Friday, March 8, 2013

March 8, 1863: John Singleton Mosby raids Fairfax Court House

John Singleton Mosby
John Singleton Mosby's raid on Fairfax, Virginia's Court House on the night of March 8, 1863, has become one of the American Civil War's most legendary cavalry exploits. Here's Mosby's own report submitted on March 11, 1863:
March 11, 1863.

GENERAL: I have the honor to report that having accurately ascertained the number and disposition of the troops in Fairfax County, I determined to make the attempt to reach Fairfax Court House, where the general headquarters of that portion of the army were established. Sunday night, the 8th instant, being dark and rainy, was deemed propitious. I proceeded down the Little River pike to within about 3 miles of Chantilly;then, turning to the right, crossed the road leading from Centreville to Frying Pan, about half way between Centreville and the Little River pike; then proceeding on toward Fairfax Court-House, came upon the Warreton pike at a point about 4 miles distant from Fairfax Court-House. I then kept the pike until I got within about a mile and a half of the Court-House, when I turned to the right in order to avoid some infantry camps, and came into Fairfax Court-House from the direction of the railroad station. The few guards stationed around the town, unsuspecting danger, were easily captured. I then sent one party to the headquarters of Colonel Wyndham (acting brigadier), another party to Colonel Johnstone's, while with 6 men I went myself to Brigadier General Stoughton's. Unfortunately Colonel Wyndham had gone down to Washington, but his assistant adjutant-general and aide-de-camp were made prisoners. Colonel Johnstone, having received notice of our presence, made his escape. General Stoughton I found in bed asleep, as well as his staff and escort, whom we captured. Afterward, in the darkness and confusion, two officers of his staff made their escape.

While these things were going on, other detachments of my men were busily engaged in clearing the stables of the fine horses with which they were filled. It was about 2 o'clock when I reached the Court-House, and I did not deem it safe to remain there over one hour and a half, as we were 10 miles within the enemy's lines, and it was necessary that we should get out before daylight, the close proximity of the enemy's forces rendering our situation one of great peril, there being three regiments of cavalry camped 1 mile distant, at Germantown, two infantry regiments within a few hundred yards of the town, one infantry brigade in the vicinity of Fairfax Station, and another infantry brigade, with artillery and cavalry, at Centreville. About 3.30 o'clock, therefore, I left the place, going in the direction of Fairfax Station, in order to deceive the enemy as to my line of retreat should they attempt pursuit; then, wheeling to the right, took the pike to Centreville at a point about a mile and a half from Fairfax Court-House. When I came to within a half mile of Centreville I again turned to the right, passed so close to the fortifications there that the sentinels on the redoubts hailed us, while we could distinctly see the bristling cannon through the embrasures. We passed within a hundred of their infantry pickets without molestation, swam Cub Run, and again came into the Warrenton pike at Groveton.

I have not yet heard whether the enemy pursued. It was my purpose to have reached the Court-House by 12 o'clock, but this was frustrated by our mistaking our road in the darkness, by which we were delayed two hours; but for this occurrence I should have had ample time not only to have made more, captives, but also to have destroyed the large amount of quartermaster's, commissary, and sutlers' stores accumulated there. They were stored in the houses of the town, and it was impossible to have burned them without destroying the town.

The fruits of this expedition are 1 brigadier-general (Stoughton), 2 captains, and 30 men prisoners. We also brought off 58 horses, most of them being very fine, belonging to officers; also a considerable number of arms. We left hundreds of horses in the stables and other places, having no way of bringing them off, as I was already encumbered with more prisoners and horses than I had men. I had 29 men with me; sustained no loss. They all behaved admirably.

I have the honor to be, most respectfully, your obedient servant,

JNO. S. MOSBY,

Captain, Commanding.

Major General J. E. B. STUART,

Commanding Cavalry Division.

1 comment:

William Connery said...

Mosby's Raid commenced on March 8. He actually captured General Stoughton about 2:30 am on March 9, 1863. You can read more details in my book 'Mosby's Raids in Civil War Northern Virginia'!