The Foreign Service Journal, November 2011

J OURNAL Editor S TEVE H ONLEY ’ S C lassic P icks FSJ J ULY -A UGUST 2004 N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 1 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 47 mong those who have studied American history, the name of Colonel John S. Mosby conjures up an image of “Mosby’s Rangers,” a Confederate guer- rilla band known for its highly effective harassment of Union troops during the American Civil War. Operating fre- quently by night behind enemy lines, these rugged Southern horsemen, led by a young Virginian lawyer-turned-soldier, stole acres of federal livestock, ambushed cavalry columns, derailed trains, sent hundreds of prisoners to Richmond — even plucked a Union general from his bed — and generally gave fits to commanders of regular troops operating in north- ern Virginia. Their leader was a favorite of Lee, who once exclaimed, “I wish I had a hundred like Mosby!” Not so well known, but equally colorful, is Col. Mosby’s subsequent diplomatic career as U.S. consul in Hong Kong from 1878 to 1885. The result of machinations by Mosby’s friends in the Rutherford B. Hayes administration, who wished to put their often uncomfortably forthright and out- spoken colleague at a distance from the day-to-day politick- ing of Washington, Mosby’s appointment plunged the lawyer-soldier into a different kind of warfare. Mosby proved as effective in this engagement as in his earlier battles, and the result was a consular housecleaning that greatly improved the United States’ reputation in China. An Irregular in War and Peace By the end of the Civil War, JohnMosby had become well known in the North— the subject of frequent, if ill-informed, newspaper articles — and was on the road to becoming a Southern icon. But the decisiveness that had enabled him to exert his will so forcefully during the war did not serve him well in the war’s immediate aftermath. Following the sur- render at Appomattox, Mosby proclaimed that the war was over, the cause was lost, and national life must go on. He would, he announced, help heal the nation, not contribute to its continuing division. Settling in Warrenton, Va., where he resumed the prac- tice of law, Mosby was not shy about making public this un- popular view. By 1872 he had kindled a friendship with Ulysses S. Grant, and soon thereafter turned Republican. His embrace of the party of Lincoln, and his outspoken insistence that, for the South to advance, the past must be forgotten, caused many of his former compatriots to seethe. By the mid-1870s, his young wife having recently passed away and Southern hostility boiling around him, Mosby closed up his law practice in Warrenton and moved his now-motherless family to Washington. To help ease his distress (and doubtless to distance them- selves from a fellow who, uncomfortably for all, marched to a different drummer), some of Mosby’s Republican friends — notably President Hayes and Representative (and future R EBEL R AIDER A S D IPLOMAT : J OHN M OSBY IN C HINA A S U.S. C ONSUL IN H ONG K ONG , THE COLORFUL C ONFEDERATE GUERRILLA LEADER GREATLY IMPROVED THE U NITED S TATES ’ REPUTATION IN C HINA . B Y K EVIN H. S IEPEL A Kevin H. Siepel is the author of Rebel: the Life and Times of John Singleton Mosby (St. Martin’s Press, 1983; DaCapo Press, 1997). His writings have appeared in Wild West, Civil War, Virginia Cavalcade, Notre Dame University Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, Reader’s Digest, Chicken Soup for the Soul , and elsewhere. FS H ERITAGE