I am no history buff. I may say I love it but the truth is, what I really love is people standing around talking story in old places about our great history. Last night I happened to be standing in a restaurant that had once been an old stable standing next to a hospital in downtown D.C. Abraham Lincoln asked congress to construct the hospital. Construction was completed in 1866. It housed 50 patients, was built for roughly $115,ooo and had good ventilation and gas lighting. What this old building has seen. Last night I heard that years ago it was abandoned and homeless people lined the hallways. Today it’s a community center.
We stood outside next to a civil war era anchor.
Inside, Ray happened to notice an inscription inside a light fixture.
It read, “I can make Generals. Horses cost money. ~ Abraham Lincoln
Someone there said, do you know the story? I am not a civil war buff and I had no idea. So I got to stand in this old stable and hear it.
There was a confederate colonel named John Singleton Mosby. He was known at the time as the Gray Ghost. I read that Abraham Lincoln gave him that nickname. He was in command of the 43rd battalion, 1st Virginia calvary. As our storyteller told us, he was sort of the confederate John Rambo. He lost no men. His battalion came to be known as Mosby’s raiders.
Last night I heard the story of Mosby’s raid at the Fairfax County courthouse. He snuck 29 men into the city. They ended up at the Gunnel House where a Union general had his headquarters. They politely knocked on the door and made up some silly story to get into the building. Once inside Mosby walked right to the general’s sleeping quarters. General Stoughton was most likely sleeping off a drunken stupor in his bed after a night of carousing. Our story teller didn’t portray Stoughton in the best light. He was known as a womanizer and a bit of a party boy. Mosby walks into his room and slaps Soughton’s bare bum with his gloves to waken him. Stoughton rolls over mad as hell yelling, “Do you know who I am?” Mosby’s quick reply was “Do you know Mosby, general?” The general says, “Yes! Have you go the rascal?” “No, but he has you!” was Mosby’s quick retort.
Mosby captured about 33 men including one brigadier general and one captain that night and 58 horses. He had 29 men with him and no one ever fired a shot. President Lincoln heard all about the raid. That’s when he said, “I can make Generals. Horses cost money.”
The even more fascinating story about Mosby is that after the Civil War, he knew that we needed reconciliation. He became close friends with Ulyssess S. Grant and campaigned for him during Grant’s presidential bid. Eventually he wound up on the west coast where he would become a mentor to George Patton and was said to greatly influence Patton’s sense of bravery, duty, honor and even his war tactics.
Obviously I enjoyed my evening. It’s even better that I got to hear my stories with this guy.