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From "The Rural Virginian" - April 10, 2013
MOSBY'S RANGERS HAD SCOTTSVILLE ROOTS
By HEATHER HARRIS
The Daily Progress - April 10, 2013
What started out as an interest in old historical documents turned into quest to discover the stories behind the men of Mosby’s Rangers. After nearly a decade of painstaking research, one Virginia author is shining a light on the soldiers who fought so gallantly in the 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry.
While attending the Matriculation Ceremony of his youngest son at the Virginian Military Institute, Eric Buckland decided to browse through the collection of historical records which are housed at the military academy.
VMI, which was founded in 1839, has matriculation books containing the signatures of cadets that date back over 170 years. After the Civil War, the institute asked for Confederate veterans to submit their war-time stories. Fifty-eight young men, who were cadets at the start of the Civil War, left the school to go serve with John Mosby.
Buckland, who already had a fascination with Mosby, was permitted to take photographs of the historical ledgers, though he was admittedly hesitant to touch such fragile artifacts.
“I was really uncomfortable playing around with it,” said Buckland.
This journey through history inspired him to write his first book, “Mosby’s Keydet Rangers,” and it launched his crusade to research the nearly 2,000 men who rode with the legendary commander. He has gone through old letters and newspapers, spoken with historical societies, and even met with descendants of the Rangers. For some, the long hours of research may seem tedious, but Buckland has enjoyed it.
“It was more like a treasure hunt than work,” said Buckland. “There are all kinds of stuff still floating around.”
Before the 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry was formed, Mosby was a scout with no rank. In 1862, Major General J.E.B. Stuart put his faith in Mosby and assigned nine men to serve under him. After two weeks, Mosby and his men had captured 20 Union soldiers, as well as horses and other equipment.
“Stuart thought that was pretty spiffy so he gave him 15 [more] guys,” said Buckland.
Known unofficially as “Mosby’s Conglomerates,” it wasn’t until June of 1863 when the battalion was officially formed. Created under the Partisan Ranger Act of 1862, the men were allowed to be paid for any arms and munitions they captured and delivered to a Quartermaster.
Though Mosby occasionally sought out specific men to serve with him, most of the rangers enlisted with the battalion the same way they would any other, as long as they had a horse to ride. Many of them were young men, barely older than 16, who were too young to join the regular Confederate Army.
“Mosby had an unbelievable knack for judging people’s characters. He could look at them and size them up almost instantaneously,” said Buckland.
One of the more memorable Rangers was a young Scottsville man named Jacob Moon. Weighing just 85 pounds, the pint-sized soldier served along with his brother, James. Together, the brothers were known as the “Daredevil Moons.”
Fourteen of Mosby’s Rangers came from the Scottsville area, and Buckland has collected extensive information on about four or five of them. One of them snuck away in the middle of the night to join Mosby.
“There were some real characters,” said Buckland. “Most of these guys did a lot of living before the time they were 21.”
Zachary Fleming Jones, another Ranger from Scottsville, became an inventor and lived vibrantly well into old age. Preceded in death by his wife, Jones’ unmarried daughter dedicated her time to taking care of him. While in his 70s, he was up on his roof and took a bad fall, but lived for another decade. Only after his death did his daughter marry. She went on to establish the Scottsville Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Mosby’s Rangers were like the rock stars of their day. Girls swooned over them, they had tailor-made suits, and they had a decent amount of money from selling captured supplies. They were invited to dances in private homes and occasionally married the sisters of their fellow rangers.
“They captured everyone’s imagination,” said Buckland.
After the war, a number of the men went on to be bankers, lawyers, and even ministers. Three or four became millionaires. The Conrad Brothers from Front Royal moved out to Montana and became very successful in the shipping business; eventually they became bankers and cattlemen.
Buckland recently visited the Scottsville Museum and gave a presentation about the rangers who called the tiny town “home.” He is nearly halfway done with his fifth book, which will be the fourth installment of the “Mosby Men” series.
“Everything that I’ve found, I’ve just sort of formatted it and put it in the books,” said Buckland. “In most cases, it takes them at least from their wartime years up to their death.”
