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Hunting the Gray Ghost, Tour 4: Mosby, The End of the War, and Adjusting to the Postwar South

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Transcript of Hunting the Gray Ghost, Tour 4: Mosby, The End of the War, and Adjusting to the Postwar South

In tour 4, you'll explore the Mosby story at the end of the Civil War, when the Rangers are disbanded and the “Gray Ghost” becomes a civilian attorney at Warrenton, Virginia. In historic Warrenton, you will see some of the finest of Virginia’s architecture amidst memories of Mosby’s Confederacy. Here, too, are the reminders of a Gray Ghost actively involved in political life as a friend of President Grant and a member of the Republican party. It is here, too, that John Singleton Mosby and his family are buried in the Warrenton Cemetery.

Tour 4 is designed to be an additional tour taken at the end of Tour 2. It begins at Delaplane in 1865. Should you choose to take Tour 3 first, once you’ve completed it, head east over Ashby’s Gap on Route 50 to Route 17 south at Paris. Emmanuel Church is 7.0 miles south at Maidstone Road (Route 713) on the left (north) side of Route 17.
in Northern Virginia's Mosby Heritage Area
{a sesquicentennial virtual guide}
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
Before we get started,
you really
Adjusting to the
Tour 4:
Stop 10:
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
photo from the National Archives collection
maps provided by the
the End of the War,
Postwar South
photo from the collection of Elmond Miller
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.
Stop 1:
On a raid at Burke Station in Fairfax County on April 10, 1865, Mosby and the Rangers encountered the day’s newspaper, a copy of the Baltimore American. Reading the headlines of General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse the day before, Mosby is said to have sat down on a log and wept. He said, “I thought I had sounded the profoundest depth of human feeling, but this is the bitterest hour of my life.” Ranger Channing Smith was sent with four men to Richmond to find out just what the Rangers should do. Sneaking into the Union occupied city, Smith tracked down General Lee at his Franklin Street home. Lee and family were sitting in darkness due to the destruction of the city gas works in the great fire that came with Richmond’s evacuation on April 2nd. Lee told Smith that he could not give advice as commander now that he had been paroled by federal forces, but added to the young Ranger, “Channing, go home, all you boys who fought with me, and help build up the shattered fortunes of our dear old State.” This message brought back to Mosby on April 17th led Mosby to agree to surrender negotiations with General Winfield S. Hancock’s staff at Millwood in Clarke County on April 18th and 20th. When these failed, Mosby disbanded his Ranger command on April 21st (see Stop 2). In the graveyard of this lovely 1859 Episcopal church, Ranger Channing Smith is buried, to the left of the church front, his gravestone surrounded by boxwood bushes. The church witnessed the movement of many a federal and Ranger troop during the War.
Directions: From Delaplane, head south on Route 17, going about 1.0 mile to Maidstone Road (Route 713) on the left. Turn left here, and then almost immediately, turn left again into the Emmanuel Church parking lot.
Stop 2:
(now Marshall)
On the foggy, drizzly morning of Friday April 21, 1865 some two weeks after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, in this field just behind the village of Salem, Mosby’s command gathered for the last time. Surrender negotiations with Hancock’s staff at Millwood had failed the day before. Mosby read his famous final order thanking and disbanding the famed unit in lieu of surrendering it.

He told them, "Soldiers! I have summoned you together for the last time. The vision we have cherished of a free and independent country, has vanished, and that country is now the spoil of a conqueror. I disband your organization in preference to surrendering it to our enemies. I am now no longer your commander. After association of more than two eventful years, I part from you with a just pride in the fame of your achievements, and grateful recollections of your generous kindness to myself."

