James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart (February 6, 1833 – May 12, 1864) was a U.S. Army officer from Virginia and a Confederate States Army general during the American Civil War. He was known to his friends as "Jeb", from the initials of his given names. Stuart was a cavalry commander known for his mastery of reconnaissance and the use of cavalry in support of offensive operations. While he cultivated a cavalier image (red-lined gray cape, yellow sash, hat cocked to the side with a peacock feather, red flower in his lapel, often sporting cologne), his serious work made him the trusted eyes and ears of Robert E. Lee's army and inspired Southern morale.
Stuart graduated from West Point in 1854 and served in Texas and Kansas with the U.S. Army, a veteran of the frontier conflicts with Native Americans and the violence of Bleeding Kansas. He participated in the capture of John Brown at Harpers Ferry. Resigning when his home state of Virginia seceded, he served first under Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley, but then in increasingly important cavalry commands of the Army of Northern Virginia, playing a role in all of that army's campaigns until his death. He established a reputation as an audacious cavalry commander and on two occasions (during the Peninsula Campaign and the Maryland Campaign) circumnavigated the Union Army of the Potomac, bringing fame to himself and embarrassment to the North. At the Battle of Chancellorsville, he distinguished himself as a temporary commander of the wounded Stonewall Jackson's infantry corps.
Arguably Stuart's most famous campaign, Gettysburg was marred when he was surprised by a Union cavalry attack at the Battle of Brandy Station and by his separation from Lee's army for an extended period, leaving Lee unaware of Union troop movements and arguably contributing to the Confederate defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg. Stuart received significant criticism from the Southern press as well as the postbellum proponents of the Lost Cause movement, but historians have failed to agree on whether Stuart's exploit was entirely the fault of his judgment or simply bad luck and Lee's less than explicit orders.
During the 1864 Overland Campaign, Union Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan's cavalry launched an offensive to defeat Stuart, who was mortally wounded at the Battle of Yellow Tavern.
Stuart was born at Laurel Hill Farm, a plantation in Patrick County, Virginia, near the border with North Carolina. He was the eighth of eleven children and the oldest of the five sons to survive past early age. His great grandfather, Major Alexander Stuart, commanded a regiment at the Battle of Guilford Court House during the American Revolutionary War. His father, Archibald Stuart, was a War of 1812 veteran, slaveholder, attorney, and Democrat politician who represented Patrick County in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly, and also served one term in the United States House of Representatives. Archibald was a cousin of Alexander Hugh Holmes Stuart. Elizabeth Letcher Pannill Stuart, Jeb's mother, who was known as a strict religious woman with a good sense for business, ran the family farm.
Stuart was educated at home by his mother and tutors until the age of 12, when he left Laurel Hill to be educated by various teachers in Wytheville, Virginia, and at the home of his aunt Anne (Archibald's sister) and her husband Judge James Ewell Brown (Stuart's namesake) at Danville. He attended Emory & Henry College when he was 15, from 1848 to 1850.
During the summer of 1848, Stuart attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army, but was rejected as underaged. He obtained an appointment in 1850 to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, from Representative Thomas Hamlet Averett, the man who had defeated his father in the 1848 election. Stuart was a popular student and was happy at the Academy. Although not handsome in his teen years, his classmates called him by the nickname "Beauty", which they described as his "personal comeliness in inverse ratio to the term employed." He possessed a chin "so short and retiring as positively to disfigure his otherwise fine countenance." He quickly grew a beard after graduation and a fellow officer remarked that he was "the only man he ever saw that [a] beard improved."
Robert E. Lee was appointed superintendent of the Academy in 1852, and Stuart became friends with the Lee family, seeing them socially on frequent occasions. Lee's nephew, Fitzhugh Lee, also arrived at the academy in 1852. In Stuart's final year, in addition to achieving the cadet rank of second captain of the corps, he was one of eight cadets designated as honorary "cavalry officers" for his skills in horsemanship. Stuart graduated 13th in his class of 46 in 1854. He ranked tenth in his class in cavalry tactics. Although he enjoyed the civil engineering curriculum at the academy and did well in mathematics, his poor drawing skills hampered his engineering studies, and he finished 29th in that discipline. There is a Stuart family tradition that says he deliberately degraded his academic performance in his final year to avoid service in the elite, but dull, Corps of Engineers.
