Stone Sentinels, battlefield monuments of the American Civil War

Front Royal

Execution of Mosby's Rangers

A wayside marker on the Execution of Mosby's Rangers is on the north side of Front Royal. It is next to another Civil War wayside marker about Richardson's Hill.


Location and directions

The markers are on the north side of Front Royal on the west side of N. Royal Avenue just north of W. 15th Street. (38.936471° N, 78.194645° W; see map)


Text from the marker


Execution of Mosby’s Rangers

“The ‘dark day’ of 1864”

— Mosby’s Confederacy —

"Mosby will hang ten of you for every one of us!" were William Thomas Overby’s last words to his executioners before the rope tightened around his neck here on Richardson’s Hill. This was the final scene of a tragedy that began less than two hours earlier when Union cavalrymen captured six of Lt. Col. John S. Mosby’s Rangers a few miles south of Front Royal on September 23, 1864. Believing that Mosby’s men had killed a Union officer after he surrendered, the Federals executed them in retaliation.


Capt. Samuel F. Chapman, commanding a detachment of the Rangers, had split his force in two to attack what he thought was an unguarded ambulance train. On discovering that in fact two Union cavalry divisions trailed the train, Chapman tried to call off the attack, but it was too late. The Federals quickly encircled the Rangers; most of them cut their way out and escaped (allegedly killing the captured Union officer in the process), but six were ridden down and taken to front Royal. Gen. Alfred T. A. Torbert, the senior Union officer, probably approved the executions, although Mosby blamed Gen. George A. Custer and promised vengeance on Custer’s men.


Four of Mosby’s men were shot, but two including Overby were hanged, having refused to reveal the location of Mosby’s headquarters. Near Berryville a month and a half later, on November 7, Mosby ordered the execution of seven captured Federals, most of them from Custer’s command, in retribution.


From the sidebar:

One of the men executed, 17-year-old Henry Rhodes, was not a Ranger but a Front Royal boy who had long dreamed of joining them. When Chapman led his men through town that morning, Rhodes resisted no longer but rode a neighbor’s horse into battle. He was captured when his mount collapsed, brought to a field just south of here, and shot down in sight of his mother.

Wayside Marker on the Execution of Mosby's Rangers at Front Royal, Virginia(above) Wayside Marker on the Execution of Mosby's Rangers (see enlargement)
(below) The marker is next to another about Richardson's Hill (see enlargement)
Civil War wayside markers on the Execution of Mosby's Men and Richardson's Hill in Front Royal, Virginia
Four of Mosby's Rangers executed in 1864 - William Thomas Overby, Captain Sam Chapman, Thomas Anderson and Lucien Love
(above) From left to right, William Thomas Overby, Captain Sam Chapman, Thomas Anderson and Lucien Love (see enlargement)

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