James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart was one of the greatest cavalry commanders in American history. Popularly known for his dashing image, Stuart inspired Southern morale with his daring raids and reconnaissance missions into enemy territory during the American Civil War.
James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart was born on February 6, 1833, at Laurel Hill Farm, his family's plantation, in Patrick County, Virginia. He was the eighth of eleven children of Archibald Stuart and Elizabeth Letcher Pannill Stuart. Stuart's great grandfather, Major Alexander Stuart, was a regimental commander in the Revolutionary War, and his father fought in the War of 1812.
Stuart’s mother schooled her son, before having him formally educated by tutors in Wytheville and Danville, Virginia. Between 1848 and 1850, he attended Emory and Henry College in Emory, Virginia. In 1850, United States Congressman Thomas Hamlet Averett nominated Stuart for an appointment to the United States Military Academy. Stuart graduated thirteenth in his class of forty-six cadets in 1854. While attending West Point, Stuart became friends with the academy supervisor and future Confederate army commander, Robert E. Lee.
After graduating from West Point, officials brevetted Stuart as a second lieutenant and assigned him to the Regiment of Mounted Rifles. Stationed in Texas, he campaigned against the Apache Indians. In 1855, he transferred to the newly-formed 1st Cavalry at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Territory. Shortly after his transfer, Stuart met and married Flora Cooke, the daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Philip St. George Cooke, on November 14, 1855. One month later, on December 20, 1855, Stuart received a promotion to first lieutenant. While serving in Kansas, Stuart was wounded fighting against Cheyenne Indians on July 29, 1857.
In 1859, while visiting Washington, D.C., Stuart learned of John Brown's Raid on the Federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. He immediately volunteered to serve as Colonel Robert E. Lee's aide-de-camp and accompanied Lee to Harper's Ferry to suppress Brown's insurgents. Colonel Lee sent Stuart under a flag of truce to negotiate a surrender with Brown and his followers. When Brown refused, Stuart signaled a company of Marines to storm the engine house where Brown was sequestered. Stuart then participated in Brown's capture.
Promoted to captain on April 22, 1861, Stuart resigned his commission in the United States Army in early May after his home state of Virginia seceded from the Union on April 17, 1861. On May 10, Virginia officials commissioned Stuart as a lieutenant colonel of the Virginia Infantry in the Confederate Army and assigned him to serve under Colonel Thomas J. Jackson in General Joseph Johnston's Army of the Shenandoah. On July 4, 1861, Jackson placed Stuart in command of the 1st Virginia Cavalry, comprising all cavalry companies of Johnston's army. Officials promoted Stuart to the rank of colonel two weeks later, on July 16, 1861.
Stuart played a prominent role in enabling Johnston's army to move from the Shenandoah Valley to the vicinity of Manassas in time to reinforce General P.G.T. Beauregard's Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Bull Run I (July 21, 1861). Stuart led his regiment during the Confederate victory and participated in the pursuit of the retreating Federals. After the battle, he commanded the army's outposts along the upper Potomac River until given command of a full cavalry brigade. Stuart was promoted to brigadier-general on September 24, 1861.
In 1862, authorities reassigned Stuart to support General Joseph Johnston's troops, as Federal forces threatened the Confederate capitol at Richmond during Major General George B. McClellan's Peninsula Campaign. On June 12, Stuart began his famous "Ride around McClellan." Over the course of three days, he led 1,200 troopers completely around McClellan's army on the Virginia Peninsula. Upon his return, he provided strategic information that helped General Robert E. Lee, who had replaced the wounded Johnston, launch a counteroffensive that drove the Federals away from Richmond. Stuart's exploits made him nearly as popular as Stonewall Jackson in the eyes of adoring Southerners.
On July 25, 1862, officials promoted Stuart to the rank of major general and upgraded his command to a cavalry division. A few weeks later, on August 22, Stuart embarrassed John Pope, commander of the Army of Virginia, by capturing the Union general's dress uniform and personal baggage, along with twenty-five thousand dollars, during a cavalry raid at Catlett's Station. As a division commander, Stuart participated in the battles of Bull Run II (August 28, 1862–August 30, 1862), Antietam (September 17, 1862), Fredericksburg (December 11–15, 1862), and Chancellorsville (April 30-May 6, 1863). During the Battle of Chancellorsville, Stuart assumed temporary command of Stonewall Jackson's corps, after Jackson received a mortal wound. Under Stuart's leadership, Jackson's men forced General Joseph Hooker's army to retreat northward, across the Rappahannock River. On June 9, 1863, Stuart commanded the Confederate cavalry at the Battle of Brandy Station, the largest predominantly cavalry engagement of the Civil War.
Despite his many successes, Stuart's reputation was seriously blemished by his failure to advance on Gettysburg in time to be a factor during the first day of that pivotal engagement (July 1-3, 1863). Instead, his cavalry was caught behind Union lines, unable to provide Lee with vital intelligence and combat support. As a result, some historians have made Stuart a scapegoat for the Confederate loss at Gettysburg.
Overlooking any shortcomings Stuart may have displayed at Gettysburg, Lee promoted him to the position of corps commander on September 9, 1863. When Confederate fortunes began to decline the following spring, Stuart was instrumental in delaying Ulysses S. Grant's advance toward Richmond during the Battle of the Wilderness (May 5–7, 1864) and the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House (May 8–21, 1864). On May 11, 1864, however, during the Battle of Yellow Tavern, Union Private John A. Huff mortally wounded Stuart with his .44 caliber revolver while retreating from Stuart's cavalry. Stuart died the next day, May 12, 1864. J.E.B. Stuart was buried at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.
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"James Ewell Brown "JEB" Stuart," Ohio Civil War Central, 2021, Ohio Civil War Central. 20 Jan 2021 <http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=975>
"James Ewell Brown "JEB" Stuart." (2021) In Ohio Civil War Central, Retrieved January 20, 2021, from Ohio Civil War Central: http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=975
- Army of the Potomac (USA)
- Army of the Shenandoah (USA) (1864)
- Battle of Antietam
- Battle of Brandy Station
- Battle of Bull Run I
- Battle of Bull Run II
- Battle of Chancellorsville
- Battle of Fredericksburg
- Battle of Gettysburg
- Battle of Spotsylvania Court House
- Battle of the Wilderness
- Battle of Yellow Tavern
- George B. McClellan
- John Brown
- John Pope
- Joseph E. Johnston
- Joseph Hooker
- P.G.T. Beauregard
- Peninsula Campaign
- Robert E. Lee
- Thomas J. Jackson
- Ulysses S. Grant
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