Mosby, born 1840, in Maryland.
His actual birth date is not known but he was said to
be a sailor on a whaling ship which finally brought him to Australia some time
in the late 1860’s.
That therefore puts his date of birth sometime
between 1838 to 1841; generally thought to be 1840.
is some controversy regarding Edward Mosby being a Civil War veteran
due to the single fact that most of what is known about him comes
from “Oral History”; both from the family and from the community.
It has been
generally believed that “Yankee Ned” came originally from Baltimore,
Maryland. However, this may not be the case.
There is no record of
any Mosby in the State of Maryland in the 1820 Census, but there
are a considerable number of Mosby’s in Virginia and it is therefore
highly possible that “Yankee Ned” Edward Mosby was indeed born in
Virginia, but actually sailed out of Baltimore, as that was a major
port of the area.
|We do know that after his birth the Mosby
family were living in Virginia, where the majority of the
Mosby descendants today are related; either by birth or by marriage. No known written records have been
uncovered that explicitly connect Edward Mosby of Thursday Island to
the Confederate Mosby’s of Virginia, except that before migrating to
Australia, he too was from Virginia. Written documents have been
found revealing that there were other Mosby’s, in addition to John
Singleton Mosby, the Confederate Partisan Ranger leader and Edward
Mosby who ended up on Thursday Island, that fought during the War of
There is E.C. Mosby, a member of Company B,
Young’s 9th Texas Infantry Regiment, who also served in Gould’s
Company of Texas State Troops, the Clarksville Light Infantry;
Edward C. Mosby, Jr., who served in Company K of the 3rd Alabama
Infantry and E.M. Mosby, a member of Company D, 35th Arkansas
information that may become available in the future will be added to
that which is already known, included in this memoriam on him and
will be passed on to the Mosby family in the Torres Strait.
history, however, relates that Edward Mosby on Thursday Island,
known in the years immediately following the Civil War as “Yankee
Ned”, was a relative in some manner of John Singleton Mosby;
Confederate Partisan Ranger Leader. Oral history relates he served
with Mosby’s Rangers in some capacity during the war; his family
having moved from Maryland to Virginia.
There is one story that he
may have been a deserter from the United States Navy and it is for
that reason that he decided to make his home in such a remote place
where it was unlikely he would ever be discovered.
The story says
that he would use one of his most treasured possessions, his
powerful telescope, to scrutinize all ships which sailed through the
Torres Strait and which were visible from Massig, today's Yorke
Island. If any of these ships happened to be flying the Stars and
Stripes, he would conceal himself; until the ship was out of sight.
That could be one of the reasons that the United States Navy has no
record of a Mosby deserter within the requisite time span.
story is that Edward Mosby sailed from Boston, Massachusetts aboard
a whaling ship after the war.
When his ship berthed in Sydney to take on store,
it was said that Ned Mosby quarreled with the Mate; on one of many
such occasions. The Mate, when the ship was off Fiji on its voyage
south, had once ordered Mosby to be placed in irons and marooned on
one of the many barren islands in the South Seas.
The Mate probably
would have carried out his threat, but the rest of the crew
objected, as Mosby was a popular member of the ship’s company. The
Mate had also heard stories of officers on whalers who had
disappeared overboard on dark nights and how their crews had denied
any knowledge of their disappearance. Having a family in New
Bedford, the Mate didn’t want to die just then. It
was said the trouble between the two passed, until the ship
was docked in Sydney, although there was a continuing hatred
between the two men. One day
while lying at dock, the hatred flared up again and Mosby produced a
revolver. Mosby and one of his ship mates then bound the Mate with
rope and decided that the best thing to do was to desert and
disappear as quickly as possible.
Traveling as far north from his ship as possible to escape recapture
and punishment, knowing he would be flogged and thrown into chains
if caught, he settled on Thursday Island. He could have made his way
north as far as he could go, overland, or he could have boarded
another ship and sailed north.
