March 19, 2010
Gray Ghost: the Life of Col. John Singleton Mosby
By Br. Benet S. Exton *

By Br. Benet S. Exton *

Ramage, James A. "Gray Ghost: The Life of Col. John Singleton Mosby." Lexington, Kentucky : The University Press of Kentucky, February 2010. 432 pages. Paperback. ISBN 978-0-8131-9253-6  $24.95

In this book, James A. Ramage provides a wonderful biography of John S. Mosby’s life. Originally published in 1999, the book focuses predominantly on Mosby’s Civil War days. However, Ramage provides a lot of material about his life both before and after the war as well.

John S. Mosby was a Confederate partisan during the American Civil war. He, along with his regiment, wore the gray uniform and was recognized by the Confederate government as being part of the army. In his early twenties, Mosby became the commander of a group of Virginians whose main task was to work behind the Union lines. Because Mosby was originally from northwest Virginia, he had many relatives and friends in that area that helped to Mosby and his men. Because Mosby and his partisans were able to appear and disappear quickly, he was nicknamed the “Gray Ghost.”  Mosby was very successful in diverting Union forces from other campaigns due to his perceived threat to the capital, supply lines, and communications. The Confederate leadership loved what he was doing and encouraged him to continue doing it.

After the Civil War, Mosby worked for and supported the Republican presidents Grant, Garfield, Hays and McKinley. However, this did not go over too well with other Southerners. Nevertheless, Mosby ignored them because he wanted to reconcile the South with the North and move things forward for the good of the entire country. Because of the reputation he earned during the war, Mosby was a man that not many people were willing to mess with.

While Mosby he was living in Kentucky after the war, he worked as a lawyer. It was during this time that he married a Catholic woman, Mariah L. Pauline Clarke. The couple had several children who were raised in the Catholic faith. Mosby supposedly converted to Catholicism on his deathbed. But even before his death, he always supported his wife’s faith and that of his children by sending them to Catholic schools, even after his wife died.

In the biography, Ramage provides quotes from Mosby’s own diaries and from other primary sources. The book also features maps and a centerfold of photos. This book was a joy to read and it was hard to put it down. One can easily lose their self in the story and forget the outside world.

This book is highly recommended to Civil War enthusiasts and anyone wanting to know more about unique personalities in American history.

Br. Benet Exton, O.S.B., St. Gregory's University, Shawnee, Oklahoma.

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