I was surprised, and a little dismayed, to talk to a reader in Virginia a few weeks ago, who thought that Colonel John Mosby (the Confederate officer that Colonel Alexander Hunter, the main character in Shades of Gray, is based upon) was a murderer and a thief. For those of you who are not familiar with Colonel Mosby, he was the leader of an independent command that operated in northern Virginia, mostly behind (or within) enemy lines. He and his men were, at times, called guerrilla raiders, mostly because of their unusual method of warfare, which involved attacking supply lines, couriers, and trains – basically creating havoc within the Federal lines.
There are many first-hand accounts of the heroism and chivalry of Mosby, but I thought I’d start with one that occurred early in the war as related in the book Mosby’s Confederacy. It’s an excerpt from an address by John Divine to the Stuart-Mosby Society during their annual meeting in 1985.
Divine stated that in 1892, when Union officer Isaac Jones Wistar was writing his memoirs, he recalled an event that happened when he was a Colonel of the 71st Pennsylvania Regiment leading his men as they charged across the open ground past the Dunkard Church and into the West Woods. Colonel Wistar was seriously wounded during that action, and as Stonewall Jackson threw back the Federal lines, he was left lying wounded on the field.
At the same time, some Confederate generals and their staffs congregated to this point to watch the action. Wistar recalled lying there in pain, and being harassed by a young Confederate lieutenant who tried to take his sword, and then attempted to get his parole. J.E.B. Stuart ordered the lieutenant away, and then one of Stuart’s couriers came over, gave him a drink of water, and eased his position before moving off.
It was many years later before Colonel Wistar, (later General Wistar) discovered who his benefactor was that day. It was John Singleton Mosby of Stuart’s staff who had been serving as a courier that day and had taken the time to ease the pain of a wounded foe.