The Civil War, Day by Day

Fairfax Raid, The

The Fairfax Raid

At Fairfax Court House, Mosby and his men rounded up more than 30 Federal prisoners - including General Edwin H. Stoughton. The feat would make Mosby famous as the Confederate “Gray Ghost” and would give “Mosby’s Rangers” a fearsome reputation.

They moved boldly through the winter night. Slipping through enemy lines, the tiny band of gray-clad horse soldiers rode quietly past the snow-covered fields and forests of northern Virginia. Leading them was 29 year-old Lieutenant John Singleton Mosby, a former scout for Confederate cavalry commander J. E. B. Stuart. Their target was Fairfax Court House and their intent was to capture a Yankee general.

“I shall mount the stars tonight,” Mosby had vowed as the raid began, “or sink lower than plummet ever sounded.” Outside Fairfax Court House, they passed undetected through a gap in the Northern picket line and entered the village in the early morning darkness. There Mosby raided the headquarters of Brigadier General Edwin H. Stoughton, and roused the Federal general from his bed with a slap on the backside. Stoughton demanded to know who had so rudely awakened him. Recalled Mosby: “I then asked him if he had ever heard of Mosby, and he said he had. ‘I am Mosby,’ I said… ‘be quick and dress.’”

Evading several thousand Northern troops, Mosby and his men made their way back to Confederate lines leading a string of captured horses, more than 30 Federal prisoners and a dejected Federal brigadier general. Mosby’s Fairfax Raid ended Stoughton’s military career, brightened Southern spirits and produced a promotion for Mosby. It was, proclaimed J. E. B. Stuart, “A feat unparalleled in the war… .” Mosby’s men, Company A of the 43rd Battalion of Virginia Cavalry, became known as “Mosby’s Rangers,” and Colonel John Singleton Mosby became famous as the Confederate “Gray Ghost.”

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All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.