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Gray Ghost: The Life of Col. John Singleton Mosby Hardcover – August 19, 1999

4.5 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
The bestselling author of "Encyclopedia an Ordinary Life" returns with a literary experience that is unprecedented, unforgettable, and explosively human. Hardcover | Kindle book
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The extraordinary life of Confederate guerrilla John Singleton Mosby defies belief. Ramage (Northern Kentucky Univ.; Rebel Raider: The Life of General John Hunt Morgan) casts Mosby, whose raiders harassed Union rear columns and supply trains in the Shenandoah Valley, as the stoic icon of the Lost Cause who never hesitated to employ stealth, terror, and pillage against an equally resolute foe. Mosby never had more than 400 irregulars under his command, yet his raids occupied an enemy force many times that number. As an attorney in postwar Virginia, Mosby attempted to unite state conservatives behind Republican presidents Grant and Hayes and was spurned as a turncoat. He then took a number of Republican appointments, including U.S. consul in Hong Kong and assistant attorney in the Justice Department. In his later years, he lectured and wrote about his wartime experiences before passing away in 1916 at 82, fully redeemed on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. Painstaking research, dramatic illustrations, and a useful bibliographic essay add to this absorbing biography. Highly recommended.AJohn Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Athens
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Ramage can reasonably claim to have produced the first full-scale biography of legendary Confederate raider John Singleton Mosby. And a readable, comprehensive portrait of the 80-year life of a gifted, thoroughly combative man it certainly is. Before the war, Mosby shot a fellow student at the University of Virginia. During the war, he was an extraordinarily effective master of guerrilla tactics. Leading comparative handfuls of men, he did far more damage to the Union than the Union did to him. Only regular antiguerrilla measures were effective against him. After the war, Mosby's adherence to the Republican party made him persona non grata in the South, and he had to spend the rest of his career as a diplomat and federal attorney. Ramage has researched thoroughly--including interviewing one of Mosby's surviving grandchildren--and written clearly, making the book accessible to a wide range of readers. Slight pro-Confederate and psychobiographical elements do not seriously weaken this valuable addition to Civil War literature. Roland Green
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: The University Press of Kentucky; First Edition edition (August 19, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813121353
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813121352
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,149,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
An excellent book for anyone interested in the Civil War. Ramage has written an exciting, fast-paced biography of one of the South's most mythologized and celebrated Civil War heroes. He draws the reader into the world of Mosby from his early fights with childhood bullies to his final fight for J.E.B. Stuart's memory and legacy. Certainly one of the Confederacy's more popular figures, Mosby ruled an area of Virginia causing Union officers and privates alike to fear capture if separated from the main body. Mosby's able and selfless leadership set an example to his men, and both Stuart and Lee saw that he was no ordinary partisan ranger. Even after the war, Mosby's fight continued as he supported the Republican Grant for president. Ramage aptly delves into the now out-of-favor hero's post-war life and one of the best chapters in the book is his description of Mosby's fight against corruption as U.S. consul in Hong Kong. Ramage has gone through many sources and succeeded in bringing Mosby the man to life. The author even met with Mosby's grandson and received valuable first-hand descriptions of him in his later life. This book is destined to be the definitive work on the "Gray Ghost".
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Format: Hardcover
This book is about as close to entertainment as history can get. This does not mean that it is fiction however. Ramage writes a sturdy bio of Mosby. And although Mosby is one of the most famous, or infamous if you are a Yankee, Civil War personalities around, there aren't many good reads on him. However, Ramage's bio is terrific from both a historian's and a reader's point of view. Ramage is obviously an admirer of Mosby's, but does not blindly believe all that comes with the "Mosby myth". Instead, Ramage uses both primary and secondary sources to try to find the real Mosby and see what his real exploits were. The descriptions of Mosby's forays are fast-paced and exciting. The chapters on Mosby's post-war career are extremely interesting as we see the hated Mosby become a Republican and friend of U.S. Grant. Mosby also became embroiled in disputes with "Lost Cause" people like Jubal Early due to Mosby's support of J.E.B. Stuart. Interesting all the way around.
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Format: Hardcover
James A. Ramage has written what must be THE definitive book on the life of John Singleton Mosby. I cannot imagine a more thoroughly written book on the topic. Ramage discusses his family history, his childhood and more.

Of course, the largest amount is written about his service in the Civil War as a partisan ranger that terrorized the Union troops arrayed against Robert E. Lee. Ramage is definitely a fan of Mosby, but he refuses to get involved in the hype that Mosby and his contemporaries sometimes engaged in concerning how effective Mosby's men were. Ramage agrees that Mosby was cost-effective, meaning that his small groups of men - usually around 120 or so - would tie down thousands of Union soldiers, but disagrees with Mosby himself that he tied down tens of thousands.

The real strength of this biography is that Ramage covers Mosby's post-Civil War career thoroughly, including his controversial forays into politics and his government posting in Hong Kong. Ramage even includes a chapter on how Mosby has been represented in film and television, including a movie in which Mosby played himself in 1910.

This is not a book for the casual Civil War reader - there is too much specific detail and an assumption that the reader knows and understands the basics of the war. However, this book will continue to serve as the reference for all things Mosby.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is recommended to any reader who wants to read about the somewhat limited area of special forces used in the war. The book is highly detailed and especially in the last half of the book gives you an insight as to how Mosby had an affect on some battles in the war mainly by attracting Union troops away from their original duty assignments to chase after him and his fighters. Mosby did not really have a large impact on the war or a specific battle except for keeping some Union troops engaged in guarding Washington DC because of his many attempts to capture Union troops or their commanders in the Capitol or the immediate area.
The first half of the book spends too much detail on insignificant actions and often describes them in only one sentence which made me lose interest in time but the second half gave me a more complete analysis of Mosby's major activities both in battles and impact.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a great book on a confederate icon about whom I'd heard, but as to whom I never really knew much. A great read; hard to put down. It spans his sickly childhood, through his arrest and conviction at the University of Virginia for shooting a local bully, through his finding himself in the Confederate calavry operating behind Union lines throughout the War. Never captured (although seriously wounded at one point), always honorable, he kept hundreds and at one point thousands of Union soldiers/cavalry tied up protecting against his sudden appearances. Then, the real shocker: after the War, he became friends with General/President Grant and was sent to the Indian Territories and Hong Kong on behalf of the US Government to clean up corruption there (which he did), and then he became an attorney with the US Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. for the remainder of his career. An amazing life and journey. Well worth the read.
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