MOSBY MEN
MOSBY MEN
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Excerpts from the Published Works of Eric Buckland

From Mosby Men V:

Another of Mosby’s Men Tells of
That Famous Band

 

           IN the recent and remarkable rush of Southern literature — much of which would have a distinctly historical value were it not so pronouncedly partisan — Mosby and his men have figured conspicuously. There have been many books about them, the first appearing immediately after the Civil War. It was by Major John Scott and was a fantastic and. necessarily, undependable account. In as much as the details had been gleaned from the anecdotes of the guerrillas and lacked the fidelity and coherency of accounts written by the men themselves. A recent book by John W. Munson was among the best of the Mosby works and did more than any other to show the real awe which Mosby’s “irregulars” inspired in those stirring times.

Now comes “Mosby’s Men,” by John H. Alexander, a real soldier book, if one was ever written. He says in the first chapter: “Of course, my first object is to entertain you, and I have pulled from quite a mass of material just those things which I think will please you most. At the same time I hope to present facts so as to lead you to true conceptions of my old companions in arms, and to vindicate them from the unjust charges under which they have rested in some quarters of being a band of ruffians and desperadoes.”

The most perfect picture of the character of the men and object of their operations is in this chapter. The author says: “For three or four hundred men to preserve their organization for years in an open country within fifty miles of their enemy’s great capital and escape capture by the armies which surrounded them and constantly traversed their territory; for them to depose themselves so as to be at any given time to all intents and purposes at every point on a circle about them, and keep forty thousand of their enemies back from the front actively and anxiously engaged in watching them; all this required pretty lively equestrian exercise. The most active
among them had several horses apiece, and their only respite from the saddle for days and days would be at the bivouac and short halts in the march. Fifty miles a day was no unusual ride.” Is it surprising that men with such severe training accomplished such results?

When the men were not under the command of an officer with some special detail they were absolutely dependent upon themselves for their supplies and their own safety. This taught them self-reliance, but it is most surprising how true they were to the trust reposed in them, for they were all youngsters, this author himself but little past 16. In describing some of the men who went toward making up the company he says: “Altogether it was peculiarly adapted material which Providence sent to our brilliant young leader, and his wonderful genius manifested itself as much in understanding his men as in recognizing and rising to the opportunities which came to him. He knew each man personally, and seemed to read him at a glance and ascertain exactly what sort of fellow he was and exactly what use to make of him. He mingled with his men, rode with them, slept with them and fought side by side with them. Few members of the command had a longer list of wounds and captures than himself, and fewer still perhaps were responsible for more personal execution. His care against needlessly exposing them; his great skill in securing them every possible advantage; his cool, quiet courage and the almost unvarying success of every enterprise which he personally conducted secured the perfect confidence of his men. His ready sympathy with them, which in hours of relaxation or in times of suffering revealed his big and tender heart, inspired them with an affection for him which has survived the vicissitudes of the years and is no less strong now because mellowed by the rays of life’s
setting sun.”

The most interesting of the battles described and characteristic of the guerrillas in action is the “Blazer fight.”

Captain Richard Blazer, a distinguished soldier from West Virginia, undertook, with the sanction of General Sheridan, to wipe the Mosby command off the map. For a time he seemed on the road to accomplishing his object, but Mosby was annoyed by him and finally determined to get rid of him and almost annihilated Blazer’s command. The description of the tactics employed and the excitement of the fight is one of the best chapters in the book.

          Mr. Alexander has culture and education to help him in writing this book and he has told his story well. (Neale Publishing Company, New York. Price $2.).