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The Edge of Mosby's Sword

The Life of Confederate ColonelWilliam Henry Chapman

Gordon Blackwell Bonan

Publication Year: 2009

This first scholarly biography of Lieutenant Colonel William Henry Chapman (1840-1929) covers the life of Colonel John Singleton Mosby's second-in-commmand. Chapman, a student at the University of Virginia before the Civil War, started his own bridgade but later joined the cavalry as one of Mosby's Rangers. After the war's end, the Confederate embraced the Republican party and found employment with the Federal government as an IRS agent. Though he had fought enthusiastically and vigorously for his native South, when the war was over and the cause was lost, he accepted defeat with dignity and devoted the remainder of his life to rebuilding the nation.

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

My first memory of the Civil War was between the ages of nine and eleven while living in Wallingford, Connecticut. The rolling hills, meadows, and forests of the Choate School, where my family lived at the time, were my Virginia, which I tenaciously defended against Northern aggression with my sword, pistol, and battle flag. It was a memory born of my mother and her family—children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of Lt. Col. William ...

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1: A Man’s Courage

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pp. 1-6

The 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry was one of the famed Southern cavalry units of the Civil War. Its commander, Col. John Singleton Mosby, was an astute military tactician, a pugnacious warrior, and a dashing cavalier. His daring exploits rivaled those of his mentor, Gen. James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart. Under Mosby’s leadership, this band of a few hundred partisan rangers instilled fear and confusion with their quick, precise raids against the supply ...

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2: Liberty and Union

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pp. 7-20

William Henry Chapman was born to well-established families who had accumulated ample wealth, land, and slaves along the eastern and western flanks of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia in the one hundred or so years since his forebears had settled in colonial America. His mother, Elizabeth Forrer Chapman, was two months shy of twenty-nine years old when she bore her second son. She was the granddaughter of the Swiss immigrant ...

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3: A Much Pleasanter Service

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pp. 21-29

Following the 1860 presidential election and the secession of South Carolina, students at the University of Virginia organized two military companies comprising over one-quarter of the student body. Student military companies had been part of the academic culture since the founding of the university, but the faculty had disbanded them in an era of student riots. Now, the faculty granted permission for students to again form military companies. Law ...

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4: We Suffered Considerably

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pp. 30-44

The Confederate army around Centreville began stirring from winter encampments in early March. With the coming of spring, and concerned about the expected Federal offensive on Richmond, Confederate commander Gen. Joseph Johnston evacuated the Centerville positions during the weekend of 8–9 March for better defensive lines along the Rappahannock River. Johnston had good reason to fear a Federal offensive. Maj. Gen. George McClellan, com-...

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5: Opportunely Delivered Fire

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pp. 45-62

The seeds of the Manassas campaign were sown on 26 June 1862, even before the fighting around Richmond had reached its conclusion, when Maj. Gen. John Pope gained command of the newly organized Army of Virginia. This army, 51,000 men strong, consisted of remnants of the forces Stonewall Jackson had earlier defeated in the Shenandoah Valley. Its task was to move against Gordonsville and Charlottesville to disrupt the Confederacy’s link to ...

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6: A Thrilling Sensation

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pp. 63-76

After disbanding the Dixie Artillery in October 1862, the Chapman brothers became enrolling officers for conscripts in Fauquier County. Their job entailed enrolling all men required by law to serve in the army, arresting deserters and stragglers, and paroling Federal prisoners. It was not an assignment that men of action—men who had endured withering fire at Glendale and Rappahannock Station and who had helped turn the tide of battle at Manas-...


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pp. G1-G12

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7: A Fascinating Life

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pp. 77-88

Nearly fifty years removed from the events of the spring of 1863, Chapman stood before a crowd of men and recalled those days. The legend of Mosby’s Rangers had long been secured, and Chapman was asked to recite some of those tales. “I appreciate the compliment you have paid me in expressing the thought that I could relate anything that might interest or entertain,” he began, but he chose not to tell of his personal adventures. Instead, he believed ...

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8: Efficient Services

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pp. 89-95

Mosby organized his first company of rangers, Company A, on 10 June 1863. Enough men had joined these rangers by the fall to form a second company. The command gathered at Scuffeburg, in the Blue Ridge Mountains between Paris and Markham, on 1 October. There, sixty men enrolled in Company B. As he had done four months previously, Mosby gave command of the company to someone who had conspicuously distinguished himself on the ...

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9: Much Obliged to You

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pp. 96-108

The year 1863 ended with a warm spell. Morning temperatures at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., during the last five days of the year were above freezing, and afternoon temperatures were mild, though it did rain heavily on three of those days. The populace awoke to a balmy New Year with morning temperatures in the upper 40s. Then, that afternoon, a cold front passed into the region, and by midafternoon temperatures fell below freezing. ...

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10: Catch Those Fellows

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pp. 108-117

With the weather improving and roads again passable, Grant launched his expected spring offensive. The main advance in Virginia was by the Army of the Potomac. In a series of battles at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor, Grant drove the Confederates back to Richmond, and the middle of June found both armies entrenched around Petersburg. In the Shenandoah Valley, Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel advanced with 6,500 men. The intent ...

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11: No Quarter

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pp. 118-131

Sheridan arrived at Harpers Ferry on 6 August 1864 and took command of the Army of the Shenandoah the next day. He had nearly 35,000 infantry and 8,000 cavalry awaiting his orders, including the 6th and 19th Corps, which Grant returned to the Shenandoah Valley along with two battle-hardened cavalry divisions. It was a sizeable army that the Confederates were hard-pressed to match.1 Sheridan began his advance from Harpers Ferry on Wednesday, 10 August, ...

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12: Nothing but Yankees

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pp. 132-143

While Chapman successfully organized and led raids in Mosby’s absence, rivalry and jealousy arose among company commanders. Rather than submit to Chapman’s leadership, Dolly Richards and Lt. Alfred Glascock, Company D, left their units and went on furlough to Richmond. Some of their men followed. Richard Montjoy, too, took leave from his command of Company D. A chance encounter with them at Gordonsville left Mosby thunderstruck. ...

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13: All Will Be Right

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pp. 144-155

With Mosby absent, recovering from his latest wound, leadership of the rangers passed to Richards and Chapman, and the battalion split into two independent commands. Richards led Companies A, B, and D in operations throughout northern Virginia during the winter. Chapman commanded the rest of the battalion—Companies C, E, F, and G—which left from Salem for the Northern Neck on 3 January 1865.1 The Northern Neck is the land east of Fredericksburg bounded by the Rappa-...

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14: A Sense of Duty

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pp. 156-172

With the war over, Chapman, twenty-five years old, and Josie, not yet nineteen, faced the difficult task of rebuilding their lives. The country they had fought for no longer existed. The South was impoverished; its economic system in shambles; its social and political order destroyed. Virginia was under military occupation, its citizens subject to harassment and arrest. Indeed, authorities arrested Sam Chapman in the summer of 1865 for journey-...


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pp. 173-202


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pp. 203-212


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pp. 213-221

E-ISBN-13: 9780809386864
E-ISBN-10: 0809386860
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809329328
Print-ISBN-10: 0809329328

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 30 b/w halftones, 6 maps
Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Guerrillas -- Confederate States of America -- Biography.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Biography
  • Soldiers -- Confederate States of America -- Biography.
  • Chapman, William Henry, 1840-1929.
  • Mosby, John Singleton, 1833-1916.
  • United States. Internal Revenue Service -- Officials and employees -- Biography.
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