John Singleton Mosby was a Confederate leader or commander during the Civil War of the 43rd Battalion, Virginia Cavalry, otherwise known as “Mosby’s Rangers.” Mosby, also called the “Gray Ghost” since he and his men moved around so quickly and suddenly. His Rangers fought the Federals behind the lines in an area around Winchester, Virginia, which some called Mosby’s Confederacy. Mosby and many of his men were familiar with the region; their homes were here. Their families helped to hide them and also assisted in getting them food and other supplies they needed. Mosby and his rangers successfully hampered Federal movements and caused more Federal troops to be diverted to chase after them, instead of helping the Union cause against General Lee and others.
These letters from John Singleton Mosby to his friend Samuel F. Chapman date from 1880 until Mosby’s death in 1916. These primary sources into the life of Mosby reveal his politics and his feelings about what happened during the Civil War. They are at times quite personal - Mosby reveals his warmth toward Chapman and his family and others who were members of the Rangers.
Mosby held a lot of political clout with several presidents, especially Ulysses S. Grant. Mosby could ask that one of his former rangers be appointed to a job like postmaster or judge, Grant and other presidents would make it so. His letters also reveal his influence in Virginia politics. He was held in high regard by Southerners, especially Virginians, and even by his former enemies, including those whom he and his rangers had captured.
Editor Peter A. Brown provides introductions to each letter to set the stage for what follows. He also gives footnotes and notes about what Mosby meant or might have meant and who he was referring to in the letter when it is not clear. The centerfold has black-and-white photos of Mosby, Chapman, family members and Rangers. The foreword is by Jeffry D. Wert, and there is a bibliography and index.
Brown has transcribed the Mosby letters into being quite readable, although he was not always able to transcribe everything written in them (he notes those occasions in the letter). One learns a lot about Mosby, Chapman and the rangers, and a bit about the times they lived in. One also learns more about life as it was lived in those days.
Peter A. Brown is the author of Mosby’s Fighting Parson: The Life and Times of Sam Chapman (2001). This collection is highly recommended to Civil War enthusiasts, especially those interested in Mosby.