It’s not known for sure
what Mosby did after he left the ship, but it’s probable he may have
joined another vessel, which sailed around the coast. Berths were
easy to get as the gold diggings attracted many sailors and Ships
Masters were always looking for a crew so that they could sail their
John Jardine, the First
Administrator and Magistrate, is recorded as mentioning that Mosby
came to Torres Strait in the mid-sixties and worked for him at
Somerset in Albany Passage. It’s felt that his work for Jardine
could have been on an early pearling lugger which also gathered
beche-de-mer. In his book, “The Happy Isles”, R. Raven-Hart says
that Mosby also worked for a Captain Walrod, on Coconut Island. That
information was passed onto Raven-Hart by Yankee Ned’s eldest son,
Dan Mosby, when he visited Yorke Island before the Second World
War. Dan was born in 1871 on Yorke Island.
According to Jardine,
Mosby expressed a desire to learn as much as possible about the
islands, pearling and beche-de-mer. It’s interesting to note that
from the day he appeared in the Strait he attempted to convince
islanders that other pearlers were dragging from the ocean depths
surrounding the islands, wealth that by all rights should be theirs.
Such an idea made Mosby very popular with the islanders, but very
unpopular with the pearlers.
When Mosby finally arrived
on Massig with a boat, which had been financed by unknown parties,
Mosby promised the islanders a share of any wealth that could be
gained from the sea; if their best swimmers and divers would help
him to harvest the shell and sea-slugs, which were so plentiful in
Massig waters. It was hard to get the support of all the islanders
as some were content to work for the pearlers and beche-de-mer
fishermen, who anchored off the island when they wanted divers and
who rewarded the islanders with grog, cheap tobacco, gaudy beads and
a few yards of twill.
The islanders had no use for money, but Mosby
promised to purchase such goods which they had wanted for so long;
as they did not ask for grog. He also stressed upon them the fact
that he would make his home on the island and marry one of the
To show that he really
meant what he was saying, Mosby wooed and won a Massig girl. There
is some confusion regarding the name of his wife; some records refer
to her as “Ulood” while others called her “Kudin”. Yankee Ned
however, called her “Queenie” and it is by that name that she is
Ned and Queenie married
according to island rituals and he had a grass-thatched house
erected on the north side of the island. The house didn’t last for
long, however, as an islander who considered he had a prior claim to
Queenie crept up to the house in the dead of night and from behind a
coconut palm sent a fire-tipped arrow into the dry grass of the
walls and roof of the house.
Yankee Ned awoke to fire
raging over his head, which by then had drawn the attention of men
from the nearby village. Only by the efforts of some of the loyal
villagers was Mosby and Queenie able to escape the raging inferno.
Mosby by that time had
become accepted by most in Massig, even though some still did not
consider him the leader that he sought to be. Then fate stepped in
to convince all the islanders of Massig that they indeed had a great
leader among them.
The islanders of Mer, or
Murray Island, were considered to be the most fearsome of the Torres
Strait headhunters and they decided to go on one of their periodical
headhunting raids to the surrounding islands; and had selected
Massig as their target. With faces and bodies painted for battle,
as was their custom, the men of Mer crowded into canoes, waving bows
and arrows and hideous-looking clubs to impress women they were
leaving behind; and to strike fear into those they would attack.
Their canoes came into
sight of Massig, were silhouetted against the rising morning sun and
were spotted by Mosby. He gathered together the warriors of Massig
and set a plan into action. A third of the Massig warriors were to
stand in plain view on the beach and await the attack. The
remainder, with the women and children, were to run across the low
sand to the other side of the island, and prepare to flee in canoes
The attacking warriors of
Mer watched the maneuver, thinking they had only a small force of
Massig men to overcome and once having done so could overcome the
fleeing canoes on the other side of the island. What they were
unaware of, was that Mosby had told the remaining Massig men not to
follow the women and children into the canoes and out to sea, but to
turn back and crawl on their hands and knees through the grass to
the beach; where the landing was to take place. When the warriors
from Mer beached their canoes and ran up the beach they were
immediately met with a shower of arrows from the concealed Massig,
and half the attacking force fell on the blood stained coral beach.
The wounded were never given the chance of getting up, as their
heads were battered by clubs wielded by Massig warriors; and then
removed as trophies. Only one half-full canoe of warriors from Mer
got away alive and that was the last time a head hunting force ever
attempted to attack the islanders of Massig. Mosby’s popularity of
course soared and he never had an enemy on Massig afterwards.
