Quote of the Day

Steve Green has a post up requesting advice on science fiction to read. He’s received a number of good suggestions, many of which I’ve read. I was particularly taken by a recommendation for H. Beam Piper, who is one of my favorite authors. That comment included a link to his author section on Project Gutenberg, and, in particular, Rebel Raider, from which comes the following. I thought the quote was particularly timely. I could have limited it to just the last sentence, but I felt the context was worth it.

In this last, his best selling-point was a recent act of the Confederate States Congress called the Scott Partisan Ranger Law. This piece of legislation was, in effect, an extension of the principles of prize law and privateering to land warfare. It authorized the formation of independent cavalry companies, to be considered part of the armed forces of the Confederacy, their members to serve without pay and mount themselves, in return for which they were to be entitled to keep any spoil of war captured from the enemy. The terms “enemy” and “spoil of war” were defined so liberally as to cover almost anything not the property of the government or citizens of the Confederacy. There were provisions, also, entitling partisan companies to draw on the Confederate government for arms and ammunition and permitting them to turn in and receive payment for any spoil which they did not wish to keep for themselves.

The law had met with considerable opposition from the Confederate military authorities, who claimed that it would attract men and horses away from the regular service and into ineffective freebooting. There is no doubt that a number of independent companies organized under the Scott Law accomplished nothing of military value. Some degenerated into mere bandit gangs, full of deserters from both sides, and terrible only to the unfortunate Confederate citizens living within their range of operations. On the other hand, as Mosby was to demonstrate, a properly employed partisan company could be of considerable use.

It was the provision about booty, however, which appealed to Mosby. As he intended operating in the Union rear, where the richest plunder could be found, he hoped that the prospect would attract numerous recruits. The countryside contained many men capable of bearing arms who had remained at home to look after their farms but who would be more than willing to ride with him now and then in hope of securing a new horse for farm work, or some needed harness, or food and blankets for their families. The regular Mosby Men called them the “Conglomerates,” and Mosby himself once said that they resembled the Democrat party, being “held together only by the cohesive power of public plunder.”

Note: I updated the post to make it clearer that Rebel Raider is history, not fiction. Piper was a history buff – in the introduction to one of his books (a collection of short stories, I believe, although it’s not handy for me to check), Jerry Pournelle states that Piper knew both the grand sweep of history, as well as many of the obscure stories.

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