Thursday, August 14, 2008

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

At the time “Stonewall” Jackson was marching towards Pope’s army, General Stuart arrived on a tour of inspection. He took command of the cavalry, and proceeded to reconnoitre, rendering most important service. After the battle of Cedar Run, during the short truce which followed for burying the dead, many officers of both armies met and conversed upon the field. Stuart was among them, and it was then that the following interesting incident occurred, as related by an eye witness:

“On a fallen gum-tree—the slain stretched around them—sat the officers of the parley. Upon one side the Confederate cavalry leader, Stuart, and General Early; upon the other Generals Hartsuff and Roberts. Stuart was lithe, gray-eyed, and tall; of an intense countenance, nervous, impulsive manner; and clad in gray, with a soft black hat. He wore, curiously enough, United States buttons, and his sword, which he exhibited, was made in Philadelphia. Early was a quiet, severe North Carolinian, who wore a home-spun civil suit, with a brigadier’s star on his shoulder-bar. General Hartsuff was burly and good-humored; Roberts silent and sage, with white beard and distrustful eye. The former had been a classmate of the cavalry man, and he said, ‘Stuart, old boy, how d ye do?’ “God bless my soul, Hartsuff,’ replied the other ‘it warms my heart to see you!’ and they took a turn together, arm in arm.”

Shortly afterwards, Stuart, at the head of his cavalry, made another of those bold dashes, which so characterized him. General Pope then had his headquarters at Catlett’s station, and, on a sudden, one night in the midst of a storm, Stuart got in the enemy’s rear, and rushed upon Pope’s quarters. That general escaped just in time, but with the loss of his coat and hat, besides many important documents, plans, maps, estimates and returns of forces. In addition, there was much clothing found, including new full-dress suits for General Pope and his staff, also a quantity of private baggage, wine, liquors, etc. Some of the Union rifles had been stationed near the headquarters, but they were quickly dispersed, and when Stuart’s daring horsemen found that General Pope had escaped, they were so vexed that, instantly dividing into small parties, they galloped down every road with the hope of overtaking him, but in vain.

In the succeeding movement of the Confederate army, General Stuart was constantly engaged with a perfect net-work of scouting parties, and a cordon of pickets between Pope and Jackson. At Bristoe station he attacked a train of the enemy, and afterwards dashed upon Manassas, capturing a battery of New York artillery, and destroying an immense quantity of stores deposited there. He then galloped on to meet, and, if need be, assist Longstreet at Thoroughfare gap, capturing a party of Federals on the way, and engaging the Federal cavalry. Hearing the sound of a battle at or near Stone bridge, on August 29th, he hastily returned, and gallantly shared in the engagement going on; as also in the great fight of the next day. But hardly had the smoke of that second Bull Run victory to the South died away, then Stuart was off with his cavalry into Maryland—swimming fords—dashing through woods and fields—fighting where they could find an enemy—peaceably moving where there was a friend or non-combatant. The invasion of that State, and the events that occurred have already been told; but the following incident may be related.

On the retreat, a few of Stuart’s cavalry were, on the morning of September 12th, at Frederick ready to depart. Some recruits had joined the bold legion under Stuart’s command, and these were bidding tender adieus to some loved friends, when up rode a few squadrons of Federal cavalry, commanded by a Dutch major, with immense moustache. Halting before the city hall, he exclaimed, “Vere is de Got tam repels? Vere ish de Got fur-tam Stuart—vere is he mit his cavalrie? Let me shee him, unt I show him some tings!”

A lady present, told him that a few of Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry had just left. “Goot! Young woomans,” said Meinheer, and immediately started in pursuit, saying, “Ve show de repels some tings.” The major and his command had fairly got into the main street, when a company of Confederate cavalry met them, and both parties rushed together in strife. The upshot was, that the major’s command was routed, and he himself, shortly afterwards, pulled out of a cottage with a table-cloth bound round a slight wound in his head, and sent to the Confederate rear as a prisoner.

The retreat of the Confederate army into Virginia kept Stuart’s force ever actively employed, and when other troops rested he found work elsewhere. After a sharp affair at Sheperdstown with the Federal cavalry, he again started, on October 10th, upon another daring raid. While the North were congratulating themselves that all the “rebels” had been driven away, General Stuart, with a force of some 1,300 troopers, under Hampton, W. H. F. Lee, and Jones, suddenly appeared before Chambersburg, in Pennsylvania, “took possession of the town, captured and destroyed much public property, mounted themselves anew on good horses, passed around the entire Federal army, and safely returned to their own camp, in Virginia, to recount their triumphs, without loss, or more than a few wounds received in skirmishes.”*

Two or three skirmishes and minor engagements followed, between Stuart’s cavalry and the enemy’s under Pleasanton and others, but we must pass them over with this mere allusion to them. Nothing that could be said in a brief space would do full justice to these rapid and remarkable exploits of Stuart, Hampton, the two Lees, and the brave officers and men under their command.

