Sunday, March 10, 2013

March 8, 1863

March 8, 1863

---1st Lieutenant John S. Mosby (who, before the month is out, will be promoted two ranks higher, to major), is commander of the 43rd Virginia Partisan Rangers, operating in northern Virginia.  He has established a reputation for bedeviling all Union maneuvers and supply lines near Washington, and has quickly become known as the Gray Ghost of the Confederacy.  Mosby’s men wear regulation uniforms and sally forth on raids, then returning to their homes, and blending in with the populace.  On this night, he raids Fairfax Court House, far behind Union lines, where he hopes to capture Col. Percy Wyndham, whose cavalry has chased Mosby relentlessly all winter.  The other is Brig. Gen. Edwin Stoughton, a young dandy in command of a brigade camped a few miles away.  Wyndham, however, has left town earlier, and eludes capture.  Mosby’s troop of only 29 men slips into town under cover of darkness, eluding the guards at first, and captures Gen. Stoughton in his nightshirt.  Mosby wakes up Stoughton with a slap on his bare backside and asks, “Do you know Mosby?”  The Yankee general, still stunned by the spanking and dulled by sleep, asks, “Have you caught him?”  Mosby replies, in the dark, “No, but he has caught you.”  Altogether, according to his own report, Mosby captures a general, 2 captains, 30 soldiers (although some sources say three times that number), and 58 horses without firing a shot.  This caper effectively ends Stoughton’s career in the army, though, even after he is exchanged and able to return back North.

John Singleton Mosby

---Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks, in command of the Army of the Gulf, the Union army of occupation in the New Orleans area, advance his troops slowly upstream until he reaches the environs of Baton Rouge, the Louisiana state capital.  His aim is to attack Port Hudson, even further upstream, and thus act in concert with Grant’s campaign to capture Vicksburg.

---Capt. Charles Francis Adams, Jr. serving in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment, in a letter home, tells of an extraordinary experience while serving next to a green regiment, the 16th Pennsylvania, while Adams is out on a ride to inspect their picket lines:

. . . and Robinson shouted to me: “Hurry up, there’s a fight going on,” and began to press on through the road, knee deep in mud. I was picking my way through the woods and, in my disbelief, replied: “Well, I can’t hurry up in these roads, even if there is.” The words were scarcely out of my mouth when I saw good cause to jam the spurs into my horse and hurry up indeed. Pell-mell, without order, without lead, a mass of panic-stricken men, riderless horses and miserable cowards, our picket reserve came driving down the road upon us, in hopeless flight. Along they came, carrying helpless officers with them, throwing away arms and blankets, and in the distance we heard a few carbine shots and the unmistakable savage yell of the rebels.

We drew our sabres and got in the way of the fugitives, shouting to them to turn into the woods and show a front to the enemy. Some only dashed past, but most obeyed us stupidly and I rode into the woods to try and form a line of skirmishers. But that [Rebel] yell sprung up nearer, and in a twinkling my line vanished to the rear. Nor was this the worst. The panic seized my horse and he set his jaw like iron against the bit and dashed off after the rest. Oh! it was disgraceful! Worse than disgraceful, it was ludicrous!! My horse dashed through the woods — thick woods — both feet were knocked out of the stirrups, I was banged against the trees, my hat was knocked over my eyes, I could not return my sabre, but I clung to the saddle like a monkey, expecting every instant to be knocked out of it and to begin my travels to Richmond. This went on for a couple of hundred yards, when at last I got my horse under, and out of the woods into the road, when I found myself galloping along with the rear of the fugitives, side by side with Major Robinson. “My God! Adams,” said he, “this is terrible! This is disgraceful.”  “Thank God,” I replied, “I am the only man of my regiment here today.” “Well you may,” said he.

Something had to be done to rally the men however at once, else we should soon find ourselves rushing, a mob, onto the infantry pickets two miles behind. I said I would go ahead and try to stop and rally the last of the column, and I let my horse out. The fresh powerful animal shot by the poor worn out government brutes and did some tall running through the Virginia mud and soon brought me out of the woods into a broad field. Here I turned and blocked the road, and pulled and stormed and swore. Some hurried by through the woods and across the fields, but a number stopped and Robinson began to form a line, such as it was. Here at once I learned the cause of the panic. Nearly all the men belonged to a new and miserable regiment, the 16th Penn. They had never been under fire before. . . .


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