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Rebel: The Life and Times of John Singleton Mosby Paperback – July 1, 2008
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Rebel yields solid insights into the warrior [Mosby]. . . . A definite contribution to Civil War and Reconstruction history. -- Grand Rapids Press
A splendid portrait. -- Richmond Times-Dispatch
This crisply written, well researched biography provides an entertaining rundown on the exploits of a bonafide Confederate hero. -- Atlanta Journal
Decent, solid, popular biography. -- Village Voice
In this sympathetic, brightly told account, [Mosby] emerges as an unpredictable, fiercely independent figure with a near-obsessive "affinity for the irregular" in all things. . . . Siepel recreates Mosby's Civil War years nicely. -- Publishers Weekly
From the Back Cover
Rebel 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.
Top customer reviews
Only now as a veteran Army Infantry Captain and Vietnam war helicopter pilot do I realize what a great impact the life of this man has had on me and so much I have done.
Siepel's book gives us a look at much more than just the exploits, if you can say the words, "just the exploits" about Mosby. For as a student of history and military history it is hard to find a comparison to what this man did. I carefully studied to try to find the key. How do you routinely route and defeat 200 of the best equipped and trained cavalry the Union army has to offer with 30 men? And this is not just a single incident, this was routine! What was the key? In Siebel's book I thought I could find it in Mosby's later life. As he bloomed in years perhaps the flowers essence would at last reveal itself. And, subtly it does. I don't want to spoil the book for you, but in it you will find the story of a man who shoots a bully in college and goes to jail, starts Confederate army life as a private and ends it as a Lt. Colonel, and is commended by none other than Robert E. Lee more than any other officer. (For those who do not know, generals do not often take notice of Lt. Colonels, must less commend them).
After the war this "god" of war has a checkered and interesting career. Just as in army life, he never puts himself or his gain first. Just as in the Army when he allowed his me to pillage captured military stock and equipment for themselves but scrupulously avoids doing so himself, the same mannerism occur, much to his fiscal harm, in his many government jobs where he has opportunity to reap the illegal profits all around him seem to enjoy.
Simple, black and white, right and wrong, the best friend you could ever have and the most skilled advisary, as Union General Stoughton finds out when Mosby kidnaps him from his bed in the middle of his sleeping army. The equal of Alexander the Great on miniature or the young biblical David fighting the Philistines, such are the verified exploits of this one in a thousand years warrior.
Very few of those who have written about the man give much ink to Mosby's PRE-war politics save only in passing. If they had, they would have made considerably less of his POST-war politics. For John Singleton Mosby was NEVER a Democrat. He had very little use for that party and still less use for it after the war. Mosby was a "Henry Clay Whig", a member of the political party that gave rise to the Republicans. Among other prominent "Northern" policies, Mosby believed in public education. Indeed, after the war he stated that slavery would never have lasted as an institution had education been available to the average Southerner instead of just those with enough money to afford it. As well, Mosby saw the internecine fighting in the Democrat party as the reason for Lincoln's election (it was) and at the time of secession, backed the Democrat-Unionist candidate rather than the Democrat-secessionist.
After the war, it is true that Mosby supported Democrats, but that was locally for to do otherwise was to support the Radicals and their party of occupation. He was a conservative white Southerner, a man who wished to see Southern whites back in charge of their local and state governments and blacks back in their place. But it is well to remember that the concept of white supremacy was universal those days. Even the most vocal white supporter of emancipation did not believe that the Negro was his equal or deserved to govern (except, of course, in the South as a means of punishing former rebels). Lincoln was very clear on this matter and advocated relocating freed slaves either to Africa or to colonies in the Caribbean.
Mosby first went from supporting Democrats both locally and nationally to supporting Democrats locally and Republicans nationally in the presidential election of 1872 when the Democrats ran a sort of "fusion" candidate, the well known, newspaper editor Horace Greeley. Greeley had been an outspoken enemy of the South for years although he did reject any attempt to keep the region in the Union by force. Mosby stated that he preferred Grant, then running for his second term, whom the South only fought for four years to Greeley whom it had fought for forty and that the man to whom Lee had surrendered his sword was the "lesser of two evils". Of course, Mosby's support of Grant was also personal for he felt that he was indebted to Grant for removing his status as an outlaw and granting him a parole, thus saving him from the penitentiary or the gallows. But it wasn't until the election of 1876 that Mosby decided to "cross the Rubicon" and actually register as a Republican, thus beginning his odyssey from hero to pariah.
But that journey though years long had actually been a short one both ideologically and politically for as a former Henry Clay Whig, John Singleton Mosby had never strayed very far from the Party he eventually adopted as his own to the horror and rage of his former compatriots and the apparent surprise of his biographers.