James Ewell Brown Stuart
(From The Confederate Military History)
Major-General James Ewell Brown Stuart, chief of cavalry of the army of Northern Virginia, was born in Patrick county, Va., February 6, 1833. His ancestry in America began with Archibald Stuart, who sought refuge from religious persecution in western Pennsylvania in 1726, and subsequently removed with his family to Augusta county, Va., about 1738. The next generation was distinguished by the services of Maj. Alexander Stuart, who fell dangerously wounded while commanding his regiment at Guilford Court House. John Alexander, son of the latter, spent part of his life in the West, serving as Federal judge in Illinois and Missouri, and as speaker of the house in the latter State. His son, Archibald Stuart, lawyer, soldier of 1812, representative in Virginia legislatures and conventions, married a descendant of the distinguished Letcher family, and their son became the brilliant Virginia cavalry leader.
General Stuart pursued his youthful studies at Emory and Henry college, and then entering the National military academy, was graduated in 1854, and was commissioned second lieutenant in October of that year. He served in Texas against the Apaches with the mounted riflemen until transferred to the new First cavalry in May, 1855, with which he served at Fort Leavenworth. November 14, 1855, he was married at Fort Riley to the daughter of Col. Philip St. George Cooke, and in the following month he was promoted first lieutenant. He remained on the frontier and in Kansas, and was wounded at the Indian battle of Solomon's River in 1857. At Washington, in 1859, he carried secret instructions to Col. R. E. Lee, and accompanied that officer as aide, against the outbreak at Harper's Perry, where he read the summons to surrender to the leader, theretofore known as "Smith," but whom he recognized at once as "Ossawatomie" Brown of Kansas. Lieutenant Stuart received a commission as captain from Washington in April, 1861, but he had decided to go with Virginia, and tendered her his services as soon as his resignation was accepted, May 7th.
He was commissioned lieutenant-colonel of Virginia infantry, May 10, 1861, with orders to report to Jackson at Harper's Ferry, and was promoted colonel July 16th. With about 350 cavalrymen he at once assumed the duties which distinguished his service throughout the war. He became the eye of the army under Jackson and Johnston, so effectually that Johnston afterward wrote him from the West: "How can I eat, sleep or rest in peace without you upon the outpost." He screened Johnston's movement to Manassas, and in the fighting of July 21st made an effective charge, of which Early wrote: "Stuart did as much toward saving the battle of First Manassas as any subordinate who participated in it." He pursued the Federals twelve miles and subsequently held the heights in sight of Washington, with headquarters on Munson's hill. September 24, 1861, he was promoted brigadier-general in the Confederate army. He encountered the enemy before Munson's hill and at Dranesville, and being transferred to the Peninsula early in 1862, covered the retreat from Yorktown, opening the fighting at Williamsburg; and after the Federals had approached Richmond he won the admiring attention of both nations by his brilliant ride around McClellan's army.
On July 25, 1862, he was promoted major-general. There followed his raid to the rear of Pope's army, capturing a part of the staff of the Federal general and his headquarters at Catlett's station; the raid in conjunction with General Trimble, in which the Federal depot at Manassas Junction was destroyed. Subsequently he was in command before Washington, screening the movement into Maryland, his gallant troopers being engaged in frequent skirmishes and fighting most gallantly in the battles at the South Mountain passes. At Sharpsburg he covered the left flank, and with his famous horse artillery repulsed the advance of Sumner's corps. In October occurred his daring raid to Chambersburg, Pa., returning between McClellan's army and Washington, evading numerous Federal expeditions against him, and losing but one man wounded. His success demoralized the Federal cavalry, and did much to render halting and impotent the subsequent movements against Lee, in opposition to which his command was almost constantly engaged.
About midnight of May 2d, after Jackson and Hill had fallen, Stuart took command of the First corps of the army, at Chancellorsville, and on the 3d, with splendid personal courage and brilliant generalship, continued to drive the Federals by an audacious attack of 20,000 against 80,000, until he had gained Chancellor's house and a safe position. He remained in command of the corps until Hooker had retreated across the river.
After several brilliant encounters with the enemy's cavalry during the subsequent maneuvers, he set out again between the Federal army and Washington, with orders to meet Early at York, Pa. After eight days and nights of steady marching, and the last three in almost constant fighting, he reached Gettysburg with a large train of Federal supplies, and on the third day of the battle made a fierce attack upon the enemy's right. His cavalry saved the Confederate trains at Williamsport, on the retreat.
In the spring of I864 he conducted the advance of A. P. Hill's corps against Grant on May 5th, and giving Lee notice of the movement to Spottsylvania, hastened to throw his cavalry before the enemy's advance. Then being called southward by Sheridan's raid, he interposed his cavalry between the Federals and the Confederate capital at Yellow Tavern, where, on May 11th, he received a wound from which he died at Richmond on the following day. The death of Stuart produced a gloom in the South, second only to that which followed the loss of Jackson.
His characteristics were such as to make him a popular hero. Personally he was the embodiment of reckless courage, splendid manhood, and unconquerable gayety. He could wear, without exciting a suspicion of unfitness, all the warlike adornments of an old-time cavalier. His black plume, and hat caught up with a golden star, seemed the proper frame for a knightly face. A laugh was always at his lips, and a song behind it. He would lead a march with his banjo-player thrumming at his side. As he rode down the lines at Chancellorsville, the commander of an army, and the successor of Stonewall Jackson, whose fall had torn the hearts of his soldiers, he sang in a rollicking way: "Old Joe Hooker, come out of the Wilderness."
As a soldier he was a born leader. He demonstrated his ability to direct an army after the wounding of Jackson, and Jackson, who knew before the trial, sent word to him: "Tell General Stuart to act on his own judgment and do what he thinks best. I have implicit confidence in him." On other fields he had shown the brilliancy of a Napoleon in the management of artillery. Thus in all arms of the service he had won the highest honors. In emergency he was calm, quiet, and perfect master of all his resources. A boy in camp, and a lover of fun, he was a daring sabreur in the fight, and always fully awake to the demands of duty. He had the instinctive knowledge of the situation that belongs to the soldierly genius, and the constant readiness to act on the instant that wins battles against inertia and slothfulness. But he was never known fully while he lived. He was careless of how lightheartedness and gayety may be misjudged, and it was left to his friends after his death to tell that he indulged in none of the vices supposed to be habitual with soldiers, was never profane, and even abstained from card-playing. He was a faithful husband and father, and altogether one of the purest of men, as well as the bravest. One of these true friends, John Esten Cooke, in describing his last moments, has written: "As his life had been one of earnest devotion to the cause in which he believed, so his last hours were tranquil, his confidence in the mercy of heaven unfailing. When he was asked how he felt, he said, 'Easy, but willing to die, if God and my country think I have done my duty.' His last words were: 'I am going fast now; I am resigned. God's will be done.' As he uttered these words he expired.'