Known as the “Gray Ghost”, John S. Mosby was part of the Confederate Army’s 43rd Virginia Cavalry Battalion during the American Civil War. Known as a rabble-rouser, he was head of a partisan ranger unit that was known by several names, including Mosby’s Raiders, Mosby’s Men and Mosby’s Rangers.
The unit was renown for its raids on Union targets and ability to evade capture. During the course of the war, Mosby’s Raiders were able to disrupt Union communications, supply lines and outposts.
A spy working for Mosby, Laura Ratcliffe, in 1863 recommended using a large rock (located in Herndon, VA) as a meeting place where the soldiers could meet after doing raids. Ratcliffe also hid money and messages under the rock, the latter which Mosby credited with helping him escape from capture by Union soldiers.
While Mosby did daring deeds during the Civil War, he was held in contempt by many of his fellow Virginians after the war. He admitted that the Confederacy had lost the war while many others still believed in the “Lost Cause” myth. This myth revolves around the belief that the South was in the right and heroic, and it tries to paint the antebellum South in the best light.
The rock is still there, but it borders a subdivision. Since 2020, the marker on the rock has been missing. It was said to read as follows: “Mosby’s Rangers (43d Bn., Va. Cav.) used this rock as a rendezvous point and met here to divide the spoils after raids. The renowned Southern spy and scout Laura Ratcliffe, who lived nearby, showed this rock to Col. (then Captain) John S. Mosby, CSA, in 1863, and suggested he use it as a meeting place”.
Historical Marker Inscription
This large boulder, located just south of here, served as an important landmark during the Civil War, when Col. John S. Mosby’s Partisan Rangers (43rd Battalion, Virginia Cavalry) assembled there to raid Union outposts, communications, and supply lines. Laura Ratcliffe, a young woman who lived nearby and spied for Mosby, concealed money and messages for him under the rock. Mosby credited her with saving him from certain capture by Federal cavalry on one occasion. She also was a friend of Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart.
13570 Big Boulder Road, Herndon, Virginia, 20171 United States
38° 56′ 47.340″ N, 77° 24′ 57.000″ W