Book Review Wade Hampton's Iron Scouts: Confederate Special Forces

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New book highlights local Confederate Special Forces unit

By Gregg MacDonald/Fairfax County Times
Mar 2, 2018

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Anyone in Northern Virginia who knows anything about Civil War history has certainly heard of Colonel John Singleton Mosby.

Mosby, nicknamed the "Gray Ghost," was a Confederate cavalry battalion commander probably best known for his guerilla raids on Union encampments; many which were within Fairfax County according to Don Hakenson, assistant curator of Centreville’s Stuart-Mosby Civil War Cavalry Museum.

"Mosby was the father of guerilla warfare," Hakenson says. "His tactics are still studied today by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. He had no military background, but was probably the most successful guerilla fighter in the history of our country."

Confederate Col. J.E.B. Stuart is also well known for his local actions at the Battle of First Manassas in July 1861. Stuart was promoted to brigadier general two months later, and eventually gave Mosby a small group of rangers to conduct independent partisan operations into Northern Virginia. These rangers became the 43rd Battalion, Virginia Cavalry, and would grow from nine to as many as 2,000 men, according to Hakenson.

But how many people still reading this article have ever heard of Wade Hampton and his “Iron Scouts?”

Serving from late 1862 to the war's end, Hampton's Scouts were considered to be Confederate Special Forces and a key component of the comprehensive intelligence network designed by Generals Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart. The Scouts were stationed behind enemy lines on a permanent basis and provided critical military intelligence to their generals. Like Mosby, they became proficient in “unconventional” warfare and emerged unscathed in so many close-combat actions that their foes grudgingly dubbed them Hampton's “Iron Scouts.”

In his book, “Wade Hampton’s Iron Scouts, Confederate Special Forces” Author D. Michael Thomas presents the previously untold story of the Iron Scouts—and their ties to Northern Virginia—for the first time.

According to Thomas, Hampton’s Scouts were an integral part of the Army of Northern Virginia, serving as a major component of the aforementioned comprehensive intelligence network from late 1862 until the war ended in April, 1865. “The wide array of responsibilities, roles and missions allowed them, with full justification, to be termed Confederate Special Forces,” Thomas writes in the book’s introduction. “The value and impact of their wartime service far exceeds what their small [platoon-sized] numbers might imply.”

So why then has their full story not been presented until now?

Thomas says the short answer is that there is no clear paper trail. “Like any Special Forces component, their activities, reports and operations were deliberately kept secret,” he writes. “Surprisingly, biographies of Lee, Stuart and even Hampton have little mention of these scouts.”

But according to Thomas, who painstakingly studied official Civil War records in great detail, the Iron Scouts were considered the eyes and ears of Northern Virginia, and for Lee and Stuart, they were a very major asset.

In his book, Thomas points out that by October, 1862, J.E.B. Stuart enjoyed a well-earned reputation as a hard-riding, hard-fighting leader whose exploits were already legendary. “What was not publicly realized at the time,” Thomas says, “…is that Stuart served in another capacity in the army: he was the de facto chief of intelligence for the Army of Northern Virginia.”

Stuart used two methods of gathering military intelligence. First, he used reconnaissance deep into enemy territory in force on a regular basis. He also developed a second source of keeping tabs on Union soldiers with individual scouts—of which Mosby is the most locally known, but certainly not exclusive.

In his book, Thomas outlines the missions, purpose and maneuvers of these Iron Scouts as well as their personal stories, giving readers insight into their character and motivations.

For example, there is James Dulin, of Fauquier County.

Five of Dulin’s brothers were reportedly killed in Confederate service; the youngest of which, Billy, is said to have been shot by Union cavalry in the streets of Warrenton. According to eye-witnesses, Billy was shot by Union Captain (and later Brigadier General) Elon Farnsworth while pinned under his fallen horse, completely unable to defend himself. Upon hearing of the manner of his baby brother’s death, James is said to have sworn to kill “one-hundred Yankee soldiers.” Those close to him later confirmed that he easily surpassed that number.

For any connoisseur of local history, Civil War history, or military history, “Wade Hampton’s Iron Scouts” is a must read. Published by the History Press and retailing for $21.99 or less, it will be available at Amazon.com and at Barnes and Noble bookstores on March 5.

http://www.fairfaxtimes.com/articles/new-book-highlights-local-confederate-special-forces-unit/article_28ef1912-1e64-11e8-8504-13b4f6c45622.html

Serving from late 1862 to the war's end, Wade Hampton's Scouts were a key component of the comprehensive intelligence network designed by Generals Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart and Wade Hampton. The Scouts were stationed behind enemy lines on a permanent basis and provided critical military intelligence to their generals. They became proficient in "unconventional" warfare and emerged unscathed in so many close-combat actions that their foes grudgingly dubbed them Hampton's "Iron Scouts." Author D. Michael Thomas presents the previously untold story of the Iron Scouts for the first time.

Review
"Most widely known for their prominent roles in the famous Beefsteak Raid and in the Battle of Monroe's Crossroads, the unit's full story is told for the first time in D. Michael Thomas's Wade Hampton's Iron Scouts. Though documents surrounding the unit's origins are scarce, according to the author the Iron Scouts were a Lee-Stuart brainchild that was assigned to Wade Hampton to create, with most of the initial contingent of picked men coming from the 2nd South Carolina Cavalry (with many different units eventually contributing members). Formed in late 1862, just 72 men served in the ranks of the Iron Scouts over the 2+ years of its existence. In addition to an organization and service history narrative, the book also includes a roster with quite a bit of biographical detail for each trooper gathered from a variety of sources." Civil War Books and Authors

About the Author
Michael Thomas is a lifelong student of southern history, with special emphasis on the War Between the States. He holds a BA in history from The Citadel and is a U.S. Navy veteran of Vietnam. He spent several years as a volunteer with the Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia doing research and writing on Chesterfield County Confederate soldiers. He coached and umpired Little League Baseball for thirteen years and later spent several years as a WBTS reenactor. Now retired after thirty-one years in international trade, he is back in his home state of South Carolina.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1467139386/?tag=civilwartalkc-20

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SC_1860

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I read the book last week and enjoyed it, all the more so since my great great grandfather (detached from Co K, 4th SC Cav - Charleston Light Dragoons) was mentioned in the book as one of the 72 men to serve in Hampton's Scouts.

Since all men were on detached duty, there are no muster records and few other official written records (as the author mentions).

One unique "special force" type mission that the scouts conducted was leading dismounted CSA cavalry behind the lines to raid Union positions for horses.
 

BlueandGrayl

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I read the book last week and enjoyed it, all the more so since my great great grandfather (detached from Co K, 4th SC Cav - Charleston Light Dragoons) was mentioned in the book as one of the 72 men to serve in Hampton's Scouts.

Since all men were on detached duty, there are no muster records and few other official written records (as the author mentions).

One unique "special force" type mission that the scouts conducted was leading dismounted CSA cavalry behind the lines to raid Union positions for horses.
John S. Mosby is practically a legend in Civil War circles.
 


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