150 years ago, on March 8, 1863, John Singleton Mosby, a lawyer before his home state of Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, sought to harass Northern troops in Virginia. That day, he accepted new recruits into his band, known as Mosby’s Raiders. These men were to experience their first taste of enemy fire.
Mosby and his band began one of their most famous missions in the war. Federal Colonel Percy Wyndham threatened to retaliate against local citizens, enraging Mosby. The Federal Colonel planned to target civilians in revenge for Mosby’s prior actions.
In the early morning hours of March 8, Mosby and his band penetrated the Federal positions at Fairfax Court House. Wyndham was absent attending a meeting in Washington. The brigadier general he left in his stead was captured, along with prisoners, horses, and other materials. The capture earned Mosby the praise of General Stuart.
The capture of the Union general increased anxiety in Washington, although President Lincoln was more concerned about the loss of horseflesh than that of a brigadier. “I can make a much better Brigadier in five minutes, but the horses cost a hundred and twenty-five dollars apiece.”
Afterward, Mosby informed his wife in a dispatch: “I have just returned from a raid on the Yankees, captured Brig. Gen. Stoughton, two Captains, thirty men and fifty horses. I had only 29 men—no loss.”
Northerners quickly came to fear the name of Mosby.
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