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    "The Grey Ghost" disbands his rangers rather than surrender his command to the Union

    ­­­Confederate Colonel John S. Mosby's Farewell Address to his Rangers. Extremely rare and historic content war date Autograph Document Signed, "Jno: S. Mosby Colonel" 1 page, 9.75" x 7.75" [Salem], Fauquier [County, Virginia], April 21, 1865. Written as Colonel of the 43rd Virginia Cavalry, popularly known as "Mosby's Rangers," Mosby issues his famous farewell order to his cavalrymen in the closing days of the Civil War. A tremendous rarity, this is the first contemporary edition to be offered at a major auction in more than a century and may be the only contemporary autograph edition still in private hands. The letter is mounted in a period scrapbook. The ink remains bold, and the paper sound; with light soiling, toning, and a few tiny tears occurring at margins.

    From 1863 to 1865, the 43rd Virginia Cavalry conducted daring guerilla raids behind Union lines in northern Virginia, sabotaging railroads, telegraph lines and supply trains. Their ability to attack without warning and then melt into the countryside earned their commander the nickname "The Grey Ghost." The surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox on April 9, 1865 meant the end for Mosby's Rangers. Rather than surrender his command to the Union, Mosby chose to formally disband the regiment.

    Mosby assembled his men at noon on April 21, 1865 on a green in Salem, Virginia. As he sat silently on his horse, Mosby's officers read out his final remarks to his eight companies of cavalrymen:

    Fauquier, April 21st 65

    Soldiers! I have summoned you together for the last time. The vision we [have] cherished of a free & independent country has vanished and that country is now the spoil of a conqueror. I disband your organization in preference to our surrendering it to our enemies. I am no longer your commander. After an association of more than two eventful years. I part from you with a just pride in the fame of your achievements & grateful recollections of your generous kindness to myself. And now, at this moment of bidding you a final adieu, accept this assurance of my unchanging confidence & regard. Farewell!

    Jno: S Mosby

    Mosby's words stand alongside Lee's General Order No. 9 as one of the most important military addresses of the Civil War. Both speeches sought to bring a sense of closure to those who had struggled for what had clearly become a 'lost cause.' Mosby's short address was simply worded, yet profound in meaning and sentiment. According to eyewitnesses to the brief ceremony, there wasn't a dry eye to be found among the assembled cavalrymen, including Mosby -- who seldom betrayed his emotions before his men.

    Most of Mosby's Rangers took their paroles in the following days and returned to their homes. Mosby chose to become a fugitive and remained one until early 1866. News of his farewell and flight from federal authorities spread quickly, and his farewell address was widely reprinted in contemporary newspapers. Often derisively prefaced in the North where Mosby was considered a common bandit, the papers helped propel the speech into American popular culture.

    John Singleton Mosby and his Rangers

    Trained as an attorney, John S. Mosby enlisted in the Confederate ranks in 1861 as a cavalryman serving at First Manassas and in J. E. B. Stuart's Shenandoah Valley campaign. Under Stuart, Mosby served as a scout where he earned a reputation for mounting daring raids behind Union lines. In early 1863 he was commissioned a captain with authority to raise a company of hand-picked cavalrymen to operate as partisan rangers. Officially known as the 43rd Virginia Cavalry, they acted under a recently-enacted ranger law that permitted the division of war booty among its captors, similar to the manner in which sea-borne privateers had operated for centuries. Mosby's organization skillfully executed lightning attacks against Union forces and their supply lines in Northern Virginia and Western Maryland, which tremendously hindered Union efforts to defeat the Confederacy. So effective were his Rangers in harassing and then avoiding Northern troops, their area of operations became known as "Mosby's Confederacy." By early 1865 Mosby's Rangers had swelled in size from a handful of men to a regiment of some 700 that included an ad hoc artillery unit. Stories of their raids, repeated in newspapers, both north and south, became the stuff of legend.

