Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Jo Shelby

When a friend emailed me the news that Random House is publishing a new Jo Shelby book later this year, my excitement waned considerably as I learned General Jo Shelby's March will be yet another book about the famous Confederate's journey to and exile in Mexico.

Ever since Shelby's adjutant and admirer John Newman Edwards published Shelby's Expedition to Mexico: An Unwritten Leaf of the War in 1872, interest in the Missouri general among writers seems to remain largely centered around his time south of the border. Since Andrew Rolle's The Lost Cause: The Confederate Exodus to Mexico (U. of Okla Pr, 1965), there's also been Edwin Adams Davis's Fallen Guidon: The Saga of Confederate General Jo Shelby's March to Mexico (Tex A&M U. Pr, 1995). For a celebrity style Confederate figure, it is a bit surprising there has been only one full length biography, Daniel O'Flaherty's now dated General Jo Shelby, Undefeated Rebel (UNC Pr, 1954) and, just recently, a flawed but interesting military history of his command by Deryl Sellmeyer titled Jo Shelby's Iron Brigade (Pelican, 2007). A truly exceptional book about Shelby's Civil War career has yet to be written.


  1. Drew: I fear that there won't be a new biography of Shelby any time soon. One problem is that Edwards makes it difficult to paint a true picture of Shelby. In addition, and more importantly, there is a definite dearth of manscripts that would help define his military career. Oddly enough, not many of his men left diaries, memoirs, etc., that is the heart of a good new biography. And Shelby left little written material for the historian. It is a real pity.

    Jim McGhee

  2. Thanks, Jim. That is a shame. If one can only look from the outside in, I can see why writers might avoid the attempt.


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