Monday, July 25, 2016

Five books on Jo Shelby

1. General Jo Shelby: Undefeated Rebel (1954) by Daniel O'Flaherty.
Though Missouri's Joseph Orville "Jo" Shelby is considered by many to be the finest cavalry officer that fought for either side in the Trans-Mississippi, remarkably few books have been specifically devoted to the man. Shelby features prominently in a multitude of Civil War military studies, but the only full treatment of his life remains journalist Daniel O'Flaherty's 60+ year old biography (reissued in 2000). Well received at the time of publication, the book's scholarship is showing its age at this point, leaving ample room for an enterprising historian to give a modern biographical treatment a go.
2. Shelby and His Men: Or. The War in the West (1867) by John Newman Edwards.
Written soon after the war during exile in Mexico when events were still fresh in his mind, Edwards's book's lionizes Shelby and the cause for which he fought in extravagant prose. His post-war account not known for a sparkling degree of historical objectivity, journalist Edwards nevertheless was Shelby's adjutant during the war (apparently penning all of his commander's reports) and thus possessed inside knowledge that cannot be completely ignored (though all should take what he has to say with more than the usual grain of salt). His writings are foundational resources for other books on the list.
3. Jo Shelby's Iron Brigade (2007) by Deryl P. Sellmeyer.
Shelby's command was one of the remarkable Civil War units branded with the "Iron Brigade" sobriquet, and Selmeyer's book is a serviceable leadership, organization, and operations study. While not entirely satisfactory in terms of research and analysis, no other book offers a descriptive look at Shelby's military career (or his brigade's performance during many raids, skirmishes, and battles) in like depth.
4. Fallen Guidon: The Saga of Confederate General Jo Shelby's March to Mexico (1962) by Edwin Adams Davis.
Second to his Civil War service, Shelby is perhaps best known for his unrepentant Rebel status, trekking to Mexico with his men (and famously burying his battle flags in the Rio Grande) instead of surrendering and returning home to Missouri. Published over half a century ago (and university press reissued in 1995), Davis's book is a brief account of the epic march of Shelby and his men, which ended in disappointment with Emperor Maximilian declining their offer of military service and the Mexican colonies of ex-Confederates breaking up with the regime's 1867 collapse.
5. The Fifth Season: General "JO" Shelby's Great Raid of 1863 (2001) by Mark E. Scott.
In 1863, Shelby and his brigade embarked on one of the war's longest cavalry raids, traveling 1,500 miles across Arkansas and Missouri over 41 days. Scott's book, based on his master's thesis, is a useful (if rather amateurishly presented by the publisher) overview of the "Great Raid," the real accomplishments and impact of which remain controversial.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for bringing this to our attention and thanks for your superb blog.


If you wish to comment, please sign your name. Otherwise, your submission may be rejected, at the moderator's discretion. Comments containing outside promotions and/or links will be deleted.