History - The Undefeated Rebel: U.S. Marshal Joseph Shelby
Joseph Orville Shelby was born in
Lexington, Kentucky in 1831. He
espoused the pro-slavery cause and took
active part in schemes to make Kansas a
In 1861 he took the southern side and marched to Independence, Missouri to
prevent the occupation by U.S. Dragoons
from Fort Leavenworth. Captain Shelby
took part in the famous Rattle of Wilson
Creek (Missouri) and was made a colonel
after the Battle of Lone Jack (Missouri). He
raised his own regiment, which became
known as the "Iron Brigade".
In 1862-63, he took part in the expedition
against Springfield, also capturing
the federal garrisons at Neosho, Greenfield,
Stockton, Hermanville, Warsaw,
Boonville and Marshall, Missouri.
During the fall of 1864, he captured
Potosi, Missouri, destroying the railroad.
After bloody fighting, he captured Boonville,
Waverly , Lexington and California,
General Shelby's "Iron Brigade" engaged
in the Battle of the Little Blue and
Westport and twice saved the army from
Missouri Confederates held General
Shelby in the highest esteem and referred
to him as the greatest Missouri soldier of
He was appointed U.S. Marshal for
the Western District of Missouri in 1893.
Newspapers from the east had adverse comments regarding the appointment of
General Shelby. One U.S. Senator was
quoted as saying:
"Nearly thirty years have elapsed since the termination of the
war. All that one can ask, even the most
loyal Unionist, is that the government
shall not be confided to men who, during
that awful time, represented not fair battle,
but rapine, cruelty and chaos. We, or
most of us, believe Jo Shelby belonged to
the latter class. Still, we can do nothing to
prevent the consummation of the outrage
in making such a man the representative
of law and order. All we can do is to enter
our solemn protest."
As for as General Shelby was concerned,
sufficient answer to what was
printed about him was found in a letter
endorsing his appointment and congratulating
him, written by William Warner,
ex Commander-in-Chief of the Grand
Army of the Republic. The former war
governor of Missouri, Thomas Fletcher,
went in person to the Attorney General to
say, no mistake would be made in the
selection of General Shelby as the U.S. Marshal.
During his tenure, the Great Pullman Strike occurred in 1894, which was
one of the most famous civil disturbances of the 19th century.
U.S. Marshal Joseph Shelby died in Bates County, Missouri in 1898.