General Joseph Orville Shelby

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General Joseph Orville Shelby

Joseph Orville Shelby  (Confederate)

Biographical data and notes:
- Born Dec 12 1830 in Lexington
- Joseph Orville Shelby died on Feb 13 1897

Enlistment:
- Enlisted on Dec 15 1863 as a General Officer

Promotions:
- Promoted to Brig-Gen (Full, Vol) (date not indicated)

Biography:
Brigadier-General Joseph O. Shelby

 

Brigadier-General Joseph O. Shelby was born at Lexington, Ky.,
in 1831, of a family prominent in the early history of
Kentucky and Tennessee, and with a military record extending
back to King's Mountain. His education was received in the
schools of his native State.

At the age of 19, he removed to Lafayette county, MO., where by
industry and thrift he became the owner of a rope factory, and
a planter. He was rapidly accumulating a fortune when he was
led to take an active part in the Kansas border troubles,
siding with the Southern party.

When the civil war commenced, he left everything to organize a
company of cavalry which marched at once to Independence, Mo.
With them, he fought at Booneville and captured the steamer
Sunshine. Soon after this, he joined General Price's army in
the western part of the State. From this time forward General
Shelby was actively engaged in every campaign of the war, west
of the Mississippi.

He was one of the most daring of all the leaders in that part
of the general field of conflict and was ever ready for the
most hazardous enterprise. He commanded his company
dismounted in the defense of Corinth, and in June, 1862, was
commissioned colonel with instructions to find his regiment in
Missouri.

Going with his company to Devall's Bluff, he soon led the
advance in a raid into Missouri and recruited his regiment in
Lafayette county. In January, 1863, he was commanding a
brigade including his own and three other Missouri regiments,
and on the 13th of the following December, he received the
commission of brigadier general.

At the battle of Pea Ridge, he especially distinguished
himself, as also at Newtonia, Cane Hill and Prairie Grove. He
commanded a division in the Cape Girardeau expedition, and in
the attack on Helena was severely wounded. He was especially
famous as raider, some of the most important expeditions being
intrusted to him by General Price.

On September 16, 1864, General Magruder, commanding the
district of Arkansas, issued a congratulatory order in which
he said: "The major-general commanding this district announces
with pride to the troops one of the most gallant exploits and
successful expeditions of the war: the capture of five forts
by the heroic Shelby and his brave officers and men in the
face of superior numbers and the destruction of a large
portion of the railroad between Little Rock and Devall's
Bluff."

He then gives Shelby's report in full. We quote a part of it:

"The immediate and tangible fruits of my expedition are 577
prisoners including one field officer and eleven line
officers; over 250 Federals killed and wounded, ten miles of
railroad track completely destroyed * * * 3,000 bales of hay
consumed by fire; 20 hay machines chopped to pieces; five
forts razed to the ground; 500 stand of small arms distributed
to my unarmed men; many fine horses captured; twelve barrels
of salt brought off and given to a command suffering for it,
besides supplying needy soldiers with blankets, shoes, boots,
hats and clothing. * * * My details were tearing up the track
while the enemy's bullets fired at the covering regiments were
throwing splinters from the ties in their faces."

All this was accomplished in the proximity of a much larger
Federal force, which did not attack him, because Shelby's
skillful movements had caused them to greatly exaggerate his
strength. This was but one of his many daring and successful
affairs with the enemy in the campaigns in Arkansas and
Missouri.

General Shelby's generous disposition, careful regard for his
followers, and dauntless courage, made him the idol of his
men.

When the surrender had been made and the army disbanded,
Shelby gathered about him 600 men, for the most part
Missourians ready to follow him anywhere, whom he led to
Mexico to take part in the war between the imperialists under
Maximilian and the republicans under Juarez. He had expected
to aid Maximilian, but the emperor's propositions did not
please him and hence he changed his military scheme into a
colonization enterprise.

Among those in the colony with him were Gen. Sterling Price,
General McCausland of Virginia and General Lyon of Kentucky.
In 1867, General Shelby returned to the United States and to
his farm in Missouri. He was to the last thoroughly Southern
in sentiment, and remained in retirement most of the time
after the war.

In 1893, he was appointed by President Cleveland marshal for
the western district of Missouri, an office he held until his
death. During the great railroad strike of that year, he
performed his duties with the same fearlessness that he had
shown during his military career.

General Shelby in private life commanded the love and esteem
of his neighbors. His presence at the annual Confederate
reunions always aroused the greatest enthusiasm of the old
veterans, and none will be more sadly missed at these yearly
gatherings than Joseph O. Shelby, the gallant western military
leader.

His death occurred at his country home near Adrian, Mo.,
February 13, 1897.

Source: Confederate Military History, vol. XII, p. 221; General Officers of the Confederate States of America; National Archives.

