I’m in the process of reading Charles Mauro’s new book A Southern Spy in Northern Virginia, and wanted to take a moment to share a few things that made me smile. The book is about the album given by Gen. J.E.B. Stuart to Laura Ratcliffe, a young girl in Fairfax County, “as a token of his high appreciation of her patriotism, admiration of her virtues and pledge of his lasting esteem.”
Without going into the book too much (because I want to do a full review later), I did find some interesting tidbits about Mosby and his men that, if I knew it before, had forgotten. As most of you know, Mosby is the Confederate colonel that the main character in my historical fiction novel Shades of Gray is loosely based upon.
Mauro relates an interesting story about Walter Frankland (one of the signers of Laura’s album), when he first wanted to join Mosby. Without a horse – a necessity in Mosby’s command – he joined up with a Union deserter, James “Big Yankee” Ames, from the Fifth New York Cavalry, who was also horseless. Together, they walked 30 miles to Ames’s old camp to remedy the situation.
Leaving on Feb. 28, they slogged through rain and mud, and arrived in the Union camp on March 1. At midnight, 200 men from the camp saddled up for a raid to capture Mosby. After the cavalry left, the two walked straight into the camp, “talking freely” with a guard who never suspected the Confederates as they bridled two of the horses he was guarding and rode away.
Frankland and Ames became two of Mosby’s most trusted rangers.
With a good Yankee horse beneath him, Frankland was able to ride with Mosby and others of his command on Oct. 16, 1863. They followed a Union wagon train through Chantilly, acting as if they were part of the train’s guards. At Mosby’s signal, the men captured the train and accompanying Union soldiers. They took 13 prisoners, seven horses and 36 mules.
The old saying “truth is stranger than fiction” is certainly the case when reading about some of the exploits of Mosby and his men. If some of these occurrences were written about in a Civil War novel, people would think them too far-fetched.
Truth is stranger than fiction.