United States Army
Stuart was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant assigned to the U.S. Mounted Rifles in Texas. After an arduous journey, he reached Fort Davis on January 28, 1855, and was a leader for three months on scouting missions over the San Antonio to El Paso Road. He was soon transferred to the newly formed 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Territory, where he became regimental quartermaster and commissary officer under the command of Col. Edwin V. Sumner. He was promoted to first lieutenant in 1855.
Also in 1855, Stuart met Flora Cooke, the daughter of the commander of the 2nd U.S. Dragoon Regiment, Lt. Col. Philip St. George Cooke. Burke Davis described Flora as "an accomplished horsewoman, and though not pretty, an effective charmer," to whom "Stuart succumbed with hardly a struggle." They became engaged in September, less than two months after meeting. Stuart humorously wrote of his rapid courtship in Latin, "Veni, Vidi, Victus sum" (I came, I saw, I was conquered). Although a gala wedding was planned for Fort Riley, Kansas, the death of Stuart's father on September 20 caused a change of plans and the marriage on November 14 was small and limited to family witnesses. In 1857, the Stuarts' first child, a daughter, died in childbirth. The couple owned two slaves until 1859, one inherited from his father's estate, the other purchased.
Stuart's ability to lead was soon recognized. He was a veteran of the frontier conflicts with Native Americans and the antebellum violence of Bleeding Kansas. He was wounded on July 29, 1857, while fighting at Solomon River, Kansas, against the Cheyenne. Sumner ordered a charge with drawn sabers against a wave of Indian arrows. Scattering the warriors, Stuart and three other lieutenants chased one down, whom Stuart wounded in the thigh with his pistol. The Cheyenne turned and fired at Stuart with an old-fashioned pistol, striking him in the chest with a bullet, which did little more damage than to pierce the skin. Stuart returned in September to Fort Leavenworth and was reunited with his wife. On November 14, 1857, Flora gave birth to a daughter, whom the parents named Flora. The family relocated in early 1858 to Fort Riley, where they remained for three years.
In 1859, Stuart developed a new piece of cavalry equipment, for which he received patent number 25,684 on October 4—a saber hook, or an "improved method of attaching sabers to belts." The U.S. government paid Stuart $5,000 for a "right to use" license and Stuart contracted with Knorr, Nece and Co. of Philadelphia to manufacture his hook. While in Washington, D.C., to discuss government contracts, and in conjunction with his application for an appointment into the quartermaster department, Stuart heard about John Brown's raid on the U.S. Arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Stuart volunteered to be aide-de-camp to Col. Robert E. Lee and accompanied Lee with a company of U.S. Marines from the Washington Navy Yard and four companies of Maryland militia. While delivering Lee's written surrender ultimatum to the leader of the group, who had been calling himself Isaac Smith, Stuart recognized "Old Ossawattomie Brown" from his days in Kansas.
Stuart was promoted to captain on April 22, 1861, but resigned from the U.S. Army on May 3, 1861, to join the Confederate States Army, following the secession of Virginia. (His letter of resignation, sent from Cairo, Illinois, was accepted by the War Department on May 14.) Upon learning that his father-in-law, Col. Cooke, would remain in the U.S. Army during the coming war, Stuart wrote to his brother-in-law (future Confederate Brig. Gen. John Rogers Cooke), "He will regret it but once, and that will be continuously." On June 26, 1860, Flora gave birth to a son, Philip St. George Cooke Stuart, but his father changed the name to James Ewell Brown Stuart, Jr. ("Jimmie"), in late 1861 out of disgust with his father-in-law.
Stuart was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel of Virginia Infantry in the Confederate Army on May 10, 1861. Maj. Gen. Robert E. Lee, now commanding the armed forces of Virginia, ordered him to report to Col. Thomas J. Jackson at Harper's Ferry. Jackson chose to ignore Stuart's infantry designation and assigned him on July 4 to command all the cavalry companies of the Army of the Shenandoah, organized as the 1st Virginia Cavalry Regiment. He was promoted to colonel on July 16.
