Civil War & Reconstruction Civil War Third Federal (Union) Occupation and Reconstruction Colonel John Mosby

Colonel John Mosby

Colonel John Mosby’s raid near Belle Plain in Stafford on May 9, 1864, was an attack on a Federal wagon train. Federal withdrawal from Warrenton in late April and lack of use of the Orange and Alexandria rail line created opportunities for rear area raids toward Bealeton and Culpeper and the Union logistics base at Belle Plain (then supplying Grant’s Overland Campaign). A dozen men, including Sergeant W. Ben Palmer, discovered a 20-wagon train en route to the depot. In rain on the night of May 8th, the Rangers quickly cut the train into two by directing the rear section into a side road. When a Union officer asked, “Who in the hell has stopped these wagons and turned them off the road?” “Colonel Mosby,” Palmer replied as he drew his revolver. Leading ten men to the train’s front and stopping the lead wagon, they unhitched the teams and moved off with prisoners and captured animals. Palmer, aged 19, was promoted to lieutenant in Company “E,” on July 28th. He was remembered as “the only man of whom I ever heard who could preserve the amenities to the point of killing a foe with apologies for his rudeness.”

Lt. W. Ben Palmer