James Ewell Brown StuartKnown as "Jeb," Stuart was probably the most famous cavalryman of the Civil War. A Virginia-born West Pointer (1854), Stuart was already a veteran of Indian fighting on the plains and of Bleeding Kansas when, as a first lieutenant in the 1st Cavalry, he carried orders for Robert E. Lee to proceed to Harpers Ferry to crush John Brown's raid. Stuart, volunteering as aide-de-camp, went along and read the ultimatum to Brown before the assault in which he distinguished himself. Promoted to captain on April 22, 1861, Stuart resigned on May 14, 1861, having arrived on the 6th in Richmond and been made a lieutenant colonel of Virginia infantry.
His later appointments included: captain of Cavalry, CSA (May 24, 186 1); colonel, 1st Virginia Cavalry (July 16, 1861); brigadier general, CSA (September 24, 1861); and major general, CSA July 25, 1862). His commands in the Army of Northern Virginia included: Cavalry Brigade (October 22, 1861 - July 28, 1862); Cavalry Division July 28, 1862 - September 9, 1863); temporarily Jackson's 2nd Corps (May 3-6, 1863); and Cavalry Corps (September 9, 1863 - May 11, 1864).
After early service in the Shenandoah Valley, Stuart led his regiment in the battle of 1st Bull Run and participated in the pursuit of the routed Federals. He then directed the army's outposts until given command of the cavalry brigade. Besides leading the cavalry in the Army of Northern Virginia's fights at the Seven Days, 2nd Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and the Wilderness, Stuart was also a raider. Twice he led his command around McClellan's army, once in the Peninsula Campaign and once after the battle of Antietam. While these exploits were not that important militarily, they provided a boost to the Southern morale. During the 2nd Bull Run Campaign, he lost his famed plumed hat and cloak to pursuing Federals. In a later Confederate raid, Stuart managed to overrun Union army commander Pope's headquarters and capture his full uniform and orders that provided Lee with much valuable intelligence. At the end of 1862, Stuart led a raid north of the Rappahannock River, inflicting some 230 casualties while losing only 27 of his own men.
At Chancellorsville he took over command of his friend Stonewall Jackson's Corps after that officer had been mortally wounded by his own men. Returning to the cavalry shortly after, he commanded the Southern horsemen in the largest cavalry engagement ever fought on the American continent, Brandy Station, on June 9, 1863. Although the battle was a draw, the Confederates did hold the field. However, the fight represented the rise of the Union cavalry and foreshadowed the decline of the formerly invincible Southern mounted arm. During the Gettysburg Campaign, Stuart, acting under ambiguous orders, again circled the Union army, but in the process deprived Lee of his eyes and ears while in enemy territory. Arriving late on the second day of the battle, Stuart failed the next day to get into the enemy's rear flank, being defeated by Generals Gregg and Custer.
During Grant's drive on Richmond in the spring of 1864, Stuart halted Sheridan's cavalry at Yellow Tavern on the outskirts of Richmond on May 11. In the fight he was mortally wounded and died the next day in the rebel capital. He is buried in Hollywood Cemetery there. Like his intimate friend, Stonewall Jackson, General Stuart soon became a legendary figure, ranking as one of the great cavalry commanders of America. His death marked the beginning of the decline of the superiority which the Confederate horse had enjoyed over that of the Union. Stuart was a son-in-law of Brigadier General Philip St. George Cooke of the Federal service; his wife's brother was Brigadier General John Rogers Cooke of the Confederacy. (Davis, Burke, JEB Stuart: The Last Cavalier)
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Jul 13, 2005