After early service in the Shenandoah Valley, Stuart led his regiment in the First Battle of Bull Run, and participated in the pursuit of the retreating Federals. He then commanded the Army's outposts along the upper Potomac River until given command of the cavalry brigade for the army then known as the Army of the Potomac (later named the Army of Northern Virginia). He was promoted to brigadier general on September 24, 1861.
In 1862, the Union Army of the Potomac began its Peninsula Campaign against Richmond, Virginia, and Stuart's cavalry brigade assisted Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's army as it withdrew up the Virginia Peninsula in the face of superior numbers. Stuart fought at the Battle of Williamsburg, but in general the terrain and weather on the Peninsula did not lend themselves to cavalry operations. However, when Gen. Robert E. Lee became commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, he requested that Stuart perform reconnaissance to determine whether the right flank of the Union army was vulnerable. Stuart set out with 1,200 troopers on the morning of June 12 and, having determined that the flank was indeed vulnerable, took his men on a complete circumnavigation of the Union army, returning after 150 miles on July 15 with 165 captured Union soldiers, 260 horses and mules, and various quartermaster and ordnance supplies. His men met no serious opposition from the more decentralized Union cavalry, coincidently commanded by his father-in-law, Col. Cooke. The maneuver was a public relations sensation and Stuart was greeted with flower petals thrown in his path at Richmond. He had become as famous as Stonewall Jackson in the eyes of the Confederacy.
Early in the Northern Virginia Campaign, Stuart was promoted to major general on July 25, 1862, and his command was upgraded to the Cavalry Division. He was nearly captured and lost his signature plumed hat and cloak to pursuing Federals during a raid in August, but in a retaliatory raid at Catlett's Station the following day, managed to overrun Union army commander Maj. Gen. John Pope's headquarters, and not only captured Pope's full uniform, but also intercepted orders that provided Lee with valuable intelligence concerning reinforcements for Pope's army.
At the Second Battle of Bull Run (Second Manassas), Stuart's cavalry followed the massive assault by Longstreet's infantry against Pope's army, protecting its flank with artillery batteries. Stuart ordered Brig. Gen. Beverly Robertson's brigade to pursue the Federals and in a sharp fight against Brig. Gen. John Buford's brigade, Col. Thomas T. Munford's 2nd Virginia Cavalry was overwhelmed until Stuart sent in two more regiments as reinforcements. Buford's men, many of whom were new to combat, retreated across Lewis's Ford and Stuart's troopers captured over 300 of them. Stuart's men harassed the retreating Union columns until the campaign ended at the Battle of Chantilly.
During the Maryland Campaign of September 1862, Stuart's cavalry screened the army's movement north. He bears some responsibility for Robert E. Lee's lack of knowledge of the position and celerity of the pursuing Army of the Potomac under George B. McClellan. For a five-day period, Stuart rested his men and entertained local civilians at a gala ball at Urbana, Maryland. His reports make no reference to intelligence gathering by his scouts or patrols. As the Union Army drew near to Lee's divided army, Stuart's men skirmished at various points on the approach to Frederick and Stuart was not able to keep his brigades concentrated enough to resist the oncoming tide. He misjudged the Union routes of advance, ignorant of the Union force threatening Turner's Gap, and required assistance from the infantry of Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill to defend the South Mountain passes in the Battle of South Mountain. His horse artillery bombarded the flank of the Union army as it opened its attack in the Battle of Antietam. By mid-afternoon, Stonewall Jackson ordered Stuart to command a turning movement with his cavalry against the Union right flank and rear, which if successful would be followed up by an infantry attack from the West Woods. Stuart began probing the Union lines with more artillery barrages, which were answered with "murderous" counterbattery fire and the cavalry movement intended by Jackson was never launched.
After Lee's army had withdrawn back to Virginia, Stuart performed another of his audacious circumnavigations of the Army of the Potomac—120 miles in under 60 hours, from Leesburg, Virginia, to as far north as Chambersburg, Pennsylvania—once again embarrassing his Union opponents and seizing horses and supplies, but at the expense of exhausted men and animals, without gaining much military advantage. Jubal Early referred to it as "the greatest horse stealing expedition" that only "annoyed" the enemy. Stuart gave his friend Jackson a fine, new officer's tunic, trimmed with gold lace, commissioned from a Richmond tailor, which he thought would give Jackson more of the appearance of a proper general (something to which Jackson was notoriously indifferent).
