Cavalryman of the Lost Cause is the first major biography in decades of the famous Confederate general J. E. B. Stuart. Based on research in manuscript collections, personal memoirs and reminiscences, and regimental histories, this comprehensive volume reflects outstanding Civil War scholarship.
James Ewell Brown Stuart was the premier cavalry commander of the Confederacy. He gained a reputation for daring early in the war when he rode around the Union army in the Peninsula Campaign, providing valuable intelligence to General Robert E. Lee at the expense of Union commander George B. McClellan. Stuart has long been controversial because of his performance in the critical Gettysburg Campaign, where he was out of touch with Lee for several days; this left Lee uncertain about the size and movement of the Union army, information that would prove decisive when the battle began. In an engagement with the cavalry of Union general Philip Sheridan in spring 1864, Stuart was killed. He was only thirty-one.
Jeffry D. Wert provides new details about Stuart's childhood and youth, and he draws on letters between Stuart and his wife, Flora, to show us the man as he was: eager for glory, daring sometimes to the point of recklessness, but a devoted and loving husband and father. Stuart has long been regarded as the finest Confederate cavalryman and one of the best this country has ever produced. Wert shows how Stuart's friendship with Stonewall Jackson and his relationship with Lee were crucial; at the same time Stuart's relationships with his subordinates were complicated and sometimes troubled.
Cavalryman of the Lost Cause is a riveting biography of a towering figure of the Civil War, a fascinating and colorful work by one of our finest Civil War historians.
Wert (The Sword of Lincoln) adds to his status as a top-ranking Civil War scholar in this excellent biography of the Confederacy's best-known cavalry general. Jeb Stuart's reputation has faded somewhat in recent years, particularly for his alleged failures during the Gettysburg campaign. Wert integrates comprehensive archival and printed sources to describe a man shaped by a zest for life, religious faith and devotion to duty, who from his youth sought achievement and recognition. Soldiering promised both. The initial dominance of Confederate cavalry in the east during the Civil War was a product of Stuart's skills as leader and organizer, trainer and tactician. Above all he was a master at reconnaissance and screening. His decision at Gettysburg to ride around the Union army instead of rejoining Robert E. Lee was a mistake. But its serious consequences were in good part due to Lee's dependence on his now-absent source of reconnaissance, and the Union cavalry's ability to learn from repeated defeat at Stuart's hands. Wert's biography goes far in restoring Stuart's claim to be the greatest cavalry officer ever foaled in America. 8 pages of b&w photos; maps. (Sept.)
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Simon & Schuster
September 22, 2008
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Excerpt from Cavalryman of the Lost Cause by Jeffry D. Wert
Chapter Twelve"The Hardest Cavalry Fight"Robert E. Lee, thought a clerk at the War Department in Richmond, "looked thinner, and a little pale" when the general visited on May 15, 1863. The army commander had arrived in the capital the day before and would stay until May 18, sequestered much of the time in meetings with President Jefferson Davis and cabinet members. Although Chancellorsville had been a tactically brilliant victory, it had not resulted in the decisive defeat of the Union army that Lee sought. He knew that with time the Yankees would advance once more against his army.1Lee had come to the city with a bold proposal. The recent victory had given him the strategic initiative in the region, and he wanted to exploit it by carrying the war beyond the Potomac into Pennsylvania. In the meetings with Davis and the department heads, Lee argued that such an offensive would garner vital supplies, spare Virginia for a time from the conflict's ravages, and disrupt enemy campaign plans for the summer. After much discussion, the president and cabinet approved the operation. Secretary of War James A. Seddon confided later that Lee's opinion "naturally had great effect in the decisions of the Executive."2Upon his return to the army, Lee began preparations for the movement. He wrote to Davis on May 20: "I have for the past year felt that the corps of the army were too large for one commander. Nothing prevented my proposing to you to reduce their size and increase their number but my inability to recommend commanders." With the death of Stonewall Jackson, Lee suggested that the infantry be reorganized into three corps instead of the present two. The plan necessitated a reshuffling of divisions and brigades, with each corps consisting of three divisions.3A rumor or "a great deal of talk" persisted that Jeb Stuart would replace Jackson. Stuart believed otherwise, telling Flora that such speculation was "I think without any foundation in fact." At cavalry headquarters, a story circulated that on his deathbed Jackson expressed a desire that his friend should succeed him in command of the Second Corps. When told of this, Stuart allegedly remarked, "I would rather know that Jackson said that, than have the appointment."4As Stuart surmised, it was not to be. Instead, Lee recommended Richard S. Ewell, who had had a leg amputated from a wound at Second Manassas, as Jackson's successor, and A. P. "Powell" Hill as commander of the newly created Third Corps. Each man was promoted to lieutenant general. Both Ewell and Hill were Virginians, which rekindled "no little discontent," in the words of First Corps commander James Longstreet, a non-Virginian. Although a majority of the regiments hailed from outside the Old Dominion, Virginians dominated the army's senior leadership at corps and division levels. It was a resentment similar to that expressed by Wade Hampton against Stuart and his preference for fellow Virginians.5If Lee were to undertake an offensive strike into Pennsylvania, he had to increase the size of Stuart's command. The problems that had plagued the cavalry during the winter had persisted to some extent into the spring. Hundreds of men remained at home on horse details, their efforts to secure another mount hampered by the steeply rising price of horseflesh. Regimental officers were absent on recruiting duty. While horses fed on spring grasses, shortages of forage continued. Lieutenant Robert Hubard, Jr., of the 3rd Virginia blamed government quartermaster and commissary officers for the lack of grain, calling them "the white livered sons of bitches."6Lee and Stuart tried to address the issues. Lee asked the administration to consider the formation of a second cavalry division and sent Stuart to Richmond to plead the case. When this effort brought no results, Lee refused to add new brigades to the cavalry division before increasing the strengths of t