Mosby would recollect in 1895, “Life cannot offer a more bitter cup than the one I drained when we parted at Salem.” In the coming weeks, Rangers turned themselves in to Union forces to seek parole when they thought it safe. Mosby turned himself in at Lynchburg in June 1865, not far from his family home in Amherst County.
Directions: Turning right out of the Emmanuel Church parking lot, you will immediately see Grove Lane (Route F185) on your left—before you hit the big intersection with Route 17 just ahead. This is actually the old road that goes to Marshall. Turn left onto Grove Lane. Go 3.9 miles to Marshall. At Frost Street by the Marshall Branch of PNC Bank on your left, you will see a granite marker that mentions the disbandment of Mosby’s command. Turn left onto Frost and go one block to Salem Avenue on your right. At this intersection you are in the heart of the field where Mosby’s Rangers disbanded in April 1865.
Stop 3:
Road Island,
Mosby's rented postwar home
In late 1865, Mosby decided not to return to his pre-war residence and law practice at Bristol in southwest Virginia. Instead, he chose to make use of his many potential Ranger clients in Fauquier, Prince William, and Loudoun counties by setting up a law practice at Warrenton. Mosby rented “Road Island” beginning in late 1865, hidden in a grove of trees beside the familiar road that connected Warrenton to the former “Mosby’s Confederacy.”

Ironically, Mosby was without a horse for part of this time at his new home. So he donned a cape—soon dusty--and walked the four miles to his Warrenton law office. He was often seen carrying a simple olive green canvas cloth around his legal papers. As you drive to Warrenton, you will be following the route Mosby walked. He lived at Road Island from 1866-75, practicing law on the Fauquier-Loudoun-Prince William court circuit. Mosby transitioned here to the many changes that came with life in the postwar South.
Directions: Take Salem Avenue from Frost Street to the stop sign at Route 710 by the firehouse. Turn right, go through the first light, and continue on; Route 710 becomes Route 17 heading towards Warrenton. Turn left at Blantyre Road (Route 628) some 7 miles south of Marshall. “Road Island” is the first house on the left (north) side of Blantyre Road. It is private property.
Stop 4:

Mosby’s postwar
(1875-77) home
In time, while practicing law as a Warrenton attorney, Mosby had sufficient funds to purchase the Judge Spilman house from James Keith at 173 Main Street Warrenton. John and Pauline Mosby loved the handsome 1859 home and its location just six blocks from Mosby’s law office. Unfortunately, Mosby’s beloved Pauline died in childbirth in May 1876 in the upstairs bedroom after living in the home just a year. Together with being shot at one night on the way from the Warrenton train station (Mosby had become unpopular as one of the few postwar Confederate Republicans), Pauline’s untimely death led Mosby to sell the house in 1877. Former Confederate General Eppa Hunton, then a Congressman and later U.S. Senator, bought the house.
Directions: To get here most easily, take no turns off Route 17 (including Bypass 17 that goes around Warrenton). Keep on Business 17, going through the light at Bypass 29, and motor on Winchester Street into downtown Warrenton. Turn right at the stop sign and then immediately left onto Main Street by the courthouse, following the signs for the visitor center, which is next to Brentmoor. Look for Calhoun Street, which turns left off Main and takes you to parking at the Visitor Center on the right. Brentmoor, though at 173 Main Street, backs up to the Visitor Center. Staff here is helpful with questions about Brentmoor, Warrenton, and Fauquier County. The visitor center has restrooms.
Stop 5:
Law Office
Mosby’s postwar law office was in this building, just across Court Street from the Fauquier County Courthouse (see STOP 6). Mosby practiced at the Fauquier county court as well as at Brentsville, where Prince William County’s court sat at the time, and at Leesburg, Loudoun’s county seat. He had many former Rangers among his clients. After his friendship with President Grant grew and he became a Republican, Mosby’s law practice dropped off from 6,000 clients in 1870 to 1100 in 1876. Few former Mosby Rangers were Republicans in the Postwar South. Republicans, as far as most white Southerners were concerned, had brought on the “War of Northern Aggression”! The California Building was funded by the California Gold Rush earnings of its builder, two-time Virginia Governor William “Extra Billy” Smith, hence the name. Smith was Governor in 1864-65, at the peak of Mosby’s Confederacy. He lived just south of town.
Directions: While the technical address of the California Building is No. 1 Wall Street, it sits on the North side of Hotel Street between Court & Culpeper Streets. From Brentmoor, walk six blocks back to the courthouse, which will be on your left. At the near side of the courthouse, turn left onto Court Street. You will see the California Building on the left as you near Hotel Street; it is on the corner. Though Mosby is long dead, the building still houses law offices.
Stop 6:
where Mosby
practiced law
The original court building in which Mosby practiced law burned in 1890. This building was constructed to replicate the original. The day of John Mosby’s funeral, June 1, 1916, his body was brought in from Washington where he had died at Garfield Hospital two days before. Twenty-seven former Mosby Rangers met the train and acted as an honor guard to the Warrenton Town Hall where Mosby lay in state for four hours. They then took him to the Warrenton Cemetery where a Catholic service of burial was performed. Afterwards, the twenty-seven Rangers present and one African-American man associated with the Ranger unit posed for a famous photograph on the steps of this courthouse.
Directions: The Fauquier County Court House sits opposite the California Building at the corner of Court and Main Streets.
Stop 7:
Stop 8:
Beckham House,
Stoughton was brought after
where General Edwin H.
his capture at Fairfax Courthouse
The Warrenton home of John Grigsby Beckham on Culpeper Street became famous on the morning of Monday March 9, 1863 when John Singleton Mosby and his command brought General Edwin M. Stoughton to the house. The youngest general in the Union army at the time had been captured earlier that morning at Fairfax Courthouse, snatched from his bed while soundly sleeping. The Beckham’s son, Robert Franklin Beckham, had been Stoughton’s roommate at West Point, and had visited the Beckham residence on a pre-war school break. Breakfast was served to the prisoner, then he was taken on to General Fitzhugh Lee at Culpeper.