McClellan pushed his army slowly south, urged by President Lincoln to pursue Lee, crossing the Potomac starting on October 26. As Lee began moving to counter this, Stuart screened Longstreet's Corps and skirmished numerous times in early November against Union cavalry and infantry around Mountville, Aldie, and Upperville. On November 6, Stuart received sad news by telegram that his daughter Flora had died just before her fifth birthday of typhoid fever on November 3.
Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville
In the December 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg, Stuart and his cavalry—most notably his horse artillery under Major John Pelham—protected Stonewall Jackson's flank at Hamilton's Crossing. General Lee commended his cavalry, which "effectually guarded our right, annoying the enemy and embarrassing his movements by hanging on his flank, and attacking when the opportunity occurred." Stuart reported to Flora the next day that he had been shot through his fur collar but was unhurt.
After Christmas, Lee ordered Stuart to conduct a raid north of the Rappahannock River to "penetrate the enemy's rear, ascertain if possible his position & movements, & inflict upon him such damage as circumstances will permit." Assigning 1,800 troopers and a horse artillery battery to the operation, Stuart's raid reached as far north as 4 miles south of Fairfax Court House, seizing 250 prisoners, horses, mules, and supplies. Tapping telegraph lines, his signalmen intercepted messages between Union commanders and Stuart sent a personal telegram to Union Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs, "General Meigs will in the future please furnish better mules; those you have furnished recently are very inferior."
On March 17, 1863, Stuart's cavalry clashed with a Union raiding party at Kelly's Ford. The minor victory was marred by the death of Major Pelham, which caused Stuart profound grief, as he thought of him as close as a younger brother. He wrote to a Confederate Congressman, "The noble, the chivalric, the gallant Pelham is no more. ... Let the tears of agony we have shed, and the gloom of mourning throughout my command bear witness." Flora was pregnant at the time and Stuart told her that if it were a boy, he wanted him to be named John Pelham Stuart. (Virginia Pelham Stuart was born October 9.)
At the Battle of Chancellorsville, Stuart accompanied Stonewall Jackson on his famous flanking march of May 2, 1863, and started to pursue the retreating soldiers of the Union XI Corps when he received word that both Jackson and his senior division commander, Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill, had been wounded. Hill, bypassing the next most senior infantry general in the corps, Brig. Gen. Robert E. Rodes, sent a message ordering Stuart to take command of the Second Corps. Although the delays associated with this change of command effectively ended the flanking attack the night of May 2, Stuart performed credibly as an infantry corps commander the following day, launching a strong and well-coordinated attack against the Union right flank at Chancellorsville. When Union troops abandoned Hazel Grove, Stuart had the presence of mind to quickly occupy it and bombard the Union positions with artillery. Stuart relinquished his infantry command on May 6 when Hill returned to duty. Stephen W. Sears wrote:
... It is hard to see how Jeb Stuart, in a new command, a cavalryman commanding infantry and artillery for the first time, could have done a better job. The astute Porter Alexander believed all credit was due: "Altogether, I do not think there was a more brilliant thing done in the war than Stuart's extricating that command from the extremely critical position in which he found it."
Stonewall Jackson died on May 10 and Stuart was once again devastated by the loss of a close friend, telling his staff that the death was a "national calamity." Jackson's wife, Mary Anna, wrote to Stuart on August 1, thanking him for a note of sympathy: "I need not assure you of which you already know, that your friendship & admiration were cordially reciprocated by him. I have frequently heard him speak of Gen'l Stuart as one of his warm personal friends, & also express admiration for your Soldierly qualities."
Returning to the cavalry for the Gettysburg Campaign, Stuart endured the two low points in his career, starting with the Battle of Brandy Station, the largest predominantly cavalry engagement of the war. By June 5, two of Lee's infantry corps were camped in and around Culpeper. Six miles northeast, holding the line of the Rappahannock River, Stuart bivouacked his cavalry troopers, mostly near Brandy Station, screening the Confederate Army against surprise by the enemy. Stuart requested a full field review of his troops by Gen. Lee. This grand review on June 5 included nearly 9,000 mounted troopers and 4 batteries of horse artillery, charging in simulated battle at Inlet Station, about two miles (3 km) southwest of Brandy Station.
