Eric Buckland on"Mosby's Rangers"

Eric W. Buckland speaks to the Civil War Round Table of the District of Columbia on the topic of "Mosby's Rangers."  The presentation was made on February 10, 2015, at the Fort McNair Officers' Club in Washington D.C. Questions and answers follow presentation.

A PDF copy of the PowerPoint to Mr. Buckland's presentation is available by clicking HERE or by visiting

About the Topic: No military leader achieves greatness without having singularly outstanding and talented subordinates executing his orders; such was the case with John Singleton Mosby.  And although much has been written about him (and he remains the “face” of his command), there would never have been a “Mosby” had it not been for the men—Mosby Men—who rode with him.  Our February presentation will focus on these men. 

 Mosby's Rangers, the 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry, is one of the most famous units of the Civil War.  A battalion of partisan cavalry in the Confederate army, it was commanded by Colonel John Singleton Mosby, the “Gray Ghost.”  Exactly how to categorize the Confederate 43rd Battalion was a controversy even at the time of the war. Were they soldiers, partisan rangers, a unit of guerrillas hiding among civilians, or simply a loose band of marauders? The memoirs of John Munson, one of Mosby's men, recalled that Mosby himself avoided using words like "troops" or "soldiers" or "battalion" and favored "Mosby's Men" or "Mosby's command" to describe them.  The Union Army and Northern newspapers called them guerrillas.  Munson noted that "the term (guerilla) was not applied to us in the South in any general way until after the war, when we had made the name glorious, and in time we became as indifferent to it as the whole South to the word Rebel."

The 43rd Virginia was formed on June 10, 1863, at Rector’s Cross Roads, VA.  Mosby, acting under the authority of Robert E. Lee and the Partisan Ranger Act of 1862, raised a company in January 1863. The Confederate Congress passed the Partisan Ranger Act to authorize the formation of such units.  Initially just one company—Company A—by the summer of 1864, Mosby's battalion had grown to six cavalry companies, one artillery company, and numbered nearly 400 men.  In February 1864, the Confederate Congress revoked the authority of all partisan units except for two and one of those was Mosby’s Rangers. At the end of the war, the battalion never formally surrendered; instead it disbanded on April 21, 1865 after attempting to negotiate a surrender with Major General Winfield S. Hancock in Winchester, Virginia.

The unit gained fame for its lightning raids on Union targets, its success in disrupting Federal communications and supply lines, and its talent for consistently eluding capture. After their raids, Mosby’s troopers melted into the civilian population until called together for a new mission. With speed and the element of surprise, they were able to successfully strike much larger bodies of enemy troops.  Perhaps their most celebrated feat was the capture of Union Brigadier General Edwin Stoughton at Fairfax Court House in March of 1863. The modus operandi of the 43rd Virginia was to conduct small raids with up to 150 men but usually 20 to 80. They entered Federal lines undetected and quickly executed their mission, withdrew rapidly and dispersed among the welcoming local Southern sympathizers to effectively melt into the countryside.

Their area of operation was Northern Virginia, roughly from the Shenandoah Valley to the west, along the Potomac River to Alexandria to the east, and bounded on the south by the Rappahannock River.  Most of their activities were centered in or near Fauquier and Loudoun counties, in an area known as "Mosby's Confederacy.”  Mosby's command, however, operated within the distance a horse could travel in a day's hard riding, which included an area 25 miles in any direction from Middleburg, Virginia, and included raids into Maryland.

Colonel John Singleton Mosby, was the 43rd’s first and only commander.  According to John Munson, Mosby welcomed volunteers hungry for the glory of the fight and the appeal of booty.  He looked for intelligence, valor, and resourcefulness in his men, but according to Munson, "what Mosby liked best was youth.  He agreed with Napoleon: that boys make the best soldiers . . . mere boys, unmarried and hence without fear or anxiety for wives or children.” A few of Mosby’s partisans were men in their 40's but most were in their late teens or early 20's. In fact, two of his men who were paroled after the war in Winchester were only 14.

Join us as Eric Buckland recounts the stories he has found about the men who rode with Mosby.  Mosby was extremely fortunate in the quality of the men who rode in his command.  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.  These men went on to become noted physicians, lawyers, ministers, lawmen and millionaires. Their stories add a palpable human aspect to the Civil War and to the America that came out of that crucible. They are stories that must be told......and remembered.
About the Speaker:  Eric W. Buckland is the author of five books about the men who rode with the 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry – “Mosby’s Rangers.” His books include Mosby’s Keydet Rangers, which recounts the stories of the 58 men who matriculated at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and rode with the 43rd. His other books on Mosby’s Rangers tell the stories of another 120 Rangers.

Mr. Buckland was born in Kansas City, Kansas, but his family soon moved to Connecticut where he was raised. Upon graduation from the University of Kansas in 1977 with a B.A. in English, he began a military career and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. Mr. Buckland served for 22 years and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1999.  The majority of his military career was spent in Special Operations with assignments including the Special Forces, Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs.  During his military career he received numerous awards including the Ranger and Special Forces Tabs, the Master Parachutist Badge, the Special Operations Combat Diver Badge and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. Mr. Buckland is currently employed at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy as an International Policy Analyst.

Mr. Buckland's interest in Mosby's Rangers started when he was a boy and grew during his time with the military. His first book, Mosby's Keydet Rangers, was a tribute to both the Rangers and his youngest son, who was then a “Rat” at VMI. While researching for that book, he discovered bits and pieces of information on other Rangers who were not affiliated with VMI.  That material became the genesis for his next books on Mosby’s Men.  What fascinates him most about the War Between the States are these stories about the men who fought in it which have put a "face" to the war for Mr. Buckland.

For his Civil War scholarship, Mr. Buckland was presented the prestigious United Daughters of the Confederacy's Jefferson Davis Historical Gold Medal in June 2011 for his book Mosby's Keydet Rangers.  In October 2013, he was honored with a second award of the Jefferson Davis Historical Gold Medal for his “Mosby Men” series of books.

For information on Mr. Buckland, his books and his research, visit
For information about the Round Table and to apply for membership, click HERE or the "About Us / Membership" Tab above. 

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