[September 18, 2017] Warning for those with a fragile mind, hypersensitivity to reading things about events during the U.S. Civil War, or are a college “snowflake” … this book review may cause you to require mental counseling. I’m just kidding of course; as I don’t expect readers of this leadership blog to be such a person. Today’s review is about one of the better books I’ve read in several weeks. The topic of historical interest in the book involves the “most feared” military unit in the Civil War and why those men were so successful.
Mosby’s Rangers, Jeffry D. Wert, 1990.
The secret of great leadership never involves a single trait or personal characteristic but a combination of courage, circumstance, hard work, intelligence, and good fortune. Thus, the “secret” is no secret at all but a wide-ranging human endeavor that anyone can achieve if they possess the desire, willingness to learn, positive attitude, and are fortunate enough to live in a place and time that allows the opportunity.
In the modern world, such an opportunity is everywhere. And so it was in 1861 when a practicing lawyer from Virginia name John S. Mosby was thrust into a war to save his neighbors and protect his home state of Virginia from a federal government that threatened its state power and independence.
Jeffry Wert does an excellent job of pulling new research into a readable format and gives us insight on one of the most effective leaders during this very particular war. He writes that Mosby was opposed to the secession of the Southern states from the Union yet reluctantly joined a horse-mounted rifle company in 1860.
Mosby’s outward appearance as a small, slender man hid his real features. Through a series of military assignments and daring action in combat, Mosby eventually gained the confidence of senior Confederate leaders. Soon he was given command of a small scout unit – today we call them “Army Rangers.”
The success of Mosby’s partisan rangers reflected the iron discipline of its leader. Mosby himself became a ferocious warrior and exceptional tactician; much unlike his time as a lawyer. From this original nucleus of horse soldiers, the unit evolved into the 43rd Battalion of Virginia Cavalry becoming the most renowned combat unit of the U.S. Civil War.
By the war’s end in 1865, Mosby’s rangers stood unvanquished. All Union counteroperations against them had failed and his unit disbanded by Mosby instead of accepting the terms of surrender. Wert, as an amazing author, has given us a glimpse into the heart and soul of a man and his men fighting a war and succeeding beyond what anyone thought they could ever accomplish.
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