Lee was not able to attend the review, however, so it was repeated in his presence on June 8, although the repeated performance was limited to a simple parade without battle simulations. Despite the lower level of activity, some of the cavalrymen and the newspaper reporters at the scene complained that all Stuart was doing was feeding his ego and exhausting the horses. Lee ordered Stuart to cross the Rappahannock the next day and raid Union forward positions, screening the Confederate Army from observation or interference as it moved north. Anticipating this imminent offensive action, Stuart ordered his tired troopers back into bivouac around Brandy Station.
Army of the Potomac commander Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker interpreted Stuart's presence around Culpeper to be indicative of preparations for a raid on his army's supply lines. In reaction to this, he ordered his cavalry commander, Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton, to take a combined arms force of 8,000 cavalrymen and 3,000 infantry on a "spoiling raid" to "disperse and destroy" the 9,500 Confederates. Pleasanton's force crossed the Rappahannock in two columns on June 9, 1863, the first crossing at Beverly's Ford (Brig. Gen. John Buford's division) catching Stuart by surprise, waking him and his staff to the sound of gunfire. The second crossing, at Kelly's Ford, surprised Stuart again, and the Confederates found themselves assaulted from front and rear in a spirited melee of mounted combat. A series of confusing charges and countercharges swept back and forth across Fleetwood Hill, which had been Stuart's headquarters the previous night. After 10 hours of fighting, Pleasonton ordered his men to withdraw across the Rappahannock.
Although Stuart claimed a victory because the Confederates held the field, Brandy Station is considered a tactical draw, and both sides came up short. Pleasonton was not able to disable Stuart's force at the start of an important campaign and he withdrew before finding the location of Lee's infantry nearby. However, the fact that the Southern cavalry had not detected the movement of two large columns of Union cavalry, and that they fell victim to a surprise attack, was an embarrassment that prompted serious criticism from fellow generals and the Southern press. The fight also revealed the increased competency of the Union cavalry, and foreshadowed the decline of the formerly invincible Southern mounted arm.
Stuart's ride in the Gettysburg Campaign
Following a series of small cavalry battles in June as Lee's army began marching north through the Shenandoah Valley, Stuart may have had in mind the glory of circumnavigating the enemy army once again, desiring to erase the stain on his reputation of the surprise at Brandy Station. General Lee gave orders to Stuart on June 22 on how he was to participate in the march north, and the exact nature of those orders has been argued by the participants and historians ever since, but the essence was that he was instructed to guard the mountain passes with part of his force while the Army of Northern Virginia was still south of the Potomac and that he was to cross the river with the remainder of the army and screen the right flank of Ewell's Second Corps. Instead of taking a direct route north near the Blue Ridge Mountains, however, Stuart chose to reach Ewell's flank by taking his three best brigades (those of Brig. Gen. Wade Hampton, Brig. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee, and Col. John R. Chambliss, the latter replacing the wounded Brig. Gen. W.H.F. "Rooney" Lee) between the Union army and Washington, moving north through Rockville to Westminster and on into Pennsylvania, hoping to capture supplies along the way and cause havoc near the enemy capital. Stuart and his three brigades departed Salem Depot at 1 a.m. on June 25.
Unfortunately for Stuart's plan, the Union army's movement was underway and his proposed route was blocked by columns of Federal infantry, forcing him to veer farther to the east than either he or General Lee had anticipated. This prevented Stuart from linking up with Ewell as ordered and deprived Lee of the use of his prime cavalry force, the "eyes and ears" of the army, while advancing into unfamiliar enemy territory.
Stuart's command crossed the Potomac River at 3 a.m. on June 28. At Rockville they captured a wagon train of 140 brand-new, fully loaded wagons and mule teams. This wagon train would prove to be a logistical hindrance to Stuart's advance, but he interpreted Lee's orders as placing importance on gathering supplies. The proximity of the Confederate raiders provoked some consternation in the national capital and two Union cavalry brigades and an artillery battery were sent to pursue the Confederates. Stuart supposedly said that were it not for his fatigued horses "he would have marched down the 7th Street Road [and] took Abe & Cabinet prisoners."
