“Rebel Raider”

Review: “Flight from Tomorrow”, H. Beam Piper, 1950.

Review: “Rebel Raider”, H. Beam Piper, 1950.

Piper tried to get many nonfiction articles published in his lifetime, but, aside from some articles in his friends local shopping guide, he only succeeded once with this article on a famed cavalryman, Confederate Army Colonel John Mosby. It was published in True:The Men’s Magazine’s March 23, 1950 issue, and Piper was elated. 

John F. Carr’s Typewriter Killer quotes Frederik Pohl’s (Piper’s one-time agent) “The Way the Future Blogs” about the story: 

“=Piper was a railroad man from birth. He lived in the Western Pennsylvania rail center of those great continent-spanning lines that appeared after the Civil War. That war was important to Beam. He had strong feelings about such concepts as heroism and personal honor, and he took sides. The side he favored was the slaveholding but militarily exciting Confederacy. Mostly self-educated, Beam was thrilled by the exploits of those dashing Rebel commanders, in particular by John Mosby, the Southern cavalry officer who made parts of Virginia uninhabitable by Federal troops or sympathizers.

When Beam mentioned to me that he had, on his own time and just for the fun of it, written a lengthy work about his hero, I reminded him of my Basic Maxim No. 1: ‘Writers write mostly for the fun of it. Agents exist to see they get money for having fun.’ So he turned the finished piece over to me, and I promptly sold ‘Rebel Raider’ for a decent amount of money. 

Piper was very happy to get fan mail saying he, a lifetime Pennsylvania man (apart from a brief foray in Paris), must be a Southerner. 

The story itself isn’t not a biography though it opens with some biographical material on Mosby) but closely focuses on Mosby’s actions from January 2, 1863 to the end of the American Civil War. 

There are a couple of points of general interest. 

First, is Piper’s personal connection to Mosby:

 The section of the Manassas Gap Railroad along the southern boundary of Mosby’s Confederacy came in for special attention, and the Union Army finally gave it up for a bad job and abandoned it. This writer’s grandfather, Captain H. B. Piper, of the Eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, did a stint of duty guarding it, and until he died he spoke with respect of the abilities of John S. Mosby and his raiders. Locomotives were knocked out with one or another of Mosby’s twelve-pounders. Track was torn up and bridges were burned. Land-mines were planted. Trains were derailed and looted, usually with sharp fighting. 

The second is the linking of Mosby with another of Piper’s heroes, General George S. Patton:

In his last days, while living in Washington, the old Confederate guerrilla had a youthful friend, a young cavalry lieutenant fresh from West Point, to whom he enjoyed telling the stories of his raids and battles and to whom he preached his gospel of fire and mobility. This young disciple of Mosby’s old age was to make that gospel his own, and to practice it, later, with great success. The name of this young officer was George S. Patton, Jr. 

Piper got one of his largest payouts for this article, and the rights were sold to Walt Disney Productions, but little of Piper’s article found its way into Willie and the Yank broadcast in 1967.

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