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Plenty of Blame to go Around
Jeb Stuart's Controversial Ride to Gettysburg


"The Gettysburg Campaign has had more than its share of controversies, many of which began before the guns fell silent. From the time the confident and stalwart Jeb Stuart was surprised by Alfred Pleasonton's troopers at Beverly Ford in the predawn of June 9, 1863 near Brandy Station, Virginia, until after Stuart's arrival on the Gettysburg battlefield late on the afternoon of July 2, the Southern cavalry chieftain was the subject of much chatter among the Confederate upper crust. Not much of it was complimentary. Southern newspapers lambasted Stuart for allowing himself to be surprised by the Federals at his own headquarters on Fleetwood Hill, and tongues wagged among the infantry that perhaps Stuart was not up to his former game."

- from the Preface

"Many blamed Stuart for the bitter defeat that ensued. Lee's aide, Col. Charles Marshall, went so far as to suggest that Stuart should have been court-martialed, even shot. Others, notably Maj. John S. Mosby, the famed partisan leader, defended Stuart with equal passion. In the decades that followed, every Confederate who lived through those days joined Stuart in death, but the argument went on. It persists to this day."

- from the Forward by Mark Grimsley

"Stuart was taking with him his three best brigades, along with his favorite subordinates. They had no way of knowing their expedition would turn into one of the most virulent of all the controversies associated with the Gettysburg Campaign. This is their story."

- from the Introduction

"Just before the winding column of Confederate cavalry reached the arched stone bridge over Goose Creek, Stuart jumped his horse over a fence on the left side of the road and ordered a courier to turn the head of the column at that point. His staff realized that instead of heading toward the Shenandoah Valley, Stuart was going after Joe Hooker's army."

- from Chapter 1 - The Ride Begins

"Stuart now had more than 600 mules to feed on top of his own command's horses, the wagons would slow down his column - which was already well behind schedule - and he had hundreds of prisoners who needed guarded. Whether Stuart gave serious consideration to destroying the train is not known. What we do know for certain is that he made up his mind to take the 125 wagons with him into Pennsylvania. That decision was a catalyst for the controversy that has raged for more than 140 years."

- from Chapter 2 - Across the Potomac

"[Capt. Charles] Corbit [of the 1st Delaware Cavalry] dispatched Lt. D.W.C. Clark and an advance guard of twelve men to feel the enemy and ascertain his position. After advancing a short distance out the Washington Road, Clark and his men turned about and galloped back with news that a large force of Confederate horsemen was in their immediate front. The lieutenant escaped with a hole in his hat and a saber wound to his arm to prove it."

- from Chapter 3 - Cavalry Clash at Westminster

"It was nearly 10:30 am. A lone discharge from a field piece boomed from the hills south of town, its low dull blast reverberating through the air. The artillery thunder startled both men and horses. Kilpatrick whipped his head around and looked back in the direction of the town, with head after head of the miles-long column of horsemen and artillerymen doing likewise... KIlpatrick leaped into the saddle of his already jaded mount and spurred it hard back down the pike...Reining up the general dismounted, his horse gasping deeply for air. The loyal beast, which had carried him nonstop across eight miles of crops and over countless fences, swaggered for a moment, dropped to its knees, and collapsed in a heap. The recently captured Confederate mount, sporting the brand 'CSA,' died within a few hours."

- from Chapter 4 - The First Phase of the Battle of Hanover

"The poor intelligence and the Hanover fight prolonged Stuart's ride by forcing him to move five miles east, which in turn added to the misery of his already exhausted command. Contrary to what he believed, Stuart was now riding away from Ewell."

- from Chapter 6 - The Long Road to Carlisle

"Old Polly McGinness was making coffee for General [William F. 'Baldy'] Smith and some of his soldiers when Henry Lee arrived with his flag. When she heard [Fitzhugh] Lee's surrender demand, Polly clapped Smith on the back and loudly proclaimed, 'Don't do it, General! Don't do it as long as one brick remains on another.' The pugnacious Smith surely appreciated Polly's words, although he did not need the fortitude to muster his response to Lieutenant Lee: 'Shell away and be damned!'"

- from Chapter 7 - A Night to Remember: Carlisle

"'All was ready, and Thompson was preparing to charge,' Custer's troopers noted, 'when to everyone's surprise, the boy general flashed out his long Toledo blade, motioned to his staff to keep back, and dashed out in front of Co. A [6th Michigan Cavalry] with the careless laughing remark, 'I'll lead you this time, boys. Come on!' Then away he went at a gallop...while the men raised a short yell of delight and followed him. Down the road in a perfect cloud of blinding dust went the boy general in front of that single company.'"

- from Chapter 8 - Hunterstown

"If it were true that Lee was displeased with Stuart, he never said so publicly during or after the war, and he never took steps to remove his cavalry chief from command or to censure him for as long as Stuart lived... However, recriminations inevitably followed the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg, and a scapegoat was needed in order to rationalize the stunning loss...If Stuart disappointed anyone at Gettysburg, he more than redeemed himself during the retreat to Virginia."

- from Chapter 12 - Conclusion

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