JEB Stuart

General JEB Stuart

JEB Stuart was a Major General of cavalry in the Confederate army during the Civil War. Leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg, it was Stuart's main duty to protect the gaps on the Blue Ridge Mountains from prying Union eyes as the Army of Virginia made its way north through Virginia and into Pennsylvania. Once the lead division reached Pennsylvania, Stuart was to link up again and protect their right flank from the threat of the advancing Union army.

Upon departing Salem Depot on June 25, Stuart may have planned to circumnavigate the Army of the Potomac as he had done earlier in the Maryland campaign which was a great embarrassment to the Union army. Stuart himself had been recently embarrassed by being caught off guard by an attacking Union cavalry and infantry force at Brandy Station and perhaps he was looking to redeem his reputation. The Union army was on the move and Stuart found himself blocked in by troops advancing north. He was forced to travel further east than anticipated and this further jeopardized his orders to link up with Ewell and report the position of the Union army.

On June 28 Stuart crossed the Potomac River and captured a Union supply train of 140 wagons and rather than destroy them, took them along for use by the Confederate army. On June 29 he encountered two companies of Union cavalry and proceeded to chase them a long distance toward the city of Baltimore. A Union cavalry brigade under Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick was able to reform and eventually drive Stuart back on June 30.

jeb_stuart_mainExhausted, Stuart then made his way to Carlisle north of Gettysburg in search of Ewell on July 1 and burned the Carlisle Barracks. Late in the afternoon of July 2 Stuart reached the headquarters of General Lee at Gettysburg having been largely unaware the battle had begun without him.

Having delivered a long line of captured supply wagons Stuart was surprised to find General Lee was unhappy with him though more in the tone of his voice than what was initially said. He had left Lee blind to the strength and movements of the enemy force, and Lee let him know of his displeasure. It is still heavily debated who was ultimately at fault and some say it was Lee because of the vagueness of his orders and Stuart with losing touch with the army and not reporting on enemy movements.

JEB Stuart was pressed into service by Lee the following day on July 3. He was to attack the rear of the Union lines in coordination with the frontal assault of Pickett's Charge. He was however repulsed by the Union cavalry force led by Brigadier Generals George Armstrong Custer and David Gregg on what would become known as East Cavalry Field.

Following the Confederate loss at Gettysburg, JEB Stuart effectively screened the retreat of the army across the Potomac River and back to Virginia. Stuart would thereafter be mired in controversy regarding his actions leading up to Gettysburg and used as a scapegoat responsible for the Confederate defeat. Stuart would play heavily in many engagements after Gettysburg until his untimely death nearly a year later at the Battle of Yellow Tavern.

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