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General Jo Shelby's March Hardcover – August 17, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Die-hard Confederate cavaliers take the fight to Mexico in this boisterous post– Civil War adventure. Historian Arthur (Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair) sings the exploits of Shelby, a wily rebel cavalry commander who rejected the verdict of Appomattox and led his 300-man Iron Brigade into Mexico, then roiling with war between the French-backed emperor, Maximilian, and Benito Juarez's republican army. The Xenophonesque trek mired them in another lost cause. Battling Juarista soldiers and Apache bushwackers, they fought their way to Mexico City only to have Maximilian nervously spurn Shelby's offer to raise an army of 40,000 Americans; they then dispersed to various doomed pursuits, including schemes to bring Southern settlers to colonize Mexico. Heavily reliant on the colorful writings of Shelby's friend John Edwards, Arthur's narrative paints Shelby's band as the last paladins. They are forever protecting decent townsfolk against ruffians, fighting duels on points of honor, and making stands against hopeless odds; they even rescued a beautiful American woman from a bandit's clutches. (The author downplays clashing notes, like a Civil War incident in which Shelby's men massacred dozens of unarmed blacks.) Arthur's account is a bit shallow--and the Confederate romanticism a bit thick-- but it makes for a colorful picaresque. 8 pages of b&w photos; map.
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From Booklist

A biographer of Upton Sinclair (Radical Innocent, 2006), Arthur takes up a Civil War general for his new portrait. He has chosen a vivid one in Joseph Shelby, a Missouri rope manufacturer turned Confederate cavalry officer whose battles in Missouri and Arkansas Arthur regales as curtain-raisers to Shelby's main act: leading hundreds of his men into Mexican exile in 1865. As Arthur relates, Mexico was then beset by civil war and banditry, exacerbated by French occupation. Into its lawless desert landscape rode Shelby, accompanied by an admirer invaluable for Arthur's astute reconstruction of events: a journalist named John Edwards. Arriving at Mexico City in numbers depleted by ambushes, the Shelby cohort pledged support to the French, received land grants, and embarked on peaceful agrarian pursuits. His irenic hopes dashed by Mexican raids and French withdrawal in 1867, Shelby resumed life in Missouri and reconciled himself to the Union; he was a U.S. marshal upon his death in 1897. Impressed by Shelby's soldierly qualities and adaptability after the war, Arthur fluidly crafts an exciting narrative for Civil War buffs. --Gilbert Taylor
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (August 17, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400068304
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400068302
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,258,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By RNS VINE VOICE on November 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
It is sometimes said that "truth is often stranger than fiction," and this book certainly recounts such a case. While this well-written and fascinating account begins with telling of Shelby's privileged childhood and pre-Civil War business success and marriage in Missouri, the narrative picks up momentum with his defense of State's Rights and slavery that led to his role during the War as an enthusiastic and ruthless calvary commander.

At war's end, being proud and stubborn, Shelby refused to accept the defeat of the South and persuades hundreds of men to join him in a 1,200 mile trek down through Texas and into Mexico. Battling Apaches and wading through another Civil War between the Monarchists and the Republicans in Mexico he drives forward. His purpose? To make an offer to the French-installed "Emperor," Maximilian: Shelby and his men would take over the Mexican Army, get 40,000 more former Confederate soldiers to join them and then take over the government. Lacking supplies, illness, defections, cash and missing their families, they obviously didn't succeed.

Leaving Mexico once Maximilian was executed, Shelby returns to the United States to a life as a farmer and later, at the age of 62, to an appointment as a U.S. marshal for the Western portion of Missouri. He died in 1897 after making a full circle of his life by hiring a black deputy and embracing many of the positive issues that transformed the country during what become known as the "Progressive Era."

What a story ! It is so unfortunate that the author, Dr. Anthony Arthur, Professor Emeritus of Literature at California State University, Northridge died shortly after publication -- his research is thorough, the writing is captivating and interesting, and the book fascinating! Highly recommended for academic collections and readers interested in the Civil War.

R. Neil Scott
Middle Tennessee State University
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Arthur's book is both an easy read and full of interesting but little known (at least to the general public) civil war era facts. I had heard of Shelby's refusal to surrender and that alone peaked my interest in this book. What surpised me however, was the content revolving around French colonial Mexico and the serious discussions that were held concerning the invasion of Mexico by a joint Union/Confederate army. Top that off with Shelby's connection with the outlaw Frank James and you have a well researched historical work that does not restrain itself to the colorless recitation of battles and tactics of the civil war but a work that puts real flesh and blood on historical figures. An easy 224 pages (plus notes), this is a "must read" for anyone interested in the crazy ways that the civil war came to a close and a definitive biography of General Jo Shelby.
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As a Civil War buff myself, little is known about the Confederate force that refused to surrender after the war ended, and what became of them when they marched south of the Rio Grande to offer their services to the French-backed emperor Maximilian and his French army in Mexico. 300 men marched to hopefully become soldiers in a new nation, but their offer was rejected. Over the next 2 years, one by one, they trickled back to the United States as the political situation in Mexico and the upcoming departure of the French Army took place, as bandits and raiders destroyed their settlements and any chance they had for a better life away from the hated Yankees.

This book describes those events in great detail, and I learned more about the stories behind Jo Shelby and his men than I could in the past hundred Civil War books. This book is an excellent read, filled with tales of hope, adventure, and even a few more gunfights.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Change a very few details & you have a fairy tale or a saga of knights errant. Shelby & company even rescue a fair maiden from the castle of an ogre. On the way to join Maximilian, they perform numerous heroic & chivalrous deeds. Perhaps more quixotic than his men, Shelby was unhappy that they chose to join the emperor's forces rather than Juarez, but agreed to lead them. Upon Maximilian's refusal to hire Shelby & his men, General Shelby accurately assessed the Emperor's weak position in Mexico, telling him that not one square foot of the country was in sympathy with him. Of course his warning fell on deaf ears. One of the great Confederate cavalry commanders, Shelby mellowed with age & was appointed a U.S. Marshal for Western Missouri by a Republican president. This well written book contains a wealth of fascinating information about Shelby, Maximilian, Napoleon III, the American Civil War & many other people & things.
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I have read allot of Civil War history and this was an incredible book on a huge slice of that history that has been ignored. It fills in the gaps of what happened to those that could not stand to be under the yoke of tyrants and even went to Mexico to escape. General Jo Shelby was one of a kind even among giants of that era. Amazing man as can be seen from what was said by his enemies after the war who became admirers and friends.
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Anthony Arthur's book is an excellent one that incorporates his outstanding writing abilities to create a first-class study of a too-often ignored superb heroic cavalryman in the Civil War, who spent his time in the neglected Trans-Mississippi area. Donald L. Gilmore, author of Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas Border.
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