Monday, August 11, 2008

Major General J.E.B. Stuart by Captain William P. Snow - Part One

Here is an interesting chapter from Lee and His Generals, by Captain William P. Snow. It was published in 1867 and offers some descriptions of Stuart.

At the battle of Williamsburg, in 1862, while the enemy was advancing on the redoubts from the Yorktown Road, a horseman dashed through the streets and rode up to the headquarters of General Johnston to report. He appeared much fatigued and overworked and would have served admirably for a picture of Dick Turpin, when chased by officers on the road to York. His horse was a splendid black, with heavy reins and bit, cavalry saddle, and holsters: foam stood in a lather upon him, and he was mud-splashed from head to hoof. The rider, himself, bore no insignia of command. He word a common black felt hat, turned down in front, and up behind; a heavy black overcoat, tightly buttoned; elegant riding-boots covering the thigh; a handsome saber, carelessly slung by his side, and a heavy pair of Mexican spurs, that jingled and rattled on the pavement as he dismounted. This was all that could be noticed at a distance. A nearer view, however, showed a thick-set, full-faced, ruddy-complexioned man, with close-cut hair, and apparently some thirty years old. His eyes were bright, beaming, and, when lighted up, piercing, and full of deep expression. A stranger, unaccustomed to the war, would at first have taken him to be a daring chief of some wild predatory band; and yet, a moment more, would cause a change of opinion, especially on hearing him speak and noticing the high-toned, gentlemanly bearing he displayed.

As the horseman communicated with General Johnston and mentioned something, both smiled. Presently, it was known that he had been chased by “old Emory” of the Fifth United States Dragoons, whose light artillery could be heard blazing away, south of town. In a moment more, he rode back again to the fight.

This horseman, whom we have thus described was Jeb Stuart, then commanding the cavalry rear-guard of the Confederate forces at Williamsburg. Born in 1833, in Patrick County, Virginia, he very early displayed evidence of a quick and active turn of mind. His father, the late Archibald Stuart, former member of Congress, gave him a good academic education and got him entered at West Point Academy in 1850.

Stuart graduated on the 30th of June, 1854, and on the next day received his appointment as brevet second lieutenant of the regiment of mounted rifles. On the 3d March, 1855, he was transferred, with full rank, to the First Regular Cavalry, then having for its colonel, the late General Sumner, of the Union army, and for lieutenant-colonel, the present General J. E. Johnston, of the Confederate service. In July of the same year, he was made regimental quartermaster; and, the following December, received his appointment as first-lieutenant.

His regiment having been ordered to the wilds of Texas. He soon had an opportunity for indulging the bent of his inclination in riding and fighting with the boldest and fiercest among all the brave spirits that were there. Could we find space to narrate them, many stirring pictures might be given of his roving, dashing, adventurous life in that region, warring with the Indians and bounding over the mighty plains. But we must pass over such scenes and confine ourselves to a simple outline of his spirited career. One incident, alone, has to be related of this period. On the 29th of July, 1857, Colonel Sumner encountered a force of three hundred Indians of the Cheyenne tribe. They were strongly posted on the Solomon fork of the Kansas river, and after a sharp struggle, they were defeated and put to flight in great disorder. In this engagement Lieutenant Stuart was wounded, we believe, very severely.

Two years afterwards, Lieutenant Stuart was acting as aid to Colonel R. E. Lee, in the John Brown affair at Harper’s Ferry, an account of which we have already given; and when the present war broke out, he resigned his commission on May 14, 1861, and offered his sword to his native State. He immediately raised a company of cavalry, was soon afterwards elected colonel, and the acted as brigadier-general. At this time, he had a family, and many ties of kindred that might have influenced him, in the course he took. His wife was a daughter of Philip St. George Cooke, then colonel of the Second Dragoons (since a general) in the U. S. A., who was also a Virginian by birth, and a brother of the late J. R. Cooke, of Richmond. His mother, too, was alive in his native State; and several other associations bound him to her fortunes.

Colonel Stuart was first stationed at Harper’s Ferry, in command of the cavalry attached to Jackson’s army, and his well-known bravery made him already conspicuous. It is said of him, at this time, by one who was competent to judge: “Stuart is characterized by untiring energy, clear judgment, and extraordinary powers of moulding and infusing his own brave spirit into the hearts of his men.” General Johnston, who had assumed command of the army, also spoke of him as “the Indefatigable Stuart;” and truly, this appellation seems deserved. While in the vicinity of the upper Potomac, he was on the alert, watching the enemy, riding from place to place with his men, and giving information to the general. From Point of Rocks to beyond Williamsport, he was constantly to and fro on duty; and, on the 15th of July, reported the advance of General Patterson. That general’s movements he now incessantly watched “with lynx-eyed vigilance;” and, on one occasion surprised a whole company, who were so much startled by his sudden command to throw down their arms, that they instantly submitted.

When General Johnston marched to unite with Beauregard at Manassas, Colonel Stuart, with his cavalry, covered the movement most effectually. Posting a cordon of pickets from Smithfield along by Summit Point and Rippon to the Shenandoah, he completely concealed the change of base, and thus enabled the army to wend its way without molestation.

In the battle of Bull Run, at the commencement, Stuart’s cavalry, some 300 men, guarded the level ground extending along the stream from near Mitchell’s ford to the Stone bridge, ready for employment as might be required, and during the day his impetuous spirit was permitted to have full vent. A dashing charge was made by him upon a regiment of Fire Zouaves, scattering them and riding them down against all opposition; and readers all acquainted with the history of this battle, may remember how his daring horsemen startled the Federals in front of them, as they came, like a whirlwind, rushing forward. But, it was still more so in the disastrous panic that ensued among the Federal troops on the termination of the battle. Like the Black Hunstmen of the German forests in other times, or the wild horsemen of the Wolga, Stuart, with his men, dashed after the terror-stricken enemy. Over the Stone bridge-- across the fords-- up the road-- in and out of the woods where a passage could be found; on, on, slaughtering and cutting down, till they arrived near Centreville, did the Confederate cavalry pursue their way. But the rout was soon over. The foe had gone; hundreds of prisoners had been taken; many more human beings had been killed, and the victory was completely won.

In the official report of Beauregard, he thus mentions Stuart: “Colonel J. E. B. Stuart likewise deserves mention for his enterprise and ability as a cavalry commander. Through his judicious reconnaissance of the country on our left flank, he acquired information, both of topographical features, and the positions of the enemy, of the utmost importance in the subsequent and closing movements of the day on that flank, and his services in the pursuit were highly effective.”