Enduring Respect for Mosby
I recently resubscribed to Civil War Times, which is in my opinion better than ever. I especially wanted to thank you for the article on John Mosby in the August issue, “The South Was My Country,” by Douglas Gibboney. I’m a native Virginian, and I’m sure Mosby’s heroism and nobility still resonates with northwestern Virginians. And I like seeing Mosby get some love beyond his native region.
There is so much wrong with your article on John Mosby both factually (the picture with his daughter is mislabeled as Virginia when it is actually Pauline and her children) and by inference that its intention and objectivity must be called into question.
The idea that he simply “faded” from view (per your cover) is nonsense. Furthermore, right until the end of his life, Mosby was a figure of both affection and hatred. Men who garner that level of emotional response are hardly irrelevant, as this article seems to indicate was the case. And proof of Mosby’s mental acuity up to his death is obvious: He was writing and lecturing in New England until failing health prevented public appearances.
I admit to being a Mosby partisan, but I also have what I consider to be overwhelming proof that my feelings are deserved. In one article well after the war, a journalist used the term “sublime” when speaking of Mosby’s stand at war’s end, which led him to become a pariah and an exile from everything he loved. That should certainly give pause to readers considering Mosby’s character.
It’s been 95 years since John Mosby died on May 30, 1916. Surely he deserves better than one more “hit piece” endeavoring to prove that he was nothing more than a historically interesting but irrelevant figure who worked hard to make a legend of himself for glory and profit.
Valerie Protopapas, Editor
Southern Cavalry Review
Stuart-Mosby Historical Society
Author Douglas Gibboney responds: Like you, I would consider myself a “Mosby partisan.” I’ve studied him ever since I read the Jonathan Daniels bio when I was 6 years old, some 51 years ago. In the 1980s I was a member of your society and allowed some of the letters from my own collection to be used in the second edition of The Letters of John S. Mosby. In fact, the great portrait used to open my CWT article was first published when I loaned it for the second edition.
The use of the word “fade” is in no way derogatory. It simply alludes to Douglas MacArthur’s quote about how “old soldiers never die”—quite a tribute, really!
Your input on the photo is much appreciated. In the scrapbook it was simply labeled “Mosby, Daughter, Grandchildren.” Researching Mosby’s four grandchildren, I came to the conclusion that May’s two sons were probably too old, and May died around the time this was taken. I decided that the photo seems to be of daughter Virginia and grandchildren Beverly and Pauline. You suggest the photo is of Colonel Mosby’s daughter “Pauline and her two children.” I can find no indication that she ever married or had children. If this is in fact an error, I welcome the opportunity to correctly identify the photo.
The article was in no way intended as a “hit piece.” Mosby is one of my personal heroes. But history has many facets, and we must explore them all.
Atlantans Will Never Forget
Craig Swain’s article on the “Yankee Super Gun” in the August issue does a great job highlighting the role of 4.5- inch rifled siege cannons with the Army of the Potomac. But his statement that “these behemoths remain little more than a footnote to history” will surprise Atlantans, who remember that Sherman used these big guns against our city in August 1864.
Between August 9-25, the 4.5-inchers fired 4,526 rounds into Atlanta— nearly 75 tons of metal—setting fires and killing civilians.
Commemorate, Not Celebrate
As a subscriber for nearly 30 years, I’d say Dana Shoaf hit the nail squarely on the head with his editorial on commemoration vs. celebration in the August issue. His point was driven home so powerfully by the photos of soldiers who were basically children.
I became fascinated with the war during the 1961 Centennial, when it was a daily part of my instruction in elementary school in the small town where I grew up and still reside. I was attracted to the excitement and what I perceived as glamour associated with uniforms, weapons and fighting. Much of that changed when I was old enough to understand what I was seeing on TV during the Vietnam War.
Now, with an 18-year-old son, I’m touched by the terrible suffering the soldiers went through at that age. I am still fascinated with the Civil War, not because of the militaria, but because it set a race of people free. I enjoy every issue of Civil War Times. You folks do a fine job.
Handling Hot Shot
In Adam Goodheart’s article about the fall of Fort Sumter in the June issue, I was curious about the sentence, “The defenders could see the enemy firing red-hot cannonballs, heated in furnaces ashore.” How did they load hot shot into a cannon charged with gunpowder?
Artillery expert Craig Swain responds: When firing hot shot, Ordnance Manuals directed gunners to use a standard powder cartridge, but said it should be double bagged and wadded with moistened clay or wet hay. After loading the hot shot, gunners added another similar wad on top, to prevent the projectile from slipping. The manual warned that if hay wads were used, steam would issue from the gun’s vent. But provided the gun was fired without delay, there was no danger.
William Marvel, author of the August issue’s “The Boy Brigadier” article, pointed out that the image labeled as Edmund Kirby on P. 55 is not Kirby (the real Kirby is shown at right). The Library of Congress, which identified the photo as Kirby, has been informed of the error.
Originally published in the October 2011 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.