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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gray Ghost: The Life of Col. John Singleton Mosby by James A. Ramage

This must be THE definitive book on John Singleton Mosby

John Singleton Mosby (1833-1916)
James A. Ramage has written what must be THE definitive book on the life of John Singleton Mosby, Gray Ghost: The Life of Col. John Singleton Mosby. I cannot imagine a more thoroughly written book on the topic. Ramage discusses his family history, his childhood and more.

Of course, the largest amount is written about his service in the Civil War as a partisan ranger that terrorized the Union troops arrayed against Robert E. Lee. Ramage is definitely a fan of Mosby, but he refuses to get involved in the hype that Mosby and his contemporaries sometimes engaged in concerning how effective Mosby's men were. Ramage agrees that Mosby was cost-effective, meaning that his small groups of men - usually around 120 or so - would tie down thousands of Union soldiers, but disagrees with Mosby himself that he tied down tens of thousands.

The real strength of this biography is that Ramage covers Mosby's post-Civil War career thoroughly, including his controversial forays into politics and his government posting in Hong Kong. Ramage even includes a chapter on how Mosby has been represented in film and television, including a movie in which Mosby played himself in 1910.

This is not a book for the casual Civil War reader - there is too much specific detail and an assumption that the reader knows and understands the basics of the war. However, this book will continue to serve as the reference for all things Mosby.

I rate this biography 5 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on June 2, 2008.

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