A short time later, the Beckham’s son was cast into prominence when the commander of General J.E.B. Stuart’s Horse Artillery, the “gallant” John Pelham, was killed just to the south at Kelly’s Ford on March 17. Beckham succeeded in Pelham’s role.
Directions: From the Mosby Monument, walk to the right around the old jail onto Ashby Street, then turn left onto Hotel Street, passing by the large columned Warren Green Hotel where General McClellan relinquished command of the Army of the Potomac to General Ambrose P. Burnside in November 1862. At Culpeper Street, turn right. The Beckham House, now the Fauquier Club with blue awnings, is just ahead across Culpeper Street at #37.
Stop 9:
The Barber Shop,
where Mosby and a barber
outwitted the federals
This is the site of the apocryphal Civil War story of Mosby in the barber’s chair, most likely sometime in 1863. When Union soldiers began searching the town, a federal officer entered to question the barber as to whether Mosby had been seen. The quick-thinking barber lathered up Mosby to the point he was unrecognizable. The well-lathered figure in the barber’s chair was questioned as well, but neither he nor the barber had any idea where the famous guerilla was. One version of the story has Mrs. Pauline Mosby entering the shop during this tense moment with a package of intelligence for Mosby, but gives it to the barber instead, maintaining it was a powder for the barber’s wife to make the popular Virginia drink “Shrub.” When the Union officer left, Mosby was quickly shaved off, given the package, and escaped.
Directions: The barber shop site is on the east side of Culpeper Street at #15-17. From the Beckham House, walk uphill a brief distance toward Main Street; #15-17 is on the left. Most recently, the location is painted dark green. The barber shop is no longer there, unfortunately—that’s an idea for an enterprising soul!
where Mosby’s postwar
Mosby commuted a great deal to Washington as part of his activity in the Republican party during the 1870s. His friendship with General Ulysses S. Grant as President transferred to his successor, former Union General Rutherford B. Hayes, who had fought Mosby in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864. This unseemly friendship made Mosby especially unpopular in the days after the 1872 amnesty returned the vote to former Confederate soldiers. Ironically, Mosby had been instrumental in advising President Grant to issue such an amnesty. In 1878 the widowed Mosby had already left Brentmoor, sending his children to live with his mother in Amherst County.

He was coming from Washington to Warrenton on legal business for his waning practice via the Orange & Alexandria Railroad and its 9-mile branch from Warrenton Junction (now Calverton) to Warrenton. Arriving at the depot, he began to walk towards the courthouse. Someone took a shot at him—missing, fortunately--but the incident led Mosby to ever more fervently look for an escape from his Warrenton law practice. Ultimately, he received appointment as Consul to Hong Kong from President Hayes, heading to the Far East in early 1879 as the newest employee of the United States government. An interesting piece of irony, this! At Hong Kong, the former guerilla commander annoyed the consular establishment with dogged attention to details and moralistic efforts to stamp out corruption. A pesky fellow, he!

