Saturday, March 8, 2008

Part Three -An Analysis of Stuart's Orders

In the Pennsylvania campaign, June 22 was a watershed day. Ewell was beginning his march into Pennsylvania where he was to report back to Lee on whether he could gather enough supplies to sustain the rest of the army. If he could, the First and Third Corps would follow. Stuart advances his plan to circle around the enemy, getting between the AOP and Washington. In the evening, Lee approves the plan. He relays the order through Longstreet for his approval. Longstreet adds his endorsement and sends the order on to Stuart.

The order is clear. The terminology to pass by the rear of the enemy only means one thing. Stuart is to cross the Bull Run Mountains, go around the Union army, and place his command with Ewell as the Second Corps marches toward the Susquehanna. The Hopewell Gap, mentioned in Longstreet’s letter, is a gap in that small mountain chain.

Stuart is not ordered to keep in communication with Lee. With the AOP between his command and the main body, this type of communication will be virtually impossible. Instead, Stuart is to apprise Ewell of the enemy’s movements. There is no time factor in the order. Lee also gives Stuart detailed instructions on the proper methods of gathering supplies.

In his memoirs, Marshall explains that the June 23 order was sent because “General Lee directed me to repeat it” (15) (the June 22 order). Marshall failed to do so. The second set of orders bear no resemblance to the first. They are confusing and contradictory. Whereas, in the first dispatch, Stuart was ordered to pass by the rear of the enemy if he found the AOP marching north, in the second dispatch, he is ordered to do two completely opposite things if he finds the AOP inactive and/or not moving northward.

If the AOP was inactive, Stuart could leave two brigades to watch him (Hooker) and withdraw with the three others. Withdraw where? No place is mentioned. To complicate matters, Stuart is then ordered to withdraw behind the Blue Ridge and cross the Potomac at Shepherdstown if he found the enemy not moving northward. Was there a difference between inactive and not moving northward? Or did they mean the same thing?

How does one reconcile the two conflicting statements in this order and the apparent contradiction between the two orders received little more than 24 hours apart? There are some clues in the June 23 dispatch as to what the order meant. The very innocuous paragraph about the purchase of tobacco for the men reveals much. It has to do with whether Confederate money would be accepted during the transaction. This would only apply in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Stuart would not run into this particular problem if he was marching with the main army through the Valley.

If you add to the June 23 order what Lee and Stuart had already discussed, and Lee had already written, the inactive contingency is very similar to what Stuart was previously ordered to do. Take three brigades with him and leave two behind. Another clue was Stuart was still ordered to pass around the enemy and cross the river east of the mountains in either case. Once Stuart passed around the Federal army, he would be east of the Bull Run Mountains. This scenario fits both sets of orders. Stuart was also told it would be best if he did not cross the Potomac until the day after tomorrow or June 25, and then he should do so as quickly as he could. If Stuart was to cross with the main body, would Lee need to give him a specific date?

Stuart is given discretion on whether or not he could pass around the enemy without hindrance. This is the only discretion he is given by Lee. If he thought he could pass by, then he was to do so and damage the enemy all he could.

One more set of orders would reach Stuart late night on the 23rd. These orders seem to clarify what Stuart is supposed to do. He is ordered to place himself with Early, who would be at York, which is also given as the possible concentration point of the army. For the first time, Stuart is given a time frame. He must move on “as speedily as possible.” (16) In direct contradiction to the previous order received that day, Stuart is warned that the roads from Shepherdstown and Williamsport are packed with men, artillery, and trains and passing around the enemy would be quicker.

Stuart sends detailed orders to General Beverly Robertson to keep an eye on the enemy and move on the rear and the right of the army as it marches into Pennsylvania. General Imboden’s cavalry command marches with the main body as well. General Jenkins’ and General White’s brigades are with Ewell. Stuart takes 4,500 men with him. He leaves over 9,000 troopers with the main body.

(15)“I (Marshall) remember saying to the General that it could hardly be necessary to repeat the order, as General Stuart had had the matter fully explained to himself verbally and my letter had been very full and explicit. I had retained a copy of my letter in General Lee’s confidential letter book. General Lee said that he felt anxious about the matter and desired to guard against the possibility of error, and desired me to repeat it which I did, and dispatched the second letter.” Mark Nesbitt. Saber and Scapegoat. (Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 1994), pages 63 and 64.
(16)McClellan. I Rode With Jeb Stuart, 317