the first house on the right (north) side of Young Road at 0.5 mile west of Zulla Road. The Hathaway House is private property, but it can be viewed from this quiet dirt road by pulling off to the right side. Mosby and his wife were staying in the rear wing, second floor, near the black walnut tree that still stands at the east (near) side of this lovely brick house.
Directions: Turn right onto Atoka Road, Route 713. Lakeland is a stone home on a diagonal lane veering left off Atoka Road in a southwesterly direction approximately 1.8 miles north of Five Points. It is private property; please respect the owner’s privacy.
Directions: The school sits in a wood on the east/right side of Atoka Road, Route 713, 0.6 mile beyond Lakeland.
used by the Rangers daily
Directions: From the Rector House parking lot, turn left and go one-half mile through Atoka out to Route 50. Turn left (west) on Route 50, and go to the bottom of the hill, where you will find Lemmons Bottom Road on the right. It is marked by a Virginia Civil War Trails sign. Go to the end of this short lane and park on either side. Follow the Virginia Civil War Trails way-finding sign down to the bridge overlook. You can walk over to and on to the ancient stone bridge, one of Virginia’s oldest.
Created in 1995, this 1600-square-mile heritage area encompasses parts of the Virginia counties of Loudoun, Fauquier, Prince William, Clarke, and Warren. John Singleton Mosby was chosen as the figurehead of the heritage area due to the recognition of “Mosby’s Confederacy” nationwide in television, documentaries, books and magazine articles, and his importance to Civil War and post-Civil War American history. Here the story of “the Gray Ghost” played out.

Yet the Mosby Heritage Area encompasses more than just the story of Mosby. With numerous Civil War battlefields, including First and Second Manassas, Ball’s Bluff, Philomont and Unison, Aldie, Middleburg and Upperville, Bristoe Station, the Buckland Races, and Auburn, it is a wonderful place to understand the cost of Civil War. Here was the slave belt terrified before the war by John Brown’s nearby Harpers Ferry Raid of 1859. Here African-Americans toiled in slavery, escaped to fight in the Civil War, and built new schools, churches, and communities afterwards. Here Quakers quietly resisted slavery and supported the wartime Union. Still standing are some of Virginia’s finest historic homes that define the very image of Virginia. The Mosby Heritage Area features heart-catching “lay of the land”, indigenous architecture, handsome farms, distinctive speech, historical villages and small towns, miles of small country roads, the Shenandoah River and the world-famous gentle Blue Ridge and its misty foothills. These provide the backdrop to the Mosby Heritage Area’s distinction as “hallowed ground” for the many who fought and died here in the crucible of Civil War. The Mosby Heritage Area Association promotes and supports the preservation of the historic, cultural, and scenic resources of the Mosby Heritage Area. Our heritage outreach education program is crucial to this mission.

Visit us at www.mosbyheritagearea.org.
Welcome to the
Mosby Heritage Area
One hundred and fifty years ago on the winding back roads in Northern Virginia’s Mosby Heritage Area, America’s ultimate cat and mouse game was acted out during the last two years of the Civil War. Determined to defend their beloved Virginia from federal invasion, John Singleton Mosby and his high-spirited militarily-talented band of Rangers waged psychological warfare on Union troops assigned to defend Washington and control the northern Shenandoah Valley. In the shadow of the Blue Ridge, legends were created both by the special operations of Mosby’s Rangers and by their gallant federal pursuers. Mosby came to be remembered as “the Gray Ghost”—the man impossible to capture, but most likely to appear when least expected. Today, the region Mosby dominated is largely intact and may be the best preserved antebellum landscape left in America. Here you can hunt “the Gray Ghost” in the places that defined his lair.
photo courtesy of the National Archives collection
photo courtesy United States Library of Congress's
Prints and Photographs division
Music: "Fisher's Hornpipe," Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
Directions: The signposted Rector House, stone with light blue trim, sits diagonally opposite the Atoka Store on Route 713, the second house on the right (#1461) as you turn right at the stop sign in the village. The Mosby Heritage Area Association offices are here with brochures, a small exhibit, and helpful information during business hours, most weekdays from 9:00 to 5:00. Walking and driving tour pamphlets are always available on the back porch.
Directions: The stone Rector Springhouse sits in a gully between Route 50 and the beginning of Atoka Road, Route 713, across from the Caleb Rector House.
Directions: The blacksmith’s house sits behind the Atoka Store at Rector’s Crossroads down a short alley. The store is the third building on the right on Atoka Road, Route 713, off Route 50.
press the right arrow on your
computer keyboard to begin the tour
touch the right side of the screen
on your ipad to begin tour
Thank you for joining the Mosby Heritage Area Association in Hunting the Gray Ghost.
We welcome you to continue virtually exploring more of Northern Virginia's Mosby Heritage Area in four more exciting journeys, available on our website (www.mosbyheritagearea.org).
better yet,

come for a visit!
request a hard copy of
Hunting the Gray Ghost
from MHAA &
before we head out, here's a quick
Many of these sites are private properties and homes. Please mind these symbols along your way.
Private Property
. Be respectful. Have a look but do not trespass.
Public or public access.
Have a look around!
Directions: Rector's Crossroads (Atoka) sits 1.1 mile north of Lakeland and where Atoka Road reaches a stop sign. Turn right. Passing the stone Rector House on the right, look for a hole in the stone wall for parking.
Full transcript