Exchanged for Mosby: The Life of Charles Austin Bayard

For someone so renowned for capturing Union soldiers, it surprises many people to learn that John Singleton Mosby was once captured by the Federal army. Well, he was almost captured several times, but on July 20, 1862, they actually nabbed him. Mosby wasn’t yet the Gray Ghost and the terror of Union soldiers. So, following his capture at Beaver Dam Station, Virginia, he was promptly conveyed to the Old Capitol Prison in Washington, DC. His incarceration lasted just two weeks before a steamer transported him to Fortress Monroe to be exchanged. On August 5, Union and Confederate authorities swapped Mosby for Lt. Charles A. Bayard of the 5th Wisconsin Infantry. Bayard is not as well-known as Mosby, certainly, and he did not lead such a well-documented life as Mosby did. Yet his life deserves more than the footnote it has received as the man who was exchanged for the Gray Ghost.

Charles Austin Bayard was born in Granby, New York, in 1836. His father, Samuel Bayard, served in the War of 1812 and suffered an injury from a recoiling artillery carriage. Samuel married his wife Mary in 1823, and together they had at least four children. Charles was the third child born to the Bayard household. Bayard’s early life details remain sketchy, though it is known he found his way to Lake City, Minnesota, along with other members of his family. There, he grew to love his adopted home and became a “respected” citizen, said his obituary. His young wife died there in 1860, possibly as result of complications from childbirth following the birth of their only son, Charles Freeman Bayard.

Charles Austin Bayard (

At the outbreak of Civil War, Bayard enlisted along with his younger brother Myron into Company K, 5th Wisconsin Infantry. Charles received a commission as the company’s first lieutenant. He remained in that subordinate role until the company’s captain, William Evans, was mortally wounded on June 27, 1862, at the Battle of Golding’s Farm.

Bayard did not serve in his role for long as the company’s commander. He was soon captured, likely on June 28 as his regiment crossed White Oak Swamp. Confederates sent him to Richmond to serve out a prison term until he could be exchanged, which was done on August 5 at Fort Monroe for Mosby. His parole was not confirmed until later in August.

Bayard’s wartime service and imprisonment afflicted him; he resigned his commission in the 5th Wisconsin on October 25, 1862. “His health became shattered,” a newspaper reported. He remained in Washington performing various roles and then returned to the lumbering business after the war. At the age of 36, Charles Bayard died from “chronic affection of the liver.” His remains returned to Lake City, Minnesota, his adopted hometown, where they rest today, certainly less visited than Mosby’s decorated grave in Warrenton, Virginia.

2 Responses to Exchanged for Mosby: The Life of Charles Austin Bayard

  1. Interesting. I didn’t know it was so specific. I thought the exchange was, “Here are 100 privates, give us 100 privates or the equivalent.”

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