J. E. B. Stuart


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Confederate Generals

JEB Stuart Biography

Up | J. E. B. Stuart Death | JEB Stuart Death, 2nd Part

General J. E. B.  Stuart


STUART, JAMES EWELL BROWN (1833-1864), American soldier, was born in Virginia on the 6th of February 1833 and entered West Point military academy in 1850. Commissioned in 1854 second lieutenant of cavalry, he saw considerable service in Indian warfare, and took part also in the repression of civil disorder in Kansas. In 1855 he had married a daughter of Colonel Philip St George Cooke, who was regarded as the most capable cavalry officer in the United States service, and gave his son-in-law the benefit of his experience and judgment. In 1859 Stuart, while staying in Washington on official business, was sent to assist Colonel R. E. Lee in the suppression of the John Brown raid on Harper's Ferry.

General J.E.B. Stuart

Two years later the Civil War presaged by the Kansas troubles and John Brown's expedition broke out, and when Virginia seceded Stuart resigned his commission in the United States army to share in the defense of his state. He had resigned as a lieutenantóa notification of his promotion to captain had actually crossed his letter of resignation in the postóbut trained officers, especially of cavalry, were so scarce that he was at once made a colonel.

With very little delay, and with the scantiest of formal training, his regiment was mustered into the Confederate army, and assigned to Joseph Johnston's force in the Shenandoah Valley. His men were mounted on their own horses, knew the country thoroughly, and in his capable hands soon made themselves proficient in outpost duty. In the opening campaign Stuart's command acted as a screen to cover Johnston's movement on Manassas, and at the first battle of Bull Run which followed, Stuart distinguished himself by his personal bravery. During the autumn and


winter of 1861 he continued his outpost service and was somewhat severely handled by General Ord's force at the action of Dranesville. He was now promoted brigadier-general and placed in command of the cavalry brigade of the army of Northern Virginia. Just before the Seven Days' Battle he was sent out by Lee to locate the right flank of McClellan's army, and not only successfully achieved his mission, but rode right round McClellan's rear to deliver his report to Lee at Richmond. After the battle of Gaines's Mill on the 27th of June Stuart's cavalry raided General JEB StuartMcClellan's abandoned line of communication with White House, and his dismounted riflemen, aided by a light howitzer, successfully engaged a Federal gunboat on the Pamunkey. But such romantic and far-ranging raids on this occasion, as on several others, contributed little or nothing to the success of the army as a whole. In the next campaign, it is true, he had the good fortune, in his raid against General Pope's communications, not only to burn a great quantity of stores, but also, what was far more important, to bring off the headquarters' staff document of the enemy, from which Lee was able to discover the strength and positions of his opponents in detail. Stuart, now a major-general and commander of the cavalry corps, was present at the second battle of Bull Run, and during the Maryland campaign he brilliantly defended one of the passes of South Mountain (Crampton's Gap), thus enabling Lee to concentrate his disseminated army in time to meet McClellan's attack. After this battle the indefatigable troopers embarked upon a fresh raid, which, though without any definite object, had its value as an assertion of unbroken courage after the quasi-defeat of Antietam, and in addition wore out the Federal cavalry in vain efforts to pursue them. On this occasion the swift Virginians covered 80 miles in 27 hours and escaped with the loss of but three men. At Fredericksburg Stuart's cavalry were as usual in the flank of the army, and his horse artillery under Major Pelham rendered valuable service in checking Franklin's attack on " Stonewall " Jackson's corps by diverting a whole infantry division that formed part of Franklin's command. At Chancellorsville Stuart was specially appointed by Lee to take over command of the 2nd army corps after Jackson had been wounded, and though unused to commanding so large a force of all arms he acquitted himself so well in the second day's fighting that many considered that a grave injustice was done to him by the promotion of Major-General Ewell, Jackson's principal lieutenant, to fill the position left vacant by Jackson's death. The next campaign, Gettysburg, was preluded by the cavalry battle of Brandy Station, in which for the first time the Federal cavalry showed themselves worthy opponents for Stuart and his men. The march to the Potomac was screened by the cavalry corps, which held the various approaches on the right flank of the army, but at the crisis of the campaign Stuart was absent on a raid, and although he attempted to rejoin Lee during the battle, he was met and checked some miles from the field by General Gregg, so that the skill and courage which might have turned the scale in favor of Lee on the first and second days of the great battle were employed only in covering his retreat. The cavalry took part in the war of maneuver between Meade and Lee in the autumn of 1863, and then went into winter quarters. Very shortly after the opening of the campaign of 1864 Stuart's corps was drawn away from Lee's army by the Union cavalry under Sheridan, and part of it, with which was Stuart himself, was defeated at Yellow Tavern on the 10th of May. Stuart himself was killed.

Stuart possessed the ardent and resolute character of the true cavalry leader, and although he was fortunate enough to command brigades and regiments exclusively composed of men who were both born horsemen and natives of Virginia, and to be opposed, for the first two years, by docile but unenterprising squadrons which were recruited in a more ordinary way, yet it was undeniable that he possessed the gift, indeed the genius, of a great leader. That his energy was sometimes squandered on useless raids was but natural, considering the character of his forces, but in regard to his performances in the more exhausting and far more vital service of security and reconnaissance, General Johnston could ask " How can I sleep unless he is on the outpost? " and General Lee could say " He never brought me a false report." Stuart preserved under all circumstances the gaiety of a cavalry subaltern and the personal character of an earnest Christian, and the army regarded his loss as almost as heavy a blow to the Confederate cause as that of Stonewall Jackson.

See Life by H. B. McClellan (1885).



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