General Jo Shelby's March by Anthony Arthur
One of the most remarkable but surprisingly little known stories of the post–Civil War era is the unforgettable account of how a famous Confederate general forged a defiant new life out of crushing defeat and finally achieved forgiveness and respect in his own reunited land.
General Jo Shelby, a daring and ruthless cavalry commander renowned and notorious for his slashing forays behind Union lines, declared after Appomattox that he would never surrender. With three hundred men, some from his fighting “Iron Brigade” regiment, others adventurers, fortune hunters, and deserters, he headed for Mexico.
In vivid detail, General Jo Shelby’s March describes the dusty and dangerous 1,200-mile trek that this “last holdout of the Confederacy” made through a lawless Texas swarming with desperadoes and on into a Mexico teeming with Juárez’s rebels and marauding Apaches. After near fratricide among his fraying band of brothers, Shelby arrived to present a quixotic proposal to Emperor Maximilian: he and his fellow Americans would take over the Mexican army and, after being reinforced by forty thousand more Confederate soldiers, the government itself. Though a dramatic, doomed, and brave endeavor, Shelby’s actions changed both him and American history forever.
Historian Anthony Arthur then recounts the astonishing end of Shelby’s career: his return to the United States and his renouncing of slavery, his nomination by President Grover Cleveland to become U.S. marshal for western Missouri, and his eventual fame as a model of nineteenth-century progressivism.