The Andersonville Regulators


I have a character in Out of Control, book #1 of my Kincaid Bride’s series, the youngest brother Seth, who spent time in Andersonville Prison during the Civil War.

So I’m just researching Andersonville to find for sure where it was and when it opened and closed. No sense having poor old Seth stuck in a prison that had been closed down for two years before he got captured, right? And this is all backstory. This is NOT important. We’re talking maybe two or three sentences in the whole book. But little details like this, for writers, become maddening and fascinating. All I needed was the where and when. I could’ve gotten that in two minutes on Wikipedia. So did I give it two minutes and get back to my manuscript?


I ended up reading and reading and reading. It was horrible and engrossing. A real time sink for me, and yet I couldn’t tear myself away. I tell people that I hate research, but the REASON I hate it is because I get sucked in it, drawn deeper, lured down side trails, moving farther and farther from what I originally was hunting for. Such was Andersonville. And today I’m not even going to write about the prison, which could be ten posts on its own. The starvation, the brutality, awful.

No, what I found was a group called Mosby’s Raiders. I think I’d heard this term before. Mosby’s Raiders. But I didn’t connect it to Andersonville. If anything I’d have put the group in a category with Quantrill’s Raiders in Kansas who wreaked havoc after the war. Further research reveals a video game called Mosby’s Raiders and a singing group, so that’s maybe why I’ve heard of it.

Mosby's Headstone

Mosby’s Raiders was a group within the walls of Andersonville. They were thieves who attacked the other prisoners. Since everyone was starving it might be understandable that people would become savages in their fight for survival, but Mosby, who’s name was William “Mosby” Collins of the 144th New York was a thug.

He led a group of up to 700 men armed with clubs, slingshots, brass knuckles and homemade knives. And he wasn’t just surviving, he was getting rich.

But this STILL isn’t what I want to talk about today. Within Andersonville a group of men emerged who called themselves the Regulators, and they are the focus of today’s post. The Regulators were given police-like power by the head of Andersonville. They led a force of men who rounded up over 200 of these raiders and brought them to trial.

On July 11, 1864, six of the leading raiders were hanged, ending their control of the prison. So, six men are hanged, what of the other 194? And those are the ones they caught? There were rumors of up to 700 Raiders, remember?

After the executions the regulators, led by Key (this is the only name I could find for the leader of the regulators), knowing how many men were left that were loyal to the raiders, were in constant danger of assassination if they remained inside. The head of Andersonville found a way to protect them. He got them assigned as nurses and ward-masters in the hospital, which separated them from the general populations.

The accounts I read of the hanging were riveting. The prisoners loathed the men who were hanged. But it was also Yankee soldiers hanging other Yankee soldiers while the Confederate guards looked on. So much conflicting emotion was involved.

So this was my inspiration for my next book series. These Regulators. And remember this is all well after the war is over. But what if?………(Authors always use What If?) What if these men remained friends after the war? This would be a huge bond between them. These would be righteous men, men who would do what is right even when it was terribly hard. They would be used to having each other’s backs. They would trust each other completely.

And if one of them ran into trouble after the war and turned to his old friends for help…well this has the makings of a great bunch of heroes.

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Author of Romantic Comedy...with Cowboys including the bestselling Kincaid Brides Series

18 thoughts on “The Andersonville Regulators”

  1. Mary,

    The Regulators will be awesome inspiration for your next series! I’ve always been fascinated by this group of men; strong men with an extreme sense of justice and the moral fortitude to back it up. Just the conflict of working for the “enemy” in order to protect other prisoners must have messed with their minds, along with all the other horrors of day to day life in Andersonville.

    I look forward to seeing how your Regulators come to life.


  2. I have a feeling your research is just beginning. What a fascinating subject and a great place to start a new series . . . “What if” is such a fun question. I like “Why” too. Right there, we’ve got plot and character. Go for it, Mary! It’s going to be an awesome set of books.

  3. This is fascinating, Mary. I knew Andersonville was a bad place, but had no idea abot the Raiders and the Regulators. I know you’ll come up with some riveting stories. Can’t wait to hear more.