In Westminster on June 29, his men clashed briefly with and overwhelmed two companies of Union cavalry, chasing them a long distance on the Baltimore road, which Stuart claimed caused a "great panic" in the city of Baltimore. The head of Stuart's column encountered Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick's cavalry as it passed through Hanover and scattered it on June 30; the Battle of Hanover ended after Kilpatrick's men regrouped and drove the Confederates out of town. Stuart's brigades had been better positioned to guard their captured wagon train than to take advantage of the encounter with Kilpatrick. After a 20 mile trek in the dark, his exhausted men reached Dover on the morning of July 1, as the Battle of Gettysburg was commencing without them.
Stuart headed next for Carlisle, hoping to find Ewell. He lobbed a few shells into town during the early evening of July 1 and burned the Carlisle Barracks before withdrawing to the south towards Gettysburg. He and the bulk of his command reached Lee at Gettysburg the afternoon of July 2. He ordered Wade Hampton to cover the left rear of the Confederate battle lines, and Hampton fought with Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of Hunterstown before joining Stuart at Gettysburg.
Gettysburg and its aftermath When Stuart arrived at Gettysburg on the afternoon of July 2—bringing with him the caravan of captured Union supply wagons—he received a rare rebuke from Lee. (No one witnessed the private meeting between Lee and Stuart, but reports circulated at headquarters that Lee's greeting was "abrupt and frosty." Colonel Edward Porter Alexander wrote, "Although Lee said only, 'Well, General, you are here at last,' his manner implied rebuke, and it was so understood by Stuart.") On the final day of the battle, Stuart was ordered to get into the enemy's rear and disrupt its line of communications at the same time Pickett's Charge was sent against the Union positions on Cemetery Ridge, but his attack on East Cavalry Field was repulsed by Union cavalry under Brig. Gens. David Gregg and George Custer.
During the retreat from Gettysburg, Stuart devoted his full attention to supporting the army's movement, successfully screening against aggressive Union cavalry pursuit and escorting thousands of wagons with wounded men and captured supplies over difficult roads and through inclement weather. Numerous skirmishes and minor battles occurred during the screening and delaying actions of the retreat. Stuart's men were the final units to cross the Potomac River, returning to Virginia in "wretched condition—completely worn out and broken down."
The Gettysburg Campaign was the most controversial of Stuart's career. He became one of the scapegoats (along with James Longstreet) blamed for Lee's loss at Gettysburg by proponents of the postbellum Lost Cause movement, such as Jubal Early. This was fueled in part by opinions of less partisan writers, such as Stuart's subordinate, Thomas L. Rosser, who stated after the war that Stuart did, "on this campaign, undoubtedly, make the fatal blunder which lost us the battle of Gettysburg." In General Lee's report on the campaign, he wrote
... the absence of the cavalry rendered it impossible to obtain accurate information. ... By the route [Stuart] pursued, the Federal Army was interposed between his command and our main body, preventing any communication with him until his arrival at Carlisle. The march toward Gettysburg was conducted more slowly than it would have been had the movements of the Federal Army been known.
Modern scholarship remains divided on Stuart's culpability. Edward G. Longacre argues that Lee deliberately gave Stuart wide discretion in his orders and had no complaints about Stuart's tardy arrival at Gettysburg because he established no date by which the cavalry was required to link up with Ewell. The 3 1/2 brigades of cavalry left with the main army were adequate for Lee to negotiate enemy territory safely and that his choice not to use these brigades effectively cannot be blamed on Stuart. Edwin B. Coddington refers to the "tragedy" of Stuart in the Gettysburg Campaign and judges that when Fitzhugh Lee raised the question of "whether Stuart exercised the discretion undoubtedly given to him, judiciously," the answer is no. Nevertheless, replying to historians who maintain that Stuart's absence permitted Lee to be surprised at Gettysburg, Coddington points out that the Union commander, Maj. Gen. George Meade, was just as surprised, and the initial advantage lay with Lee. Eric J. Wittenberg and J. David Petruzzi have concluded that there was "plenty of blame to go around" and the fault should be divided between Stuart, the lack of specificity in Lee's orders, and Richard S. Ewell, who might have tried harder to link up with Stuart northeast of Gettysburg. Jeffry D. Wert acknowledges that Lee, his officers, and fighting by the Army of the Potomac bear the responsibility for the Confederate loss at Gettysburg, but states that "Stuart failed Lee and the army in the reckoning at Gettysburg. ... Lee trusted him and gave him discretion, but Stuart acted injudiciously."
