J.E.B. Stuart

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J.E.B. Stuart : biography

February 6, 1833 – May 12, 1864

Three weeks after Lee’s army had withdrawn back to Virginia, on October 10–12, 1862, Stuart performed another of his audacious circumnavigations of the Army of the Potomac, his Chambersburg Raid—126 miles in under 60 hours, from Darkesville, West Virginia to as far north as Mercersburg, Pennsylvania and Chambersburg and around to the east through Emmitsburg, Maryland and south through Hyattstown, Maryland and White’s Ford to Leesburg, Virginia—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.Wert, pp. 167–76; Thomas, pp. 173–80; Davis, pp. 215–37. 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).Robertson, pp. 653–54; Thomas, pp. 172–73.

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.Wert, pp. 179–83.

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.Wert, pp. 190–93; Davis, pp. 253–58.

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."Wert, pp. 195–98; Davis, pp. 261–63.

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.)Longacre, Lee’s Cavalrymen, pp. 169–74; Wert, pp. 207–10, 321; Davis, pp. 267–76; Thomas, p. 270.

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.Wert, pp. 222–31; Davis, pp. 290–98. Stephen W. Sears wrote: