I’ve never spent much time thinking about Confederate Colonel, John S. Mosby. Until yesterday, that is. Yesterday, I took a photograph of Mosby’s house for my Photography 101 class. But I couldn’t leave history well enough alone. I had to know more — about the house and the man. So I spent a couple of hours falling down a historical rabbit hole, learning about The Gray Ghost.
And I’m not quite done with him yet . . .
Today, I started wondering if Mosby was a wine drinker. Or maybe a cider man? Maybe whiskey was his poison? I started scrolling through The Memoirs of John S. Mosby (actually, not the narcoleptic seizure I thought it was going to be) to find out.
As it turns out, it’s none of the above. Mosby was a teetotaler. Sometime around age six, Mosby’s teacher went home for lunch and came back rip-roaring drunk, and proceeded to teach the rest of class while stumbling around the classroom. The experience made an impression on Mosby. At age 20, “he attended a temperance camp and was never tempted by alcohol.”1
Temperance camp? Worst camp ever.
But . . . Mosby credits whiskey with allowing him to elude capture and execution in 1864. Read on.
One evening, while eating dinner at one of his safe houses in northern Fauquier County, Mosby was shot (and very nearly killed) by Union cavalrymen. However, the Union soldiers had no idea who they’d just shot. Had they known they’d just shot Colonel John Singleton Mosby (partisan raider and a gigantic thorn in their collective Union sides), they would have certainly taken him prisoner and/or executed him. According to Mosby, the Union cavalrymen were pretty liquored up — “there was a good deal of whiskey in the crowd.”2 In their whiskey haze, the Union soldiers never noticed Mosby’s overcoat (with his rank insignia) sitting in the corner, and so it never occurred to them to take him prisoner. The Union soldiers did inquire about his identity, but Mosby’s safe house friends lied, saying he was a stranger (and they bought it). The Union soldiers then inspected Mosby’s wound, and declared it mortal. They simply left him to die of his wounds and took off — leaving Mosby’s horse standing in front of the house. Mosby would later escape on his horse — gravely wounded, but uncompromised.
And he gives credit to whiskey . . .
1 Gray Ghost: The Life of Col. John Singleton Mosby, by James A. Ramage.
2 The Memoirs of Colonel John S. Mosby, by John S. Mosby