Joseph Orville Shelby

Headstone: Find-a-Grave

Joseph Orville Shelby was born in Lexington, Kentucky, December 12, 1830, and was educated by his step-father and at Transylvania University. He engaged in the manufacture of rope, first at Lexington and later at Waverly, Missouri. Eventually he became one of the wealthiest and most influential citizens of the state. He led a band of pro-slavery Kentuckians in the Missouri-Kansas "war" of the late 1850's. At the outbreak of the Civil War he organized a cavalry company and enlisted under the banner of the Confederacy. Usually attached to the forces of General Sterling Price, Shelby was active in almost every campaign of the war west of the Mississippi River. He fought at Carthage, Wilson's Creek, Elkhorn, Helena, Camden, and in both of Price's Missouri raids, as well as in scores of minor actions. His reputation west of the river compared favorably with that of Bedford Forrest in the east, and earned him a contemporary renown in the area of almost equal distinction. He was appointed brigadier general to rank from December 15, 1863. After the collapse of the Confederacy, and without waiting for his personal parole, General Shelby with a few of his command buried their battle flag in the Rio Grande and then crossed into Mexico to ally themselves with either the party of the Emperor Maximilian or his opponent, General Juarez. Following a rather confused series of negotiations, and the downfall of Maximilian, Shelby returned to Missouri to reconstruct his career. Enormously popular in the state, he refused all political offers until 1893 when President Cleveland appointed him U. S. marshal for the Western District. While holding this office he died at Adrian, Missouri, February 13, 1897; he is buried in Kansas City.

Ref: Generals in Gray, Lives of the Confederate Commanders by Ezra J. Warner.  Printed by Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge and London.

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