The 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry - "Mosby's Rangers" - is one of the most famous units of the Civil War. Colonel John Singleton Mosby, the 43rd's only commander, has had several books written about him and he remains the "face" of the command. There is no doubt that he was an exceptional leader and that his personal story is both fascinating and compelling. As a tribute to his remarkable success as a leader of men fighting against the United States, John S. Mosby became a member of the first group of men inducted into the United States Army Ranger Hall of Fame located in FT. Benning, GA. His inclusion in that select collection of distinguished and heroic men speaks volumes about the respect the United States Army continues to have for Mosby.
However, it must be remembered that there would never have been a "Mosby" had it not been for the men - Mosby Men - who rode with him.
No military leader achieves greatness without having singularly outstanding and talented subordinates executing his orders - such was the case with Mosby. If the individual excellence of the men was not clearly demonstrated by their actions during the war, it was most certainly displayed as they matured and moved forward with their lives once the war ended.
My books have evolved through almost ten years of research. They provide in-depth biographical material (anecdotes, personal accounts, letters, news articles, obituaries) on select Mosby Rangers. While reading any of the books, it becomes clear that COL Mosby was extremely fortunate in the quality of the men - men who went on to become noted physicians, lawyers, ministers, lawmen and millionaires - who joined his command. Each book provides the reader with a remarkable amount of never before published information about the men. Additionally, biographical details found in rare newspaper clippings and long out-of-print books enhance each Ranger's chapter.
When combined, the contents of the books give the reader an intimate view of the triumphs, and tragedies, of some of the men who rode with Mosby.
I do not know of any other books that focus on the junior officers and men of a famed military unit to the extent that mine do.
Of course, many of the best known fights of Mosby's Rangers are woven into the fabric of each book, but they are described from the perspective of the individual Rangers who took part in them. That unique "boots on the ground", or perhaps more correctly "in the saddle", perspective is what sets my books apart from others.
A Short Bio
I was born in Kansas City, KS. My family moved shortly after my birth to Connecticut and that is where I was raised. After graduating from the Hotchkiss School in 1973, I attended the University of Kansas from which I graduated in 1977 with a B.A. in English and a commission as a 2LT in the United States Army.
Following an initial assignment as a Platoon Leader in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), I began my career in Special Forces. With the exception of commanding a company in the 82nd Airborne Division and the aforementioned time with the "Screaming Eagles", my entire 22-year military career was spent in Special Operations (Special Forces, Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs). I had multiple deployments to Panama, Honduras and El Salvador in the 1980's. I believe that my military experience in both insurgency and counter-insurgency provides me with a unique understanding of Mosby's Rangers.
Some of my awards include the Special Forces and Ranger Tabs, Master Parachutist Badge, Combat Diver Badge and the Combat Infantryman's badge. I retired in 1999 as a Lieutenant Colonel.
My interest in Mosby's Rangers began when I was a young boy and increased during my time in the military. My first book, Mosby's Keydet Rangers, began as a tribute to both the Rangers and my youngest son, who was then a Rat at VMI. While working on that book, I constantly found bits and pieces of information on other Rangers (not affiliated with VMI) and all of those became the genesis for my next books.
On June 6th, 2011, it was my distinct honor and privilege to have been presented the prestigious United Daughters of the Confederacy's Jefferson Davis Historical Gold Medal for: Historical research on the 3rd Arkansas Infantry; writing Mosby's Keydet Rangers; and editing The Millionaire Mosby Ranger, Charles Broadway Rouss.
What fascinates me most about the War Between the States are the stories about the men who fought in it. Since I was young, I have had an affinity for the men who fought for the South and the exciting, surprising and rivetting stories of the men in my books have deepened my interest in them.
The stories I have found about the men who rode with Mosby have put a "face" to the war and to the America that developed after it. They are stories that must be told......and remembered.
“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”
“Nine-tenths of tactics are certain, and taught in books: but the irrational tenth is like the kingfisher flashing across the pool, and that is the test of generals.”
“To me an unnecessary action, or shot, or casualty, was not only waste but sin.”