Mosby's Rangers
The Virginia 43rd Cavalry Battalion.

Mosby's Rangers
by James J. Williamson

Full Title: Mosby's Rangers: A Record of the Operations of the Forty-Third Battalion Virginia Cavalry, from its Organization to the Surrender, from the Diary of a Private, Supplemented and Verified with Official Reports of Federal Officers and also of Mosby; with Personal Reminiscences, Sketches of Skirmishes, Battles and Bivouacs, Dashing Raids and Daring Adventures, Scenes and Incidents in the History of Mosby's Command.
588 pgs.

Williamson's account of operations with John Singleton Mosby is simply superb. Fortunately, for the sake of history, Williamson was in the habit of keeping a diary which, along with a compelling literary style, gives a modern immediacy to Mosby's guerrilla operations. Williamson, however, is no simple diarist. He has brilliantly footnoted his account with official orders and letters from both Federal and Confederate commanders and officials. By doing so, Williamson let's us into the thought processes--and frequently the embarrassment, confusion and humiliation--experienced by his enemies. It also gives us the opportunity to compare Mosby claims directly against Federal battle reports. Generally speaking, Mosby seems more credible than his enemies.

Mosby was certainly not the first guerrilla leader. Guerrilla warfare has been going on as long as there has been war. In Mosby's hands, however, guerrilla warfare became something of a science. He knew full well that his primary value to the Confederacy was as an irritant to the Federal colossus. With a tiny cadre of soldiers, seldom exceeding 300 in number, he is able to 'tie up' twenty or thirty times his number. Amazingly, despite the fact that the Federals conduct a scorched earth campaign to rid themselves of his nuisance, Mosby time and time again comes out the victor killing, wounding and capturing far more Federal troops than he loses himself. No, it wasn't all roses. Guerilla warfare, especially in an environment in which the enemy has enormous advantages in manpower, weaponry and logisitics is DANGEROUS. Many of Mosby's men are captured and killed. Despite this Mosby seems to have little problem in attracting additional recruits.

Recruits were sometimes more of a problem than a solution. Mosby's fame had spread over the South and many a regular soldier longed to be a Mosby man. Therefore desertions from the regular army to Mosby's Confederacy was a real problem that Mosby solved simply by returning all such stragglers to Confederate service. No doubt Mosby also attracted some undisciplined men who deserted to the enemy when things got tough. Still, as a group operating under extreme difficulties, Mosby's Rangers were a remarkably loyal and resilient bunch.

Mosby's tactics should be studied by all military men who would wage guerrilla war or conduct counter-guerrilla operations. Mosby's strength came from the land. He operated on ground that he was intimate with, where most of the local families were sympathetic to the Confederacy and were more than willing to help with shelter, food, protection and especially information. Mosby forms his band to attack an enemy strong point, patrol, train, sutlers' wagons, cavalry column etc. only to disband and disappear like the morning mist. He and his men are audacity personified. They read the enemy and when they find that the Yankees have faltered--even for a moment--the Yankke enemy is confronted by whirling, swirling, screaming terrors. The Yankee line usually breaks with large bags of prisoners and supplies. Mosby and his boys are horse thieves par excellence, a task that is all important to them in that they use up so many horses in their numerous fights.

Interestingly, despite the fact that the South is relentlessly ground down, Mosby is successful up until the very last moment. Federal soldiers, who may have participated in Lee's surrender, find themselves killed and captured by Mosby.

Mosby strikes where he isn't expected and let's the enemy strike where he isn't. Following Federal raids, he trails Yankee detachments like a wolf tracking a herd of caribou. He cuts off stragglers and destroys them. If he detects a weakness he falls on the main body like a whirlwind and drives them from the field in confusion. It is said that George Patton sat at Mosby's knee as a child and heard Mosby's war stories. I don't doubt it.

Mosby's Rangers
588 pgs.
Leatherbound - $45.00
Paperback - $45.00
CD-ROM - $15.00
EBOOK - $9.49



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