Although Stuart was not reprimanded or disciplined in any official way for his role in the Gettysburg campaign, it is noteworthy that his appointment to corps command on September 9, 1863, did not carry with it a promotion to lieutenant general. Edward Bonekemper wrote that since all other corps commanders in the Army of Northern Virginia carried this rank, Lee's decision to keep Stuart at major general rank, while at the same time promoting Stuart's subordinates Wade Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee to major generals, could be considered an implied rebuke. Jeffry D. Wert wrote that there is no evidence Lee considered Stuart's performance during the Gettysburg Campaign and that it is "more likely that Lee thought the responsibilities in command of a cavalry corps did not equal those of an infantry corps."
Fall 1863 and the 1864 Overland Campaign
Lee reorganized his cavalry on September 9, creating a Cavalry Corps for Stuart with two divisions of three brigades each. In the Bristoe Campaign, Stuart was assigned to lead a broad turning movement in an attempt to get into the enemy's rear, but General Meade skillfully withdrew his army without leaving opportunities to take advantage. On October 13, Stuart blundered into the rear guard of the Union III Corps near Warrenton. Ewell's corps was sent to rescue him, but Stuart hid his troopers in a wooded ravine until the unsuspecting III Corps moved on, and the assistance was not necessary. As Meade withdrew towards Manassas Junction, brigades from the Union II Corps fought a rearguard action against Stuart's cavalry and the infantry of Brig. Gen. Harry Hays's division near Auburn on October 14. Stuart's cavalry boldly bluffed Warren's infantry and escaped disaster. After the Confederate repulse at Bristoe Station and an aborted advance on Centreville, Stuart's cavalry shielded the withdrawal of Lee's army from the vicinity of Manassas Junction. Judson Kilpatrick's Union cavalry pursued Stuart's cavalry along the Warrenton Turnpike but were lured into an ambush near Chestnut Hill and routed. The Federal troopers were scattered and chased five miles (8 km) in an affair that came to be known as the "Buckland Races". The Southern press began to mute its criticism of Stuart's following his successful performance during the fall campaign.
The Overland Campaign, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's offensive against Lee in the spring of 1864, began at the Battle of the Wilderness, where Stuart aggressively pushed Thomas L. Rosser's Laurel Brigade into a fight against George Custer's better-armed Michigan Brigade, resulting in significant losses. General Lee sent a message to Stuart: "It is very important to save your Cavalry & not wear it out. ... You must use your good judgment to make any attack which may offer advantages." As the armies maneuvered toward their next confrontation at Spotsylvania Court House, Stuart's cavalry fought delaying actions against the Union cavalry. His defense at Laurel Hill, also directing the infantry of Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw, skillfully delayed the advance of the Federal army for nearly 5 critical hours.
Yellow Tavern and death
The commander of the Army of the Potomac, Maj. Gen. George Meade, and his cavalry commander, Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan, quarreled about the Union cavalry's performance in the first two engagements of the Overland Campaign. Sheridan heatedly asserted that he wanted to "concentrate all of cavalry, move out in force against Stuart's command, and whip it." Meade reported the comments to Grant, who replied "Did Sheridan say that? Well, he generally knows what he is talking about. Let him start right out and do it." Sheridan immediately organized a raid against Confederate supply and railroad lines close to Richmond, which he knew would bring Stuart to battle.
Sheridan moved aggressively to the southeast, crossing the North Anna River and seizing Beaver Dam Station on the Virginia Central Railroad, where his men liberated a train carrying 3,000 Union prisoners and destroyed more than one million rations and medical supplies destined for Lee's army. Stuart dispatched a force of about 3,000 cavalrymen to intercept Sheridan's cavalry, more than three times their numbers. As he rode in pursuit, accompanied by his aide, Maj. Andrew R. Venable, they were able to stop briefly along the way to be greeted by Stuart's wife, Flora, and his children, Jimmie and Virginia. Venable wrote of Stuart, "He told me he never expected to live through the war, and that if we were conquered, that he did not want to live."
