COBWEB CORNERS: The Gray Ghost and the baron
By Mel McFarland
When I was a kid there was a TV show called the “Gray Ghost,” which my sister and I watched regularly. It was about a Civil War raider, Colonel John Mosby. I was surprised to find a reference to his unit in a 1901 Colorado Springs newspaper.
One of the interesting veterans in Mosby's unit was Baron Robert Von Massow, a lieutenant in the Prussian army who was attached to the Confederate army in 1863-64. He was also the son of the King of Prussia's chamberlain. Although he would not actually die until 1927, he made news in 1901 by announcing that he planned to leave his estate of over $3 million to the survivors of the unit.
One member of Mosby's Raiders was Judge J.D. Shewalter of Colorado Springs. In a newspaper interview, he did not remember Von Massow by name, only that there had been an officer with a foreign accent and title. During the war, the unit had 500 men, divided into seven companies, who answered directly through Mosby to General Robert E. Lee.
Another Colorado Springs resident, Dr. B.P. Anderson, had also been an officer in Mosby's unit. He remembered that the baron had been wounded in a skirmish and sent back to Germany to recover. Von Massow never returned to America, but he did maintain contact with several members of the unit, including Dr. Anderson, who had treated him.
General William Palmer, a Civil War veteran on the Union side, knew Dr. Anderson and had contacted him in 1899. He also knew Von Massow and had heard from him that he was drawing up plans for his estate and wanted to do something for Mosby's men. The doctor had not written the baron, as he was planning to meet with other members of the unit at a reunion in Virginia later in the year.
The story leaves us wondering if the men actually received anything. Mosby himself died in 1916. I will have to keep looking for this news.