Monday, December 2, 2013

Book Review--Mosby's Raids in Civil War Northern Virginia

Connery, William S. Mosby's Raids in Civil War Northern Virginia (Civil War Sesquicentennial). Charleston: The History Press, 2013. 158 pages, 147 pages of text, index, bibliography, b/w photos, 1 map. ISBN 9781609498931, $19.99.

Don't be fooled by the title of this book. It is really about more than John S. Mosby's service to the Confederacy during the Civil War. The war does take probably 75% of the book but there is more to be had. While clearly not a definitive or complete biography of Mosby (it does not claim to be) this is certainly an excellent introduction to "the Gray Ghost."

While in jail for a shooting that he was later granted a pardon for, Mosby studied the law and was later admitted to the Virginia Bar. Unlike many of the most famous Civil War personalities Mosby did not attend West Point and he had no prior military training. Like many Confederate generals though he started as a pro-Union man only changing his mind when his state joined the Confederacy.

Mosby originally enlisted as a private in the Washington Mounted Rifles, serving under William "Grumble" Jones. For a short while he served as adjutant to Jones before Jones lost a regimental election to Fitz Lee. Lee did not like Mosby and thus he was returned to being a private. He quickly became a courier on J.E.B. Stuart's staff and that led to his taking an active part in Stuart's ride around McClellan's troops in June 1862.

This event sealed it for Mosby; he wanted the life of a Partisan Ranger. Partisan Rangers were military units who took part in guerrilla warfare behind enemy lines. While serving as part of the army they were also awarded cash bonuses for captured munitions. By December 1862, Mosby was leading men on dangerous, yet often successful, missions. Connery effectively takes us through various engagements that Mosby and his men fought. Perhaps the most successful part for Mosby was that he and his men were so unpredictable to the Union armies that he helped keep them from being able to engage in other areas of the war.

Post war, Mosby was again unpredictable. He was originally denied a pardon by Andrew Johnson but was eventually pardoned by Ulysses S. Grant. He worked for several years as a lawyer with much of his work having to do with railroads. By 1869 he was stumping for conservative political candidates. By 1872 however he was campaigning for Ulysses S. Grant, a fact that eventually led to the failure of his law practice. The Democrats (the conservative party of the day) considered Mosby a traitor with the election of Rutherford B. Hayes. Mosby moved to Washington D.C. in 1876 and in 1878 sold his Virginia home. In 1879 he was appointed American consul to Hong Kong, a position he would hold until 1885 when he returned to the States choosing to live in California. It was here that Mosby met and mentored young "Georgie" Patton; later known as the famous World War II General George S. Patton.

As with most History Press titles this one is heavily illustrated which I am a fan of. There is a nice selection here covering both modern and vintage images. There is one map but it is so detail heavy as to be unusable in my opinion. There are three appendices: the poem, The Scout Toward Aldie written by Herman Melville, Mosby's recommendation from J.E.B. Stuart (presumably contained in the Official Records) and an Appreciation of Mosby from the Photographic History of the Civil War, Volume Four. As is the case with many History Press titles there are no notes (most likely due to space constraints), there is however an index and bibliography.

This is certainly a book that can be recommended for anybody interested in starting to learn about John S. Mosby or perhaps guerrilla/partisan warfare. The writing was well done and the book read quickly.

Thank you to The History Press for sending a complimentary review copy.

No comments:

Post a Comment