Colonel John Singleton Mosby, CSA
In the part of Virginia I live these days, the memory of Mosby is still green, and his ferocious defense of the territories of Loudoun, Fauquier, and Clarke Counties against the far more numerous forces of the invader are remembered with appreciation and honored even today.
After Appomatox, Mosby negotiated a truce, which he desired to continue until General Joseph E. Johnston ceased the struggle in North Carolina. General Hancock of the Union Army declined to extend the truce, threatening to lay waste to the theater of Mosby’s operations if he failed to surrender immediately.
Unwilling to surrender, but also loath to inflict further suffering upon the civilian population, on April 21, 1865, Mosby disbanded the 43rd Battalion, 1st Virginia Cavalry rather than surrender to Union forces.
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.”
Mosby’s Farewell to his Command read:
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
The original manuscript of Mosby’s Farewell to his Ranger Battalion is being auctioned by Heritage Galleries, February 12, 2010, Lot 5900 of Sale 6039.