This title unveils an enigmatic hero of the Civil War. "The Edge of Mosby's Sword" is the first scholarly volume to delve into the story of one of John Singleton Mosby's most trusted and respected officers, Colonel William Henry Chapman. Using incisive research and previously unpublished material to present both military and personal perspectives of Chapman's life, Gordon B. Bonan offers an in-depth understanding of a man transformed by the shattering of his nation. This painstakingly researched account exposes a soldier and patriot whose convictions compelled him to battle fiercely for Southern independence; whose quest for greatness soured when faced with the brutal realities of warfare; and who sought diligently to heal his wounded nation when the guns of war were silenced. Born into a wealthy slave-owning family, Chapman was a student of the fiery secessionist rhetoric of antebellum Virginia who eagerly sought glory and adventure on the battlefields of the Civil War. Bonan traces Chapman's evolution from an impassioned student at the University of Virginia to an experienced warrior and leader, providing new insight into the officer's numerous military accomplishments.
Explored here are Chapman's previously overlooked endeavors as a student warrior, leader of the Dixie Artillery, and as second-in-command to Mosby, including his participation in the capture of Harpers Ferry, the battering of Union forces at Second Manassas, and his ferocious raids during the 1864 Shenandoah Valley campaign. Bonan reveals fresh perspectives on the intrepid maneuvers of Mosby's Rangers, the hardships of war, and Chapman's crucial role as the right hand of the 'Gray Ghost'. But while Mosby recognized him for his bravery and daring, the fame Chapman sought always eluded him. Instead, with his honors and successes came disillusionment and sorrow, as he watched comrades and civilians alike succumb to the terrible toll of the war. The end of the struggle between North and South saw Chapman accept defeat with dignity, leading the Rangers to their official surrender and parole at Winchester. With the horrors of the war behind him, he quickly moved to embrace the rebuilding of his country. Bonan's investigation of Chapman's life after the South's surrender - when, like Mosby, he joined the Republican party - reveals a man who, above all, desired reconciliation.
For more than thirty years, Chapman enjoyed a postwar career as an IRS agent. During that time, it became his personal mission to battle corruption and violence in the South, including the terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan. "The Edge of Mosby's Sword" is a multifaceted portrait of a dynamic yet neglected figure of America's past. Richly detailed and engagingly written, Bonan's book on the life of William Henry Chapman adds a fascinating and much-needed new chapter to the saga of Civil War history.
Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press