I may earn a commission from the companies mentioned in this post via affiliate links to products or services associated with content in this article. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read the Advertising Disclosure for more information.


Colonel John Mosby was called the Gray Ghost, an adequate name for one of the most prolific spies of the Civil War. Mosby would become so adept at his job that he would accomplish the unthinkable, capturing a Union general in the dead of the night. Such acts of bravery and deceitfulness earned Mosby the name and a title well deserved.

The Confederates needed a man like Mosby to do their dirtiest work under the guise of a citizen of the Union. Mosby started his military career as thousands of other soldiers did on both sides a both lowly private. He would work his way up through determination and a knack for talking people into circles.

It is said of John Mosby that he could talk you out of your last penny, a claim that holds credence since he was able to slip in and out of the capital of the Union, Washington, time and time again, undetected.

Mosby was captured after one of his charades into a Union encampment and sent to a Union prison. After his release, for reasons unknown, he went directly back to his old boss, Jeb Stuart. Stuart was the general who had given Mosby his first shot at counter-espionage and he would be the man who granted him the opportunity he so desired.

John Mosby during the Civil War

John Mosby during the Civil War

To lead a unit into the heart of the Union to cause general mayhem and discontent. Mayhem should have been Mosby’s middle name as what he did to the war effort of the North was tremendous.

General Jeb Stuart released John Mosby from active duty in his army and sent him on a secret mission that would have a great impact on the war. General Stuart wanted Mosby to go to and raise a brigade that would be totally dedicated to harassing the Union army at every junction.

General Stuart understood the value of such a force and backed the creation completely. This is only one of the leadership qualities the generals of the Confederacy had at their disposal, it seems ethics and morals took a backseat to regular battle plans.

The charismatic Mosby could talk regular men into signing up in his unit and within a few months he had a regiment-sized outfit, ready to create a mess of the Union war effort. Never lining up for battle in the traditional sense of the word, Mosby’s men would prefer to cut telegraph cables, start fires at armories and ambush any thing that crossed their path, causing mayhem against a far superior enemy.

Guerilla warfare was used to its full advantage by the Rebels in Mosby’s unit.

John Mosby’s greatest feat would be the kidnapping of General Edwin Stoughton in Washington. Mosby pulled this off by disguising himself as a Union citizen and commencing to drink with the general until sunrise. Drunk and bleary eyed, the good general was sent to his quarters.

The Gray Ghost was not far behind and with a resounding slap on the Generals rump, awakened and captured him. General Stoughton was the highest ranking officer to be captured during the war. Mosby would finish out the war and then instead of surrendering like the rest of his Confederate comrades, he disbanded the unit. Soon afterwards he was arrested and then pardoned in 1866.

Returning to the filed of law, Mosby would die in 1916. The Gray Ghost had passed but his legend will remain that of intrigue and romance.