Mosbys Confederacy

Mosby spent the first two months of 1863 adding new recruits to his band. Then, as springtime arrived in northern Virginia, Mosby launched a series of raids that rocked Union forces throughout the region. Sometimes they ambushed (lied in wait to attack) Union patrols or captured Union horses and other supplies. At other times they destroyed Union railroads or cut telegraph lines. On a number of occasions, he and his men even struck on the outskirts of the Federal capital of Washington.

Mosby's most daring escapade of 1863 came in March, when he traveled into Northern territory and captured a Union general, thirty-two other Federal soldiers, and fifty Union horses. According to Mosby, the Union general was sound asleep in his bedroom when he walked in. Mosby promptly drew the covers back, pulled up the general's nightshirt (a long shirt worn in bed), and swatted him on the rear with the blunt side of his sword blade. As the general bolted upright in bed, Mosby said, "Do you know Mosby?" The still-sleepy Union commander responded, "Yes, have you captured him?" Smiling, Mosby answered, "No, but he has captured you."

Mosby's raids angered Union commanders in the region, but they seemed helpless to stop his band. The Union's inability to catch "Mosby's Rangers," as they came to be called, was due in no small part to pro-Confederate feelings in northern Virginia, which Mosby's guerrillas continued to use as a base of operations. In fact, most people who lived in that area were so sympathetic to Mosby and his fellow guerrillas that a few counties came to be known as "Mosby's Confederacy." "The people of Mosby's Confederacy were overwhelmingly pro-Virginia, pro-Confederacy, and therefore pro-Mosby," wrote William C. Davis in Civil War Journal: The Leaders. "They opened their homes, silos, barns, hayricks, and cellars to Mosby's men, and they fed and hid them. Without this informal civilian volunteer infrastructure, Mosby could not have operated."

In June 1863, Mosby formally organized his rangers into the Forty-third Battalion of Virginia Cavalry. By this time, many men were asking to join Mosby's company. They were drawn by his spectacular successes and the idea of serving the Confederacy without putting up with lots of military rules and regulations. But even as the size of his band grew— an estimated one thousand guerrillas rode with Mosby at one time or another during the war—the Virginian never gave up control. In fact, he was known as a tough disciplinarian who commanded complete respect, even though he was one of the smallest men in the entire company.

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