    After Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, Mosby's position became dramatically weakened. Initially the Union terms of surrender did not include irregular forces like the 43rd Virginia. On April 10, General Winfield Scott Hancock, then commanding Union forces at Winchester, had issued a circular extending the terms given Lee at Appomattox to all Confederate troops, both regular and irregular, except: "The guerrilla Chief Mosby is not included in the parole." The same day Secretary of War Stanton asked General Grant his opinion on the matter and to his surprise, Grant thought Mosby should be granted parole as well. The next day Hancock's chief of staff informed Mosby of his inclusion in the pardon and proposed a Union officer of equal rank to discuss the surrender. Hancock did not receive a response from Mosby for several days. Mosby was stalling for time as he still wanted to continue fighting as long as Joseph E. Johnston's Confederate army still fought in North Carolina. At a meeting on the 18th between Mosby and Union negotiators, Mosby was candid about his intentions and noted that he was ready to disband his command and allow his men to surrender as individuals if and when Johnston surrendered. Mosby also begged a 10 day extension to the truce that had commenced several days earlier. Hancock grew impatient with Mosby's delaying tactics and refused his request for an extension of the truce beyond April 20. At a final meeting in Millwood, Virginia, Union negotiators flatly informed Mosby that if he did not surrender, federal forces would lay waste to the countryside. At that, Mosby walked out of the meeting and returned to his safe haven beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains.

    There was to be no more fighting. Disbandment was the only option in order to save 'Mosby's Confederacy' from a destructive and unnecessary military campaign. In his 1906 memoirs, John W. Munson of Company B wrote of that evening, "The outlook for the morrow was gloomy.... Colonel Mosby, like the rest of us, showed plainly that his heart was heavy. The blow had fallen with awful force and, though little was said, the gloomy faces of the Partisans told how tumultuous were the thoughts surging amid the memories of past achievements..." (Munson, John W., Reminiscences of a Mosby Guerilla, p. 269.)

    The following morning, at Glen Welby, the home of Major Richard Henry Carter, Mosby requested writing material and composed his farewell order. (Munson, p. 269). He then rode to Salem, (now Marshall), Virginia where he had ordered his regiment to rendezvous. James J. Williamson, of Company A, described the scene in detail in his memoirs: "The men came in slowly. It had rained in the early part of the morning, and a thick fog hung like a pall over the face of the country. The damp, raw air did not strike the feelings with a more chilling influence than that which was sent to the heart by the gloomy aspect which every object seemed to wear. Not a smile was to be seen on any of the faces... all looked sad. Mosby was walking up and down the street, occasionally stopping to speak to one or another of the men as they rode in. About noon the order was given to mount, and the companies formed. The whole command was drawn up in line on the green... Well-mounted and equipped, the men presented a magnificent appearance, and... Mosby rode up and down the line... When all preliminaries were arranged, Mosby s Farewell to his command was read by the commander of each squadron to his men." (Williamson, James Joseph, A Record of the Operations of the Forty-Third Battalion Virginia Cavalry..., pp. 391-393)

    Williamson recalled, "While the address was being read, a profound silence reigned; and when the word 'farewell' was uttered, it fell like a knell upon the ears of the assembled band. They gave Mosby three hearty cheers and the order was given to break ranks. Then ensued a scene trying to all... The men pressed forward around their officers to bid them adieu, and soon hardly a dry eye could be seen. Strong men, who had looked unmoved on scenes which would have appalled hearts unused to the painful sights presented on the field of battle, now wept like little children. Mosby stood beside a fence on the main street and took the hands of those who gathered around him. His eyes were red, and he would now and then dash aside the struggling tears which he was unable wholly to suppress. Men would silently grasp each other's hands and then turn their heads aside to hide their tears; but at last it became so general that no pains were taken to conceal them. It was the most trying ordeal through which we had ever passed. A number of ladies who had assembled to witness the disbanding of the command were apparently as much affected as we were." (Williamson, p. 394).