Directions: Reverse direction on Culpeper Street and walk two blocks downhill to Beckham Street, turning left. Walk down the hill on short Beckham Street to its end at the Warrenton railroad depot.

Stop 11:
where Mosby lies
with his family
As Warrenton was the postwar home of Mosby’s daughter, Virginia Stuart Mosby Coleman (she lived at “Pelham” on Culpeper Street out beyond the Route 29 Bypass), Colonel Mosby often visited the town in his last years. After his stint as U.S. Consul to Hong Kong had ended in 1885, Mosby used his connections with a dying General Grant to obtain a situation as a railroad attorney with Leland Stanford’s Southern Pacific Railroad. Accordingly, he lived in San Francisco for many years. In 1901 he began to work for the U.S. Interior Department as a special agent in the General Land Office, and later worked until 1910 as an attorney with the U.S. Justice Department in Washington. But in the final years before his death in 1916, Colonel Mosby often visited Northern Virginia and was seen motoring nearby about the former Mosby’s Confederacy. Interestingly, his chauffeur was frequently Henry C. Stuart, the nephew of his former commander, J.E.B. Stuart. Mosby lost his chauffeur when Stuart successfully ran for Governor of Virginia, taking office in early 1914.
Mosby died at age 82 during an operation at Garfield Hospital on Memorial Day 1916. The last person he spoke with was General Ulysses S. Grant’s grandson, who promised to see to Mosby’s affairs if he did not survive. His family held his funeral at Warrenton on June 1, 1916 with all due pomp and ceremony. Many surviving Rangers attended. Here at Warrenton Cemetery, John Singleton Mosby was buried with his wife and predeceased children. Rangers Richard Montjoy, Joe Nelson, John T. Waller (grandson of President John Tyler), and a number of other members of Mosby’s command rest nearby. A Virginia Civil War Trails sign at the cemetery’s entry gate at Lee and Chestnut Streets will help you discover what is behind the gates.

Directions: It is recommended that you first retrieve your car at the visitor center by heading uphill from the Depot on Third Street to Main Street, then turning right and walking the four short blocks back to the visitor center on Calhoun Street. Drive from there just beyond the courthouse on Main Street, turning sharp left onto Ashby Street and going two blocks to Lee Street. Turn right on Lee and go to Chestnut; the cemetery gate is at the “L” intersection on your left. Drive in this entry lane to the small brick caretaker’s building and park by the side of the road. Looking right, you will see a large white obelisk that is a memorial to the Confederate war dead. As you walk towards the obelisk, Mosby’s grave is just short of it on the right, three stones in, surrounded by his wife and six children. There are Confederate flags about his grave, a U.S. flag more often than not due to his federal postwar service, often flowers, and even a few pennies placed on top of the stone. While here, you may also wish to look for two other well-known Mosby Rangers. Just behind the white obelisk, Richard Montjoy and President Tyler’s grandson John Tyler Waller lie. Mosby’s friend Montjoy was killed in a firefight with the Loudoun Rangers on November 27, 1864 near Goresville in Loudoun County. Waller was killed at The Plains in Fauquier in March 1865 in a shootout with the 8th Illinois Cavalry while visiting his fiancée, Cornelia Foster. Yes--she saw it all.
Erected four years after Mosby’s death on June 26, 1920, this simple, rough stone obelisk recalls Mosby’s connection to the region. The monument came at a time when Mosby’s reputation had been somewhat rejuvenated, following just four years after his death. In part, the monument proclaims, “He has left a name that will live till honor, virtue, courage all shall cease to claim the homage of the heart.”
Directions: The monument sits on the lawn on the west side of the Fauquier Courthouse in front of the 1808 Old Jail building (in background of photo above) that now serves as the museum of the Fauquier Historical Society. The Old Jail is open Tuesday through Sunday 10:00 to 4:00; you can see the monument anytime.
unpopularity was punctuated
with a shot
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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 other 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!
Music: "Mississippi Sawyer," Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
John Singleton Mosby's beloved wife,
Full transcript