This quote “I’ve always understood that we went to war on account of the thing we quarreled with the north about. I’ve never heard of any other cause of quarrel than slavery.” is often used by the “other side” as proof positive the Confederacy was fighting the war to preserve slavery. Those that use this quote fail to understand that Mosby was not a policy maker for the Confederate government. In fact most fail to realize that John S. Mosby went into the Confederate Army as a private.
This quote is found in many places on the web without a source. It appears that so many were so anxious to take a swipe at the Confederacy and prove their “knowledge of the causes all they did was copy and paste the quote from one website to another. No research what-so-ever. Nothing about context or content.
I admit the quote was not easy to find, in fact I had to go to someone who is an authority on Mosby and ask for help. After a few days of digging this is what she came up with—-
New York Tribune – November 17th, 1907
MOSBY AS A WORD FIGHTER.
Colonel John S. Mosby, the famous cavalry leader of the Southern army, is as keen with his tongue as he was with his sword when it spread panic through the Federal outposts in the 60’s.
He has always maintained that the South went to war over slavery, not secession, as claimed by later apologists of that section. One evening, while sitting in the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco, a fire eating ex-Confederate from Alabama approached him and entered into a lengthy dissertation to prove that the South had never fought to perpetuate slavery, but only in defense of “States’ Rights.”
Colonel Mosby bore it in silence for a time, but finally, growing impatient, “Look here,” he interrupted, “what were we quarreling with the North about from the time of the Missouri Compromise in 1820 to the day Sumter was fired on? Slavery, wasn’t it?”
“Ye-e-es,” reluctantly admitted the other.
“Well,” continued Colonel Mosby dryly, “during the four years I was in the Southern army I was always under the impression we were fighting about the same thing we had been quarreling about.”
His course in voting from Grant in 1872 was bitterly resented by many of his old comrades of the Virginia army, and in the heat of politics, it was charged that he had deserted the Southern cause; and this, though in actual war he had kept his battle front for three weeks after Lee had surrendered.
“Colonel Mosby,” said an Englishwoman who had heard these charges, “is it true that you deserted Lee’s army?”
“No, madam,” replied the Colonel. “Lee’s army deserted me.”
After the war a soldier said to him, “General Blank says that he’s tired of all this talk about your men having done all the fighting that was done on the Southern side,” to the Colonel. “What shall I tell him you say about it.”
Colonel Mosby read the man’s malicious intention. “You tell General Blank that I say I am too.” Was the Delphinian response.
A Southern General who was invited to address Mosby’s men at one of the reunions drew a contrast between “the poor regulars sleeping in wet trenches and living on hard-tack” and Mosby’s men, “sleeping in feather beds and living on the fat of the land.”
Colonel Mosby was not present, but the remark came to his ears. “In war,” was his comment, “the paramount duties of a commander are two: To take the best possible care of his own troops and to inflict the greatest possible damage upon the enemy. Now, if I kept my troops in such comfort and even luxury as General Blank maintains I did, and if I inflicted on the enemy as much damage as the official reports of the Northern officers admit I did, then instead of criticizing me, General Blank ought to rank me as a greater military leader than Napoleon.”
Not that Mosby was in the middle of an argument when the quote was made. Did he make the quote to agitate his opponent? Did he really believe this, what was his knowledge of the cause of the war? Had he ever heard of the 13th or Ghost Amendment?
Note the image is hard to read and without the aid of another researcher, I would not have the text.
To be honest I am sure some men fought for the institution of slavery, just as some fought tofree the slaves. As I have said over and over slavery was not the cause of the war. To date not one person has proven, with credible sources, that slavery was the cause of the war.