    The following day, most of Mosby's men surrendered to Federal authorities and accepted their paroles. Mosby and several others chose to ride south and join Johnston's army still fighting in North Carolina. Upon reaching Richmond, they heard of Johnston's surrender to Sherman. Because he chose to run rather than surrender with his men, Mosby became an intermittent fugitive for nearly a year. On February 2, 1866 General U. S. Grant, on the personal appeal of his wife Pauline, issued an order allowing Mosby to travel without fear of arrest allowing Mosby to resume a normal life. Mosby moved to Warrenton, Virginia where he established a law practice. His decision to join the Republican Party angered some fellow Virginians and he was the subject of an assassination attempt. Later he served as U.S. Consul to Hong Kong (1878-85) and then as a lawyer for the Southern Pacific Railroad. He also served in the Department of the Interior and in the Department of Justice as an assistant attorney general.

    One of the only known contemporary autograph editions known to exist.

    As in the case of Lee's General Order No. 9 of April 9, 1865, editions of Mosby's address were produced for the immediate purpose of reading before assembled bodies of troops. Exactly how many copies of Mosby's Farewell were written and read aloud at the time is unclear. John Marshall Crawford's memoir, Mosby and His Men (1867), describes only Mosby's brother and adjutant, William reading the address aloud. Other eyewitnesses, including Williamson and Munson, credited squadron commanders reading the address to their men. John Scot, in his 1867 history that was authorized by Mosby, supports Williamson and Munson. These vague descriptions of the mechanics of the event have been interpreted in a variety of ways by Mosby's biographers. Some credit just William Mosby (citing Crawford), others assert that officers William Chapman and Adolphus Richards read it together (assuming the regiment was divided into two squadrons for the ceremony), while another author simply states the address was read by officers to each of the eight companies.

    The extant physical evidence would suggest that more than two people read the message aloud and may have been read to each company rather than to each squadron. At present, we are aware of seven extant contemporary editions of this address, of which only two are in Mosby's hand -- including the present specimen. Three others are in the collection of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia. Of those, one is in Mosby's hand, the other two in the hands of secretaries, each bearing heavy folds similar to the present example. That museum also holds a photocopy of an additional contemporary secretarial edition that is in private hands. Another likely contemporary secretarial edition is part of the collection of the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond and another at the Fairfax Museum in Fairfax, Va. It appears likely that the majority of these were used as reading copies in the field. The aforementioned autograph copy at the Museum of the Confederacy had been owned by Robert S. Walker, captain of Company B. This circumstance further supports the theory that company commanders read the address.

    Mosby's 1944 biographer, Virgil Carrington Jones, in Ranger Mosby, cited a draft edition at the Library of Congress, but it has not been sourced. The Library does have a later-written souvenir edition penned by Mosby. Jones also referenced a copy at the public library in Warrenton, Virginia (which may be one of the copies now at the Museum of the Confederacy) as well as an edition owned by the descendants of William Chapman who led many of Mosby's former Rangers to Winchester to be paroled on April 22, 1865. The location of that example is currently unknown.

    The present edition of Mosby's Farewell conforms very closely to the contemporary autograph edition at the Museum of the Confederacy. The handwriting very closely matches the museum's example and Mosby's wartime hand in general. In addition, the paper used for these two additions appears to be very similar. This edition also bears two minor textual variations from the other known copies, and most of the published transcriptions. The first is the omission of the word 'have' in the sentence: 'The vision we have cherished of a free & independent country.' The second variation is the use of an ampersands in lieu of the conjunction 'and.' In all other respects, the text precisely matches the other written and published examples.

    This is the first contemporary autograph edition of Mosby's Farewell to known appear at auction. American Book Prices Current only records the sale of a later, fair copy of Mosby's farewell written after the Civil War as a souvenir. [Sotheby's, New York, December 15, 1998, lot 211, $32,500.] No other examples appear in American Book Prices Current since its inception in 1896. In contrast, signed editions of Lee's farewell to the Army of Northern Virginia appear at auction with some regularity. Autographed copies of Lee's farewell have appeared at least 16 times at auction in the past 35 years according to American Book Prices Current.

