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 The Last Confederate General, General Joe Shelby
rm1bow  [Team Member]
9/1/2010 7:56:24 AM EDT
I found an interesting article about General Joe Shelby. When the Confederate army surrendered he took a bunch of his men
and headed for Mexico. Link

The Last Confederate General
Never Defeated, General Joe Shelby was determined to prevent the surrender of his command.

Dec 12, 2006 Christopher Eger

Refusing to surrender he led his men on an epic 1500 mile flight through the anarchy of a lost war to continue the fight.

Joseph Orville Shelby was born December 12, 1830 in Lexington, Kentucky. He was classically educated at Transylvania University before moving to Missouri. Before the civil war He was a hemp rope manufacturer and espoused the pro-slavery cause and took active part in several shady schemes to make Kansas a slave state. At the beginning of the war he accepted a commission as a Captain of Cavalry in the Missouri Confederate militia, being bloodied at the Battle of Wilson Creek in 1861. He was made a colonel in 1862 and raised his own regiment of cavalry. This regiment grew to the size of a brigade of which he was made the General of at the age of 32 in 1863. He led this "Iron Brigade" on a famous raid on the longest cavalry raid of the war behind Union lines in Missouri. The 43 day raid from September 22 to November 3, 1863, saw Shelby and his 600 man brigade travel over 1,500 miles, inflict more than 1,000 casualties on Union forces, and capture or destroy $2 million worth of enemy supplies. He captured the federal garrisons at Neosho, Greenfield, Stockton, Hermanville, Warsaw, Boonville and Marshall, Missouri. In 1864 the Iron Brigade fought Union troops at the Battle of the Little Blue and the Battle of Westport where it twice saved the Confederate Army it was attached to from defeat. The end of the war found Shelby; now a Major General in Arkansas recruiting for his unit now encamped in Texas awaiting re-enforcement.

The dominoes started to fall when General Robert E Lee's Army of Northern Virginia (which made up a quarter of the confederates under arms) surrendered to Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. General Joe Johnston surrendered the Army of the Carolinas seventeen days later and General Taylor surrendered the Mississippi and Alabama forces at the beginning of May. This only left the confederates in the west, under the overall command of General Edmund 'Kirby' Smith. The confederate forces under Smith were hopelessly spread out over the vastest of Texas, the unregulated Indian Territories, the bayous of western Louisiana and southern Arkansas. All of the unit commanders assembled at the end of May in Marshall Texas for a staff meeting to decide how best to surrender. These men, including Generals Shelby, Buckner, Walker, Hawthorne and their staffs performed something of a coup d'état . They forced General Smith to resign and place General Buckner in command, with a plan to assemble their forces in the interior of Texas and carry on the war until they were all defeated in battle.

This was ultimately not to be; Buckner was captured and surrendered his troops in Louisiana before he could assume overall command. On June 2 General Smith finally did get to surrender to Union General Canby on a steamer in Galveston harbor. General Smith's last order was to send a courier to Maj Gen JO Shelby informing him to lay down his arms and surrender his Iron Brigade immediately to the nearest union force. The enraged Shelby instead rallied his men and offered them an alternative to surrender. In an impassioned speech to his assembled and reviewed his command at .He said, “Boys, the war is over and you can go home. I for one will not. Across the Rio Grande lies Mexico. Who will follow me there?!” With this he won over most of the men who had ridden with him for years.

Riding across Texas as the only disciplined body of men in the field for miles in any direction, they encountered a nearly lawless morass of looters, army deserters, refugees, Indian bands and bandits. The unit's strength varied from minute to minute new men constantly joining and others leaving with every new town they passed through. In Waco, they took possession of the abandoned military stores there including a complete wagon train of food and provisions, ten brand new howitzers form France, 2000 Enfield rifles still in the crates they left England in, and more than 40,000 rounds of ammunition. In Houston, his men put down a riot of stragglers who were destroying the lawless town. In Austin, he was joined by Texas Governor Murrah who they saved from looters along with $300,000 in gold and silver held by the Confederate sub-treasury there. Finally reaching the Rio Grande border at Eagle Pass a thousand men strong they took three days to cross all of their stragglers, lowering their flag for the last time on July 4th 1865.

They would find nothing but surprised in store for them across the border.

General Shelby In Mexico 1865
Undefeated in the Civil War the last brigade of the confederacy melted into history

Dec 16, 2006 Christopher Eger

Offering his services as well as those of his legion, General Shelby found no takers.

At the end of the American Civil War, an enitre brigade of mixed cavalry led by General JO Shelby refused surrender and escaped to Mexico. The reception in Mexico was less encouraging than they expected. Mexico at the time was occupied by French troops who propped up an Austrian emperor, Maximilian, over an issue of defaulted national debt. Mexican insurgents Benito Juarez were in open combat with the French army of occupation. General Shelby met with both sides on his trip through the country and offered his legion of nomads up for service to either side that would accept. Guided towards Mexico City after helping a French unit against guerillas Shelby met with the Austrian pretender, Maximilian, in person. Maximilian, declining to employ such a large body of men with such questionable loyalty, declined wholly Shelby's offer. The Austrian pretender placed his trust in his French troops and the few Mexicans loyal to his court.

This meant the end of the line for the Iron Brigade. Shelby had already sunk their flag at the border and sold their artillery (to a Mexican warlord fighting against Maximilian for the sum of $16,000). The Iron Brigade's treasury was divided evenly among the men, with each receiving about $50 regardless of rank. The men were allowed to take their horse, arms and all of their equipment, paroled from the service at last more than five months after Lee's surrenders. The men scattered in a hundred directions. Most returned back to their occupied homeland. Some took advantage of their new home and settled in Mexico. The lure of gold and a new start drew some of them to the west. It is known that many of the veteran soldiers joined the Third Zouaves of the Imperial French Army, a crack unit of tough professional soldiers from all over the world stationed in Mexico. The unit would be recalled to France following their evacuation from Mexico in 1866 only to be obliterated at the Battle of Gravelotte during the Franco Prussian war three years later with several of the confederate die hards still on the rolls.

In Missouri, many influential citizens held General Shelby in the highest esteem and referred to him as the greatest Missouri soldier of the Confederacy. On his return from his self imposed exile in Mexico in 1866 he was hailed and treated as a hero. He was appointed the 11th United States Marshal for the Western District of Missouri in 1893, a position that he held until his death in Bates County, Missouri in 1898. Maximilian would never make it out of his kingdom, being shot by Juarist troops in 1867. Although he bribed the seven riflemen not to shoot him in the face, one did anyway. Maximilian’s body was embalmed and displayed publicly in Mexico before being buried in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna, Austria, early the following year.

In tribute to both the no less than three civil war Union Infantry units all known as the Iron Brigade and General Shelby’s unit; the 4000-man Second Brigade Combat Team of the US Army's First Armored Division has carried the Iron Brigade moniker since 1985. It is currently home stationed in Baumholder Germany. On November 10, 2006 they deployed back to Iraq for a second time after completing an epic 15 combat month tour in 2004.



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