Following the victory,
Yankee Ned was accepted as leader of the Massig people and a force
to be reckoned with in the whole Torres Strait.
It’s interesting to note
that Mosby was well established on Massig when the Government Agent,
Pennyfather, visited Massig in 1879 on a tour; advising the
islanders of their annexation by Queensland. Before annexation
occurred, Mosby had already brought the first form of civilization
and rule to Massig Island. He imported a white school master to
Massig, so that the children could be educated, paying for it
Mosby’s pearling and
fishing for beche-de-mer prospered and he soon erected a European
style house, introduced cattle and horses to the island and seeds
for gardens. People of Massig were soon the most progressive in the
Torres Strait and just before the outbreak of the Second World War
four of Mosby’s sons, who owned luggers, became prominent in the
gathering of pearl shell, trochus shell and beche-de-mer.
Yankee Ned died in 1911,
it is believed at the age of 71, and was buried on Thursday Island.
With him also died the whereabouts of a fortune in pearls, hidden
somewhere on Massig which have never been found.
It was Yankee Ned’s habit
to sit on his verandah in the evening, following the loss of a leg
resulting from coral poisoning which brought to an end his going to
sea, and to look at his collection of pearls; each said to be worth
a fortune. He would take them out of a canvas bag and put them on a
table under the light of an oil lamp and explain to his four sons
that one day these would pay for their education in the United
States, “where they would meet all of their relatives in Virginia”.
The story goes that while he was looking at his pearls he heard a
noise in the darkness outside his house and saw a Japanese pearl
diver watching him. The next morning Mosby told his family he had
buried his treasured pearls where no one but he would ever find
them. Ned Mosby died so suddenly that he never have a chance to
reveal to anyone the whereabouts of his hidden pearls, and though
many have searched for them, they are still buried somewhere on
Massig; today known as Yorke Island.
Mosby, or “Yankee Ned” as he was called, like all outsiders from the
United States who migrated to Australia and are referred to as
“Yankee”, is the great grandfather of Mr. Ned Mosby of Thursday
Island, who is Senior Sergeant of the Police Department and an
Advisor to the Police of Coral Strait and Brisbane, Queensland’s
Virginia Regimental Series have not yet released a roster of the
43rd Battalion of Partisan Rangers, which was the official title of
John Singleton Mosby's command, and some 1/3 or more of all
Confederate military records is said to still be held by the
Daughters of the Confederacy and others; having never been released,
catalogued or researched; making in-depth research of any individual
Partisan Ranger extremely difficult. There were during
the Civil War some 300 individual Confederate Partisan Ranger
groups, and a like number of Union irregular groups, almost none of
which kept records of participating members.
by the Union as outlaws, few Partisan Ranger groups would have kept
records of participating members that would reveal their identity
and lead to their execution. Likewise the Confederate rosters of the
NPS, National Park Service, generally thought to have indexed all
Confederate and Union soldiers, has told this author that only a
fraction of such records have actually been indexed.
The Oral history relating to Edward Mosby, of both the family and the surrounding community
however, has been accepted at face value until someone can provide
concrete evidence to the contrary. Simply stating that no written
records validate the claim cannot be used as evidence, as that too
is only the supposition and conjecture of individuals.
southern states more records and documents were destroyed than were
ever saved after the war, due to the fact that Union General Sherman
admittedly attempted to destroy all records in the south and thereby
erase the southern history and culture. As such, Oral History has
actively been collected and recorded by almost every University and
research group in the southern states. As such this case remains
open until more evidence is found to bring its mystery to a
conclusion. Until that occurs, Edward Mosby will remain on the list
of Civil War dead buried in Australia. Edward Mosby died in 1911 on
Yorke Isl., Torres Strait, Queensland and was buried on Thursday
CAUSE OF DEATH: Carbuncle of the
H.E. Sir William Deane, Governor General, Staff at the Australian
Ms. Margaret Lawrey, Brisbane
Joseph Masai Mosby, O.A.M., Chairman of Yorke Island
Rt. Rev. Bishop, Ted Mosby
Ned Mosby, Yorke Island
Dan Mosby, Yorke Island
Libraries, New South Wales and Queensland
Publisher and Editor, Virginia Heritage Magazine