Name by which Confederate Colonel John Singleton Mosby was best known during the American Civil War.
A lawyer from Virginia, Mosby enlisted in the Confederate cavalry as the War Between the States broke out. He was most interested in undertaking independent operations, not being much of a fan of military protocol. After serving for several months on J.E.B. Stuart's staff, he took a handful of men and began his own raiding operations in Virginia, most notably in Laudain County.
His famous nickname, The Gray Ghost, came in part from his gray Confederate uniform but mostly from the fact that he seemed to move quietly and strike fear into the hearts of opposing Union troops. He harrassed Union lines with great success, usually with a minimum detachment of men, and escaped without harm or capture. As he became more successful in these raiding operations he was offered a regular command in the Confederate Army, which he steadfastly refused, sold on continuing in his own way.
Mosby's most famous operation came as he led a total of 29 men through six Union regiments and a brigade into Fairfax, Virginia where they captured Union General Edwin G. Stoughton and thirty men under his command. Along his return to Confederate camp, he increased his number of prisoners to a hundred, all while moving with great stealth through the Union lines. Although fifty of those hundred prisoners managed to escape from the twenty-nine men who held them captive, the Gray Ghost still managed to return fifty prisoners including General Stoughton, back through the lines of six Union regiments unharmed.
Mosby was promoted from lieutenant to major because of this astounding feat, and he took seriously "partisan ranger law." This ranger law allowed raiders to split captured property during their raids amongst themselves. For a while, the area stretching from northern Virginia south of the Potomac river to the Blue Ridge Mountains was known as "Mosby's Confederacy." Eventually, he was promoted to the rank of full colonel.
Union General George Armstrong Custer became so disgusted with Mosby's actions that he executed six of Mosby's "rangers" after capturing them during a raid. In response, Mosby executed seven Union prisoners and waited for an answer from Custer on the topic. The answer? No more of Mosby's men were ever executed.
After Robert E. Lee's surrender in 1865, Mosby disbanded his raiders, but was not personally pardoned for his actions until February of 1866, almost a year later. There were many in the Union command who wanted nothing more than to see the Gray Ghost vanquished and destroyed. Instead, Mosby smiled, resumed his law practice and in 1878 was appointed to lead the American consulate in Hong Kong. He later served as assistant attorney for the United States Department of Justice.
In 1916 he died in Washington, DC at the age of 83.