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Edward 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. 

There 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 Northern Aggression.
 
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 Infantry. Any 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.   Oral 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.

Another 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 ships. 

 
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 island girls.

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 best remembered.

 
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 to safety. 

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 himself.

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.

 

Edward 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 Police Chief. 

The 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.

 
Being regarded 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.

In the 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 Island.

 

CAUSE OF DEATH: Carbuncle of the neck

 

H.E. Sir William Deane, Governor General, Staff at the Australian Embassy, Washington

 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

 State Libraries, New South Wales and Queensland

Steve Wolfe, Publisher and Editor, Virginia Heritage Magazine

 

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