    The Adams-McWhorter-Sturges edition of Mosby's Farewell

    The present edition of Mosby's Farewell was discovered this past year. It was found by art historian Dr. Christine I. Oaklander who was researching Jonathan Sturges of New York (1802-74), a patron and friend to Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, and other prominent American artists. During the 1850s, Sturges was a director of the Illinois Central Railroad, where he worked with Ambrose Burnside (treasurer), George B. McClellan (chief engineer and vice president), and Abraham Lincoln (then outside counsel and lobbyist). Sturges was a founder of the New York Union League Club and served as its second president. Two of his sons fought for the Union. One of Sturges' daughters, Amelia, was J. P. Morgan's true love and first wife. Sadly, she died of tuberculosis in 1862 within a year of their marriage. Despite the tragically brief marriage, Morgan was considered a family member for the rest of his life.

    Yet the presence of such an important edition of Mosby's Farewell in the Sturges country home had nothing to do with any of Sturges' prominent associates (which even included General William T. Sherman). It originated as a result of the marriage of his youngest son, Henry Cady Sturges (1846-1922). In 1883, he married Sarah Adams McWhorter (1864-1959), the daughter of a prominent Augusta, Georgia family. She inherited a scrapbook that was kept by her mother, Sarah Deborah Adams McWhorter (1832-1915), which has remained in the family. It is in this album, filled with newspaper clippings, manuscript poetry and other ephemera, that Oaklander discovered the present edition of Mosby's Farewell.

    Exactly how the Adams-McWhorter-Sturges edition found its way into the scrapbook remains unclear at present. Judging from the news clippings found in the scrapbook (mostly poetry) the book was kept between 1860 and 1873. What is certain is the document found its way into the album well before 1873, and its significance was lost to McWhorter's descendants. Living descendants had been completely unaware of the document's existence before Oaklander discovered the piece, found among 'family miscellany.' Someone unfamiliar with Mosby's handwriting could have easily mistaken it as a mere manuscript copy, similar to the poetry found in other parts of the album.

    Mosby's Farewell stands among the most significant documents of the Civil War. This is a singular opportunity to own one of the few known war date editions in the hand of 'The Grey Ghost'.

    More Information:


    Ashdown, Paul & Caudill, Edward, The Mosby Myth: a Confederate Hero in Life and Legend (Wilmington, Del.: SR Books/Scholarly Resources, 2002)

    Baird, Nancy Chappelear, ed. Journals of Amanda Virginia Edmonds Lass of the Mosby Confederacy (Stephens City, Va.: Commercial Press, 1984)

    Bonan, Gordon B. The Edge of Mosby's Sword: The Life of Confederate Colonel William Henry Chapman. (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University, 2009)

    Bowen, Frederick Fillson, Papers, 1863-1898, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Va.

    Brown, Peter A., Mosby's Fighting Parson: The Life and Times of Sam Chapman (Westminster, Md.: Willow Bend Books, 2001)

    Crawford, J. Marshall, Mosby and His Men: A Record of the Adventures of that Renowned Partisan Ranger, John S. Mosby... (New York: G. W. Carleton & Co., 1867)

    Farr, Richard Ratcliffe, Papers, Fairfax Museum, Fairfax, Va.

    Jones, Virgil Carrington, Ranger Mosby (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1944)

    Monteiro, Aristdes, War Reminiscences by the Surgeon of Mosby's Command (Richmond, Va.: Everett Waddey, 1890)

    Mosby, John Singleton, Memoirs. Edited by Charles Wells Russell. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, [1959]

    Mosby, John Singleton, Papers, Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Va.

    Munson, John W. Reminiscences of a Mosby Guerilla. (New York: Moffat, Yard and Company, 1906)

    Ramage, James A. Gray Ghost: the life of Col. John Singleton Mosby (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky)

    Scott, John, Partisan Life with Col. John S. Mosby... (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1867)

    Siepel, Kevin H. Rebel, The Life and Times of John Singleton Mosby (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1983)

    Williamson, James Joseph, A Record of the Operations of the Forty-Third Battalion Virginia Cavalry... (New York: Ralph B. Kenyon, 1896)

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