Rebel, a steady seller since 1983, is the first complete biography of the Confederacy’s best-known partisan commander, John Singleton Mosby, the “Gray Ghost.” A practicing attorney in Virginia and at first a reluctant soldier, in 1861 Mosby took to soldiering with a vengeance, becoming one of the Confederate army’s highest-profile officers, known especially for his cavalry battalion’s continued and effective harassment of Union armies in northern Virginia. Although hunted after the war and regarded, in fact, as the last Confederate officer to surrender, he later became anathema to former Confederates for his willingness to forget the past and his desire to heal the nation’s wounds. Appointed U.S. consul in Hong Kong, he soon initiated an anticorruption campaign that ruined careers in the Far East and Washington. Then, following a stint as a railroad attorney in California, he surfaced again as a government investigator sent by President Theodore Roosevelt to tear down cattlemen’s fences on public lands in the West. Ironically, he ended his career as an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice.
Kevin gives an overview of the book:
The way to the pike was now blocked, deep streams lay on two sides of the farm, and nearly all the horses were without saddles or bridles. Mosby, not knowing whether anyone would listen, shouted to the men that they were to stand and fight, adding that they were to hold their fire for the moment and concentrate on getting as many horses bridled as possible. They were outnumbered by more than two to one, and trapped by the First Vermont Cavalry, under Capt. Henry C. Flint. “As Capt. Flint dashed forward at the head of his squadron,” wrote Mosby in later years, “their sabers flashing in the rays of the morning sun, I felt like my final hour had come. . . . In every sense, things looked rather blue for us.” Flint, confident of his game, divided the command, sending half around to the Confederates’ rear, while half formed on their front. . . .Troops on the Maryland side of the river began to cheer wildly at the lopsided affair they were about to witness. Flint took his time disposing his men. Mosby’s party, only half of which was ready for a fight, continued feverishly to bridle horses in the barnyard. “When I saw [him] divide his command,” commented Mosby, “I knew that my chances had improved at least fifty percent. When he got to within fifty yards of the gate of the barnyard, I advanced, pistol in hand, on foot to meet him, and at the same time called to the men who had already got mounted to follow me.” The men may have been new, but the effect was magical. “They responded with one of those demoniac yells,” he continued, “which those who once heard never forgot, and dashed forward . . . ‘as reapers descend to the harvest of death.’”
This is the first full bio of Mosby ever written. It's proven durable because it's about a principled man who was a bundle of contradictions: fighter and peacemaker, thorn in the side of the country he loved. I lived in the zone of his wartime operations and interviewed people who had actually known him.
Kevin H Siepel writes on personal, historical, and scientific themes. His benchmark biography of Confederate hero John Singleton Mosby has proven durable, as have a number of his essays and poems. He has been published in the Christian Science Monitor, Readers Digest,...