  4. Something clicking in my foggy brain–seems like there was an old and brief TV series back in the Western heyday about a group called Mosby’s Raiders, except they were good guys and not in prison. Anybody else remember????

  5. Wasn’t there something in the 60s about the Mosby’s called the Gray Ghost? I can’t remember any details and why I remember even that much is a mystery.

    Anyway, interesting post, Mary. Wish I thought up the idea first!


  6. I think you all might be thinking of John S. Mosby a Confederate General also known as the “Grey Ghost” for he and his men’s ability to attack Union troops, disrupt railroads and communications and insert spies without being seen or caught. His men were known as Mosby’s Rangers (not raiders).


  7. Yes, John Mosby is an extremely interesting figure in history. I have a series I’m writing on some of his Rangers.


  8. Mary,
    I love your idea! Sounds awesome. I will definitely read that series when you get it written!LOL I have to really watch myself on my research time. I’m like you–I get started on something intending only to spend a few minutes on “just the facts” and always get drawn in somehow. Two hours later I look up and think, “what in the world?” But look at the good side of that–we could be in a casino somewhere with the time flying by like that, or doing online shopping. LOL Love this idea. This is a very interesting post–something that now, I will have to go look into!

  9. A few Andersonville facts. At Andersonville, a light fence known as “the dead line” was erected approximately 19 feet inside the stockade wall. It demarcated a no-man’s land that kept prisoners away from the stockade wall. Anyone crossing this line was shot by sentries.

    During the war, 45,000 prisoners were received at Andersonville prison, and of these 12,913 died.

    A young Union prisoner, Dorence Atwater, had been chosen to record the names and numbers of the dead at Andersonville. He secretly kept his own list among other papers. When Atwater was released, he put the list in his bag and took it through the lines without being caught. It was published by the New York Tribune and this smuggled list is the best record of who died at the prison. The list kept by the prison was either destroyed by the South or, if it was turned over to the North, they didn’t release it.

  10. Mary – Great post and interesting information. I love anything to do with the Civil War era and find these stories fascinating. Looking forward to this series!

  11. I haven’t started writing it yet. We’ll see what happens. It’s just the idea that is in charge of my brain these days. I’ve got two more Kincaid Brides novels to come out first. One in February, In Too Deep about the shallow charmer, the middle brother, Ethan.
    And in August 2012, Over the Edge about the crazy younger brother Seth. Who survived Andersonville but came out of it crazier than ever.
    After THAT I want to do this series and I think I’m going back to Texas. I haven’t set a book in Texas for a while.
    When you write westerns, Texas is like…default. So I’ve been trying to explore different settings and even so, my first series was set there and my third series was partially set there.
    So, it’s (maybe) back to Texas for me.
    You know what I’d like to do someday? Set a series in the northwoods of Minnesota, it’s wildly dense forest. A person could get so lost up there.
    But can I do cowboys in Minnesota? I haven’t figured out quite how yet.
    Maybe someday. I love that rugged wilderness.

  12. Mary,
    Thank you for a most interesting post. We were at Andersonville National Cemetery briefly in March for a funeral, but did not get the opportunity to go through the park or cemetery. I had heard of the Regulators and knew there were gangs that roamed the camp. I never looked into it very deeply and didn’t know the details.

    I just got OUT OF CONTROL this week. Can’t wait to finish my Christmas books so I can start those others on my TBR mountain. I will be looking forward to the rest of this series plus the one you are planning.

    Have a wonderful Holiday Season.

  13. I’m a research librarian and when I read through the old newspapers looking for an obit or other item, I am constantly finding tidbits that make me go “what if”. Currently, I’m working on making an every-name index for a scrapbook donated to our library for our genealogy section. It is full of newspaper clippings about local boys serving in WWII and the story ideas are endless. 🙂 Can’t wait to read YOUR next stories, Mary. And I’ll be watching for a new series about Andersonville’s Regulators!

  14. CDees, I have dug through old newspapers before and it can be so engrossing. Small things that catch your eye and give you a notion of what life was like back then. Those give me great ‘what if’ ideas.

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