At the battle of Fredericksburg, in the following December, Stuart was on the right of Jackson’s corps, and directed the batteries, fighting them with unyielding obstinacy, himself being everywhere in the thickest of the fight—“the target of artillery and sharpshooters alike.” His horse-artillery—including Captain Henry’s, and the lamented heroic Pelham’s—made sad havoc with Franklin’s left flank; and “well did Stuart redeem him grim dispatch—that he was ‘going to crowd them with artillery.’ The ceremony was too rough for them to stand, and when the voice of the general, in the darkness, ordered the last advance, the combat had terminated in the silence of the foe.”

The battle of Fredericksburg was wholly concluded on December 15th, 1862, and immediately afterwards, away went Stuart and his men again, dashing about the country wherever an enemy was found. The scare occasioned in the North at this time, by his bold raids, is well remembered; but the following summary of that was done will be enough description. Starting suddenly to the northward, around the Federal army, he alarmed the whole district between Manassas and Washington by his rapid and successive attacks, and the captures he made. A large force, in parties, was sent in vain to catch him; but he was too sharp and keen for his pursuers. His object was to gain information of the position and movements of the enemy, and the results were considered very important. The only thing to be regretted was the loss of Captain John W. Bullock, of the Fifth cavalry, one of the best and bravest officers in the service. He was wounded at Dumfries, while in command of the sharpshooters and gallantly charging a regiment of Federal infantry. While his friends were bearing him from the field he was again hit in two places and mortally wounded.

After scattering the enemy at Dumfries, General Stuart went on to the Occoquan; but word having been sent out of his approach, he found all the fords guarded. He determined, however, to cross at Selectmens’s ford, in the face of the enemy. The advance was lead by Colonel T. L. Rosser, of the Firth cavalry, who dashed into the stream, followed by Colonel Drake, of the First, and some fifteen or twenty men. The enemy had dismounted, and were drawn up in line of battle. Colonel Rosser, placing himself at the head of the few men near him, lead the charge up in the face of heavy fire, by file, over a narrow and rocky ford. The Federals broke and were pursued, several being captured. General Stuart said he regarded this as the most gallant thing done by the cavalry since the war commenced. Colonel Rosser afterwards charged into their camp and captured nine sutler wagons, loaded with the best of liquor, clothing, boots, and luxuries of various kinds, and burned their tents and army stores.

General Stuart then went towards Aldie, accomplishing many of his characteristic feats. At Aldie, Colonel Rosser was sent on a scout into the valley of Virginia to ascertain the state of things there. Taking with him only fifteen men, he succeeded in going around the most of Milroy’s army, and passed nearly ninety miles in front of General Jones. Although the country was full of bands trying to capture him, Colonel Rosser eluded them all, and after remaining inside of the enemy’s lines as long as he pleased, started to return. At the Shenandoah he encountered the pickets of the enemy posted to catch him, but by a peculiar stratagem he captured them all, passed by their army at night, and returned safely to camp, bringing along with him all the Federal sentinels on the route.

This hurried sketch of what was done, would be incomplete if we did not mention that at one place he captured a telegraph station, and set the wires to work to deceive the enemy. The following letter from him refers to it.

Headquarters, Jan. 6, 1863.
Dr. W. S. Morris, President Southern Telegraph Company, Richmond

Sir—I have the honor to send, through the courtesy of Major John Pelham, my chief of artillery, an instrument captured at Burke’s station, Ohio and Alexandria railroad, during my late expedition. I beg that you will accept it as a token of regard appropriate to your position. We surprised the operator, and my operator, Shepperd, took his place. I sat in the office some time while Shepperd read the wild alarms flashing over the wires about our operations, and ascertained the steps taken and the means at hand of resisting me, and then shaped my course accordingly.

Very respectfully you obedient servant,
Major-general of Cavalry

Later in the month of January, a detachment of Stuart’s cavalry drove in the Federal pickets at Chantilly, but Colonel Wyndham afterwards routed them, and took prisoner, among others, the Rev. Mr. Landstreet, chaplain to General Stuart’s force. But we must now again pass on. In the history of the war, yet to be written by some impartial pen, many pages will have to be filled with exploits of the cavalry on both sides, and it needs a volume by itself to give, in any sort of detail, those performed by Stuart and his companions. Speaking of the Southern Generals, an able writer says, “Each has his warm admirers, gained by such opportunities of intercourse as have brought individuals within the said general’s orbit. Each has attached to him the prestige of entire absence of failure. Il n’y a rien qui reussit autaut que le success.