Mosby’s Rangers by James J. Williamson

James J. Williamson was one of Mosby’s Rangers, so this is a memoir as well as the story of Mosby’s command. You can download it and read it for free here or here.

While this is in no way an objective account, it’s still a necessary read for anyone who wants to study John S. Mosby and his men. Williamson also provides correspondence and extracts from the Official Records for both sides, and his book also includes illustrations from soldier artists James Taylor and Charles Hall.

The book contains interesting stories about some very colorful individuals. For example, one person who joined the Rangers was James F. Ames, formerly of the Fifth New York Cavalry, a deserter the Rangers named “Big Yankee.” “Just before they rode off, a Yankee deserter, Sergeant James F. Ames, of the Fifth New York Cavalry (afterwards known as ‘Big Yankee’), came walking up and wanted to join Mosby. No one gave any credence to his story, but I took him with me to the old widow’s house, where we slept and ate together several days and nights. He impressed me as a true man, assuring me he had deserted on account of the Emancipation Proclamation, which, he said, showed that ‘the war had become a war for the Negro instead of a war for the Union.’ ” [p. 29] Ames would provide them much useful information to use against his former comrades of the Fifth New York Cavalry, including participating in killing some of his former comrades.

In discussing the Gettysburg Campaign, Williamson tells us, “It was Mosby’s intention to join General Lee in Pennsylvania, but when we reached Mercersburg, where we expected to find a portion of the army, it had moved. Our number being so small, and as we were ignorant of the country as well as of the position of our army, Mosby determined to return to Virginia, which he did, but not until he had gathered up 218 head of cattle, 15 horses and 12 negroes.” [pp. 79-80] So Mosby’s men also participated in the wholesale kidnapping and enslavement of African-Americans in Pennsylvania Lee’s men engaged in during this campaign. That wasn’t the only time they engaged in bringing blacks to slavery. The following October, “Mosby left Salem (now called Marshall) at 6 P.M., with about 50 men, and two miles below Warrenton discovered a large train of wagons, guarded by two regiments of infantry, which were in the front and rear of the train. He divided his men into three parties, and coming out on the side of the train, those in front, under Captain William H. Chapman, stopped the wagons, while others set to work unhitching the mules and horses. This operation occupied but a few moments, and before the guards were fully aware of the cause of the stoppage, Mosby was on his homeward journey. The teamsters made signals to give the alarm, and a regiment of cavalry was afterwards sent in pursuit and came into Salem next morning, but too late to overtake Mosby, who had carried off nearly 200 mules and 40 horses, with their harness. A great many of the mules and horses were lost in driving them out, but some were picked up several days afterwards. One hundred and twenty mules, 27 horses, 17 white and 16 negro prisoners were secured, however, together with a large quantity of harness. Not a shot was fired. The captured horses were divided among the men, and the mules, prisoners, and negroes sent to General Stuart’s headquarters.” [pp. 102-104]

I recommend this book for anyone who wants to understand Mosby and his men and guerrilla warfare in the Civil War.

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2 comments

  1. Sir=Advise when Williamson born & died?? Thanks Mel

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