It was on this date in 1864* that an infamous Union war crime took place in Front Royal, Virginia.
All spake of him, but few had seen
Except the maimed ones or the low;
Yet rumor made him every thing–
The man who crossed the field but now;
A spell about his life did cling —
Who to the ground shall Mosby bring?
Allegedly raging from the murder by Mosby’s troops of a surrendering northern cavalryman, the blues rounded up six captured Mosby men — actually only five, plus one 17-year-old civilian who had opportunistically joined the fray — and summarily executed them.
David Jones, Lucien Love and Thomas Anderson were shot. So was the aforementioned civilian, Henry Rhodes, under the eyes of his shrieking mother.
Then, two last unfortunates were hanged. William Thomas Overton spurned an offer of clemency in exchange for information on Mosby’s hideouts with the memorable parting, “Mosby will hang 10 of you for every one of us.”
Not quite so … but not an empty threat, either. Weeks later, Mosby would order the retaliatory executions of a like number** of randomly-selected Union prisoners of war, and communicate this intelligence to his foes along with his (successful) suit to resume more gentlemanly methods of killing one another.
* Some sources (including some cited in this post) claim September 22nd. The consensus of authoritative sources appears to be clearly September 23rd. The Gray Ghost himself may be one source of the confusion; according to Custer and the Front Royal Executions, “In his memoirs, which were published over 50 years after the event, Mosby got the date wrong, apparently based upon one of the newspaper accounts … [which] stated that the Front Royal incident occurred on September 22, not September 23, the date upon which it actually did occur.”
** Seven were condemned in retaliation, for these six plus a separate execution that occurred Oct. 13.