Sunday, March 9, 2008

Part Five - Charles Marshall's Charges Against Stuart

In 1896, Colonel Charles Marshall, aide to Lee, spoke before Confederate veterans in Washington D.C. He states the purpose of his address was to “correct the impression that has prevailed to some extent that the movement of the cavalry was made by General Lee's orders, and that at a critical moment of the campaign, he (Lee) crossed the Potomac River and moved into Pennsylvania, sending the entire cavalry force of his army upon a useless raid.” (27)

The rest of his text is a mishmash of events, orders, dispatches, geography, and time constraints. He reads each order and gives a very detailed interpretation of what Lee expected to have happened. After reading the June 22 order, Marshall explains that “the letter from General Lee to General Stuart, however, shows, when it was written, General Lee expected General Stuart would pass with all his cavalry, except two brigades, to the west of the Blue Ridge, and cross the Potomac on that side of the mountains, leaving two brigades in the gaps to guard his rear as long as the enemy threatened to attempt to penetrate through the gap into the Valley.” (28)

Marshall then contradicts himself when explaining the convoluted June 23 order. He tells his audience, the order “leaves Stuart to decide whether he can move around the Federal army in either events mentioned […],”(29) but “it will also be observed that General Stuart was not permitted to make this movement around the enemy’s rear, unless he could pass around the Federal army without hindrance...” (30) (emphasis Marshall).

About Stuart’s movements, Marshall says, he “crossed the Potomac east of the army of General Hooker, so as to render it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for him to comply with the repeated injunctions he had received from General Lee to place himself on Ewell’s right as soon as he entered Maryland.” (31) The end result of Stuart’s disobedience was “the army moved very slowly, and there would have been no difficulty, whatever in having the whole of it at Gettysburg by the morning of July 1 had we been aware of the movements of the enemy on the other side of the mountains.” (32) Marshall then blames Stuart for wasting time by collecting supplies, damaging the enemy’s communications, and combating the enemy. All this was in direct violation of his orders.

After carefully reading the June 22 order, Marshall explained to his audience that this dispatch was written because Lee expected Stuart to cross the Potomac west of the Blue Ridge. The Colonel had been in the military long enough to understand the terminology employed in dispatches and orders. It is dishonest to suggest Lee wanted Stuart to cross west of the Blue Ridge when the only way Stuart could obey Lee’s orders was to pass by the rear of the enemy, which was east of the Bull Run Mountains. If, as Marshall stated, Lee expected Stuart to cross west of the Blue Ridge, why did Lee simply order Stuart to do so?

When explaining the confusing June 23 order, Marshall now admits Stuart was to pass by the rear of the enemy. This confession was made so he could charge Stuart of violating the order by not obeying the condition without hindrance. It was not a condition. It was discretion, which Lee entrusted to Stuart. Marshall declared Stuart’s discretion ended at Haymarket when he found the roads clogged with the northward march of the AOP’s Second Corps. Marshall may pontificate in a speech 33 years after the fact that Stuart should have retired west of the Blue Ridge when first hindered at Haymarket, but that was not up to Marshall to decide. Lee left it up to Stuart. He decided he could get through by another route, and he did.

After admitting Stuart was to pass by the rear of the enemy, he now asserts Stuart disobeyed his orders by allowing the Federal army to interpose between his command and Ewell. He also criticizes Stuart for not placing himself on the right of Ewell as soon as he entered Maryland. All of this is highly deceitful. Even though Stuart passed east of the Federal army, he was never cut off from Ewell. Neither could he put his command to the right of Ewell as soon as he entered Maryland. Ewell was not in Maryland. He was in Pennsylvania, which Marshall knew since either he was, most likely, the one who wrote Ewell’s order to move on Harrisburg and capture the city if he could.

Marshall then bemoans the fact that if Lee had only known where the enemy was, he could have moved into Gettysburg by the morning of July 1 ahead of the Union forces. Even though Lee had not realized that the AOP had crossed the Potomac until June 28 when told by the spy, Harrison, Lee still had every opportunity to determine if he would receive battle at Gettysburg or maneuver to a ground of his own choosing. The battle started when Hill disregarded Lee’s direct order not to bring on a general engagement on the morning of July 1. After driving the Union army through town, Lee made the decision to stay and fight. This ultimate decision had nothing to do with Stuart.

The next set of Marshall’s charges was absurd. He insisted Stuart wasted time in collecting supplies, damaging communications, and supply lines. Stuart’s orders tell him to do so. The accusation that he wasted time by combating the enemy is equally ludicrous.

The purpose of Marshall’s speech was his desire to correct the impression that Lee could never make such an error in judgment and send his “entire” (33) cavalry away on a raid while invading the North. Lee did not send his entire cavalry away. He sent Stuart and three brigades on a movement around the enemy. Marshall knows this because he readily admitted it when he could use it to indict Stuart of some other infraction of his orders. The truth was Lee had over 9,000 troopers at his disposal during the march. Why he did not use them remains a mystery.

(27)Charles Marshall, Colonel. “Events Leading Up to the Battle of Gettysburg.” Richmond Dispatch. January 22, 1896 and February 2, 1896. (Source: Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. 23, pages 205-229)