This new edition (it was originally released in 1983 by St. Martin’s Press) of Rebel: The Life and Times of John Singleton Mosby, published by Bison Books of the University of Nebraska Press, includes two new introductions - the first by Peter A. Brown, who is the editor of John Singleton Mosby’s letters to his friend Sam Chapman, Taking Sides with the Truth (2007), and the second by Benjamin Franklin Cooling, the author of Counter-Thrust (2007).
Confederate partisan ranger commander Colonel John S. Mosby commanded a small regiment of irregular cavalry that operated around the Leesburg, Front Royal, and Manassas area in Virginia, a region that became known as “Mosby’s Confederacy” but was often behind the Union lines. Mosby’s rangers caused a lot of havoc for the Union army, attacking Union communication and supply lines causing a major diversion for the Union army to deal with; the Union had to send a lot of soldiers to catch or stop Mosby’s rangers. The colonel and his rangers were considered a positive asset for the Confederacy by General Robert E. Lee and others, although some Confederate generals thought Mosby and his rangers should be disbanded and forced to become part of the regular army and under more strict control. Luckily for Mosby, many in high Confederate positions disagreed or worked on compromises to Mosby’s benefit.
Mosby’s rangers did not surrender to Federal forces toward the end of the war, instead disbanding. Mosby himself surrendered some time after General Lee and General Johnston had. After the Civil War, Mosby became influential with various presidents whom he helped to get elected, most of whom were Republicans. He did not always agree with the radical Republicans, but he did not always agree with the Democrats, either. He worked for the good of the South, especially Virginia, getting friends and allies appointed through his connections to Federal positions like postmaster.
Mosby was himself appointed to various Federal positions. He was consul for the United States in Hong Kong, and he worked in the Department of the Interior and for the Justice Department. He also worked as a railroad lawyer - Mosby was not a rich man, but he tried to help various members of his family and those who had been his rangers.
John Mosby’s wife, Pauline, was a Roman Catholic, and their children were raised Catholic. Many of Mosby’s family converted to Catholicism, although he did not convert to Catholicism until his deathbed. Siepel mentions off and on the influence of Catholicism influence on him and his family. Most of Mosby’s life, he was most likely an agnostic; his daughter baptized him on his deathbed.
Rebel’s attention-holding narrative flows very well. Siepel provides many quotes mainly from Mosby himself and from others, providing as well endnotes, a bibliography and an index. A map of Virginia graces the front of the book, and several black-and-white photographs and illustrations appear throughout. The portrait of Mosby by Edward Caledon Bruce, reproduced for Rebel’s cover, hangs in the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia.
This book is highly recommended to Civil War enthusiasts and those interested in Southern biographies. Kevin H. Siepel is the author of Joseph Bennett of Evans and the Growing of New York’s Niagara Frontier (2006).