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Author C.W. Whitehair tells story of feared Civil War colonel

July 13, 2013
  • Author C.W. Whitehair of Charles Town, W.Va., has written a book about Col. John S. Mosby, a polarizing figure during the Civil War.
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Name: C.W. Whitehair 

Age: 64

City in which you reside: Charles Town, W.Va.

Day job: Author

Book title: “Mosby: The War Years”

Genre: U.S. History

Synopsis of book: No single Confederate officer was feared more in Northern Virginia and the lower Shenandoah Valley by the Federal army than Col. John S. Mosby, commanding officer of the 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry. His method of warfare was unconventional, which earned him a reputation as a mastermind in psychological and guerrilla warfare.

Publisher: Infinity Publishing

Price: $16.95

Why did you select Col. John S. Mosby for this book?

For one reason. I was born in Loudoun County, Va., at a place called Loudoun Heights, which is about three miles northeast of Harpers Ferry, W.Va. In January 1864, Mosby and his men fought a battle with Cole’s Maryland Cavalry about a mile from where I was born. The fight at Loudoun Heights, or as it is also called, “Battle in the Snow” was Mosby’s worse defeat during the Civil War. The old white clap-board house which Union Maj. Cole used as his headquarters still stands and is occupied by a family. Every time I ride by that area on the way to visit my mother’s home, I can still visualize Mosby and his men leading their horses up the trail alongside of the mountain and the fight that took place in the field, located against the mountain near Cole’s headquarters. Mosby was a very polarizing figure, who instilled fear into the hearts of many Union soldiers. Often Union and Southern war correspondents wrote about him.

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How does this book differ from your previous historical books? 

My wife, Rhonda, and I have two audiences. (They’ve collaborated on several fictional books). We have an audience who likes historical fiction and another who likes history. Most of our historical books cover an event that took place during the war. The exception has been “Libby Life” up until the release of “Mosby: The War Years.” My new book is quite different than any of the other Mosby books on the market. The book is written in first person, such as a biography. Mosby is telling the reader his own experiences. Mosby wrote often on his war experiences, so there is a lot of information out there on him. I took what he wrote from his various publications and placed it in chronological order, highlighting not only his achievements but also his failures as an officer and as a person during the war. I also added some of the humorous events, which took place with Mosby during the war, and added some events, which are not included in other books. I did not draw conclusions about Mosby or add to or take from all that he wrote.

Your book is subtitled “The War Years,” how significant was Mosby’s role during the Civil War? 

Mosby always did the unexpected. He was willing to take risks and accept challenges. In March of 1863, Mosby and 29 of his men penetrated the Union lines and rode 10 miles to Fairfax Courthouse where they captured Brig. Gen. Edwin Stoughton and 30 Union soldiers. To this point during the war, no one thought of doing such a thing. It was only the beginning of Mosby’s adventures. Mosby knew operating behind the Union army that he could make a contribution to his cause. He was a student of Francis Marion, who was known as the “Swamp Fox” during the Revolutionary War. Like Marion, Mosby’s method of warfare was not only unconventional, but psychological. He was a brilliant tactician, who had the ability to accomplish a lot with such a small number of men.

Tell me about your writing process. 

First, I ask myself why I want to write about this subject. What is the market for this subject? I read and research my subject until I know it. When a subject is committed to paper and available to the public it will be scrutinized for historical accuracy. When researching, I use multiple references. I use historical association archives, libraries and individuals who can guide me toward needed information. I write down notes and individual quotes. When writing a book or an article, I usually write for seven to eight hours a day. After each chapter, I will read it again two to three times. When finished, I have several individuals read the book for me, give me their input, and than it goes to an editor.

How much research went into writing about “The Gray Ghost?”

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