The Battle of Yellow Tavern occurred May 11, at an abandoned inn located six miles (10 km) north of Richmond. The Confederate troopers tenaciously resisted from the low ridgeline bordering the road to Richmond, fighting for over three hours. A countercharge by the 1st Virginia Cavalry pushed the advancing Union troopers back from the hilltop as Stuart, mounted on horseback, shouted encouragement. As the 5th Michigan Cavalry streamed in retreat past Stuart, a dismounted Union private, 48-year-old John A. Huff, a former sharpshooter, turned and shot Stuart with his .44-caliber pistol, from a distance of 10-30 yards.
The pistol wound proved mortal, striking Stuart in the left side, slicing through his stomach, and passing out his back, 1 inch to the right of his spine. Taken to Richmond to await the arrival of his wife at the home of his brother-in-law, Dr. Charles Brewer, Stuart ordered his sword and spurs be given to his son. His last whispered words were: "I am resigned; God's will be done." He died at 7:38 p.m. on May 12, the following day. He was 31 years old. Stuart was buried in Richmond's Hollywood Cemetery. Upon learning of Stuart's death, General Lee is reported to have said that he could hardly keep from weeping at the mere mention of Stuart's name and that Stuart had never given him a bad piece of information.
Flora wore the black of mourning for the remainder of her life, and never remarried. She lived in Saltville, Virginia, for 15 years after the war, where she opened and taught at a school in a log cabin. She worked from 1880 to 1898 as principal of the Virginia Female Institute in Staunton, Virginia, a position for which Robert E. Lee had recommended her. In 1907, the Institute was renamed Stuart Hall School in her honor. Upon the death of her daughter Virginia, from complications in childbirth in 1898, Flora resigned from the Institute and moved to Norfolk, Virginia, where she helped Virginia's widower, Robert Page Waller, in raising her grandchildren. She died in Norwalk on May 10, 1923, after striking her head in a fall on a city sidewalk. She is buried alongside her husband and their daughter, Little Flora, in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.
Legacy and memorials
Like his intimate friend, Stonewall Jackson, General J.E.B. Stuart was a legendary figure and is considered one of the greatest cavalry commanders in American history. His friend and West Point classmate, Union Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick said that Stuart was "the greatest cavalry officer ever foaled in America." Jackson and Stuart, both of whom were killed in battle, had colorful public images, although the latter seems to have been more deliberately crafted. Jeffry D. Wert wrote about Stuart:
Stuart had been the Confederacy's knight-errant, the bold and dashing cavalier, attired in a resplendent uniform, plumed hat, and cape. Amid a slaughterhouse, he had embodied chivalry, clinging to the pageantry of a long-gone warrior. He crafted the image carefully, and the image befitted him. He saw himself as the Southern people envisaged him. They needed a knight; he needed to be that knight.
A statue of General J.E.B. Stuart by sculptor Frederick Moynihan was dedicated on Richmond's famed Monument Avenue at Stuart Circle in 1907. Like General Stonewall Jackson, his equestrian statue faces north, indicating that he died in the war. In 1884 the town of Taylorsville, Virginia, was renamed Stuart. The British Army named two models of American-made World War II tanks, the M3 and M5, the Stuart tank in General Stuart's honor. High schools in Falls Church, Virginia, and Jacksonville, Florida, are named for him.
In December 2006, a personal Confederate battle flag, sewn by Flora Stuart, was sold at auction for a world-record price for any Confederate flag, for $956,000 (including buyer's premium). The 34-inch by 34-inch flag was hand-sewn for Stuart by Flora in 1862 and Stuart carried it into some of his most famous battles. However, in December of that year it fell from a tent front into a campfire and was damaged. Stuart returned it to his wife with a letter describing the accident and telling of his despondency over the banner's damage. The flag remained with the Stuart family until 1969 when it was given to Stuart Hall, Staunton, Virginia, by a granddaughter of the Confederate general. The school quietly sold the flag and letter to a private collector in 2000. In 2006, the flag and letter, which had been displayed in a single frame in the Stuart Hall front parlor, sold separately at auction.
Stuart's birthplace, Laurel Hill, located in Patrick County, Virginia, was purchased by the J.E.B. Stuart Birthplace Preservation Trust, Inc., in 1992 to preserve and interpret it.
Photograph Hand Oil Tinted by Artist Margaret A. Rogers