Mosby after the War

In the wake of the Civil War, Southern soldiers faced the task of guarding their honor in the midst of defeat. Mosby's belligerence in the months following Appomatox instigated a few fights, and even landed him in jail. Within time, however, his Union tendency -- manifested even before the war broke out -- returned. Mosby began to support the Republican party as the best hope for reconciliation, and formed an unlikely friendship with Gen. U.S. Grant that lasted the rest of their lives. Although villified by certain segments in Virginia, Mosby refused to bend his will. "Some said they couldn't sacrifice their principles for Grant's friendship. I didn't sacrifice mine" (Mosby in Jones, p.287). In 1972, Mosby backed Grant for re-election to the presidency and brought Virginia along with him, despite a vocal protest of old Confederate die-hards. Mosby had crossed the political Rubicon, and now emerged as a symbol for reconciliation at a divisive time in the nation's history.

The path was not an easy one. One Southern paper condemned Mosby's concilatory actions, declaring "he needs convincing -- in fact needs to be suppressed or abated. It is allowable to wish, but impossible to hope, that a firebrand of his sort can be quenched in any ordinary way. Some men are like fleas; no half-way measures will suffice for them. It is either torture you or death to them" (Jones, p.297). One night in 1877, an unknown sniper took a pot shot at Mosby as he stepped off a train in Warrenton, Va.

Reaction in the North, on the other hand, turned decidely pro-Mosby. After Mosby wrote a letter that indicated his aversion to sectional politics, the New York Herald responded, indicating their surprise that the former bushwacker was a "writer of peculiar piquancy and power" (Jones, p.298). Other papers followed with detailed stories about the periodic reunions Mosby's men held after the war.

As the 20th century arrived, the bitterness of Reconstruction had dissipated, and both North and South could take delight in Mosby's bygone days. One newspaper declared that Northern Virginians "hold his name as a household word, associated with all the highest qualities of the ideal Confederate soldier and leader." In 1915 the University of Virginia, which expelled Mosby for shooting a fellow student in 1853, bestowed on the Confederate colonel a bronze medal. An embossed address read: "Endowed with the gift of friendship, which won for you the confidence of both Lee and Grant, you have proven yourself a man of war, a man of letters, and a man of affairs worthy of the best traditions of your University and your State, to both of which you have been a loyal son" (Jones, p.307). Upon Mosby's death, one anonymous obituary clipping stated that "he was as much beloved in the North as he was in the South."

Mosby's partisanship for the Confederacy during the Civil War won him fame and honor throughout the South. After the war a similar partisanship manifested itself for the Republicans, and eventually earned him recognition as a symbol for the reunified Union. Throughout his life, Mosby's stubborn ways inspired either wild praise or caustic reproach; there was little middle ground when it came to one's impressions of the man. Americans, however, like their heros to be true to their ideals. The picture of Mosby that emerges in today's cultural landscape -- the wiry, innovative, rebel individualist -- conforms to this expectation. In this capacity his status as an icon both for the Confederacy as well as America as a whole seems assured.

Biography | 'Primal' honor | Appearance | Oath-taking

Gentility | Chivalry | Mosby and the North | After the war

Further Reading

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