Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Gray Ghost: The Life of Col. John Singleton Mosby

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Gray Ghost: The Life of Col. John Singleton Mosby

Article excerpt

Gray Ghost: The Life of Col. John Singleton Mosby. By James A. Ramage. (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, c. 1999. Pp. [viii], 428. $30.00, ISBN 0-8131-2135-3).

James A. Ramage, the author of Rebel Raider: The Life of General John Hunt Morgan (Lexington, Ky., 1986), has now written another fine biography of a Confederate cavalryman. John S. Mosby stands among the best of the Confederacy's horse soldiers--including Jeb Stuart (his revered commander), Nathan Bedford Forrest, John Morgan, and Joe Wheeler--and he ranks as well among the best guerrilla leaders in warfare. Although he seldom commanded more than four hundred men, Mosby confounded, baffled, and generally irked a long list of Union generals; caught one of them (Edwin H. Stoughton); killed, wounded, or captured at least 2,900 enemy troops; and so completely dominated his opponents that a section of northern Virginia became known as "Mosby's Confederacy." Well researched and clearly written, Ramage's book puts Mosby in balanced perspective.

Despite admiring his leader, Mosby did not fit well into Stuart's regular cavalry. Not until the Confederate Congress passed the Partisan Ranger Act in April 1862 did he find his niche. Even then he had to persuade Stuart and others that he could raid behind enemy lines with a small band, gain important intelligence, disrupt logistics, and do damage. He accomplished what he claimed he could do, by using classic partisan tactics as well as his own innovations. His raids never rivaled the scale of John Hunt Morgan's in the West, but Mosby did remarkably well. Since supplies were an objective, he stole vast quantities of food, munitions, wagons, horses, and mules. …

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