Recommended Reading: General Jo Shelby: Undefeated Rebel (464 pages) (The University of North Carolina Press). Description: This vivid work reveals General Joseph Orville Shelby as one of the best Confederate cavalry leaders—and certainly the most colorful. Born in Lexington, Kentucky, but drawn by the promise of the growing West, Shelby became one of the richest men in Missouri. Siding with the Confederacy at the outbreak of the Civil War, he organized his Iron Brigade of cavalry—whose ranks included Frank and Jesse James—taught his men a slashing frontier style of fighting, and led them on incredible raids against Federal forces in Missouri. Continued below.
When the Confederacy fell, Shelby refused to surrender and instead took his command to Mexico, where they fought in support of the emperor Maximilian. Upon his return to Missouri, Shelby became an immensely popular figure in the state, eventually attaining the status of folk hero, a living symbol of the Civil War in the West.

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Recommended Reading: Jo Shelby's Iron Brigade (Hardcover: 381 pages) (Pelican Publishing Company) (July 15, 2007). Description: Through quest and conquest, Jo Shelby's troops grew into the greatest Confederate cavalry brigade west of the Mississippi. Jo Shelby's cavalry unit is considered by contemporary historians to be one of the toughest Civil War cavalry units in the West. The author offers an objective and even-handed view of this impressive military leader and his men. The author's decades-long research of Shelby's life and his principal officers is evident as he details the history of Shelby's Brigade from its origin in Missouri through the end of the Civil War and its eventual disbandment in Mexico. Jo Shelby's Iron Brigade provides a broader, more objective view of Shelby than those afforded by earlier accounts. Continued below.
The book moves swiftly through the background of events that swept America into Civil War and targets the turmoil that engulfed the Border state of Missouri. The writer then follows the action-packed career of Shelby through to--and even beyond-the war's end.
 

Recommended Reading: Black Flag: Guerrilla Warfare on the Western Border, 1861-1865: A Riveting Account of a Bloody Chapter in Civil War History. Editorial Review (Library Journal): The Civil War on the Kansas-Missouri border was initially fought by Bushwhackers and Jayhawkers, guerrillas from Missouri and Kansas, respectively. Union troops mostly displaced the Jayhawkers by 1862, but the Bushwhackers remained active until Lee's surrender. Historian Goodrich describes the death and destruction the guerrilla war wrought on this region through excerpts from diaries, letters, [photos], local news accounts, and published articles, letting the victims do most of the talking. Citing cases that graphically underscore the terrorism, Goodrich captures the fear of the populace. …There are a number of recent regional publications on this topic that do not achieve Goodrich's scope. This title should be considered for public libraries with strong Civil War collections. Continued below..

" . . . Black Flag: Guerrilla Warfare on the Western Border, 1861-1865: A Riveting Account of a Bloody Chapter in Civil War History is a compelling, dramatic, and well-written . . . " --Journal of Southern History

". . . compelling narrative of four years of virtually unmitigated savagery." --Blue & Gray Magazine

"[A] thorough and comprehensive study of this tragic, almost forgotten episode of American history." --History

A riveting eyewitness account of the bloody guerrilla fighting that raged along the Missouri-Kansas border during the Civil War. Drawing from a wide array of contemporary documents--including diaries, letters, and first-hand newspaper accounts--Thomas Goodrich presents a hair-raising report of life in this merciless guerrilla war.

 

Recommended Reading: Black Flag: Guerrilla Warfare on the Western Border, 1861-1865: A Riveting Account of a Bloody Chapter in Civil War History. From Library Journal: The Civil War on the Kansas-Missouri border was initially fought by Bushwhackers and Jayhawkers, guerrillas from Missouri and Kansas, respectively. Union troops mostly displaced the Jayhawkers by 1862, but the Bushwhackers remained active until Lee's surrender. Continued below...

Historian Goodrich describes the death and destruction the guerrilla war wrought on this region through excerpts from diaries, letters, local news accounts, and published articles, letting the victims do most of the talking. Citing cases that graphically underscore the terrorism, Goodrich captures the fear of the populace. He indulges in a few overly dramatic statements… This title should be considered for public libraries with strong Civil War collections.

 
Recommendedd Reading: Gray Ghosts of the Confederacy: Guerrilla Warfare in the West, 1861-1865. Review: Gray Ghosts is an excellent foray into a chapter of the Civil War that does not always garner attention -- the establishment of a police state in Missouri and the subsequent backlash and ensuing war of sabotage by local guerrillas. "Complexifying" the historical landscape, Missouri and Kansas had shared much animosity in the years leading up to the Civil War, and Kanasas, who was a steadfast Union state, used the War as an opportunity to raid Missouri towns as Union Army representatives. Missouri to this point had been a borderline state. Many of the bands of Guerrillas, while they received aid from the Confederacy, never considered themselves a part of any Civil War cause. As Bill Anderson wrote, "I am a guerrilla. I have never belonged to the Confederate Army, nor do my men...I have chosen guerrilla warfare to revenge myself for wrongs that I could not honorably avenge otherwise" (201). Continued below.

These "wrongs" included the murder of his father and mother and the imprisonment of Anderson's sisters. The book is excellently written with thorough footnotes and documentation. Brownlee applies an array of primary and secondary sources, and also shows himself to be an excellent writer, stringing together the accounts into a vivid portrait of the time. His conversations with such characters as Jessie and Frank James, Bloody Bill Anderson, and William Quantrill represent Lazaras-esque scholastic resurrections... From such a perspective, Brownlee comments on both the contextual factors shaping the guerrillas and the decisions they made that in turn shaped history.

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