2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
The Battle of Gettysburg - Friday July 3, 1863
Confederate Major General James Ewell Brown "JEB" Stuart

Major General JEB Stuart
As flamboyant as he was energetic, Confederate Major General James Ewell Brown "JEB" Stuart faithfully and valiantly served Robert E. Lee from the time General Lee took command of the Army until Stuart's death at Yellow Tavern, Virginia in May of 1864. He gained fame for himself and embarrassed the Northerners by twice riding around the Army of the Potomac, at the time commanded by Major General George B. McClellan. After being surprised in June 1863 at Brandy Station by a sudden, surprisingly vigorous Federal Cavalry, General Stuart decided to again pass around the men in blue, this time under the command of General Joseph Hooker.

Both Generals, Lee and Stuart, have received their share of criticism and blame for Stuart's ride which kept his valuable cavalry out of touch from June 25 until July 2. Upon initial review, Lee's orders to Stuart outlining his responsibilities for that time may appear vague. A section of the orders stated,

    "If General Hooker's army remains inactive, you can leave two brigades to watch him, and withdraw with the three others, but should he not appear to be moving northward, I think you had better withdraw this side of the mountain to-morrow night, cross at Shepherdstown next day, and move over to Fredericktown. You will, however, be able to judge whether you can pass around their army without hindrance, doing them all the damage you can, and cross the river east of the mountains. In either case, after crossing the river, you must move on and feel the right of Ewell's troops, collecting information, provisions, etc." [2,11]
The distinction between "inactive" and "not appear to be moving" is unclear. These discretionary orders allow Stuart the freedom to determine his route, as long as he obeyed the remainder of the orders. Lee did add the enjoiner "..but I think the sooner you cross into Maryland after tomorrow the better." [2,11]

The Gregg Cavalry Shaft on East Cavalry Field.In the final of his three reports to Confederate President Jefferson Davis concerning the Army's foray into Pennsylvania, General Lee would assert, "In the exercise of the discretion given him when Longstreet and Hill marched into Maryland, General Stuart determined to pass around the rear of the Federal Army with three brigades and cross the Potomac between it and Washington, believing that he would be able, by that route, to place himself on our right flank in time to keep us properly advised of the enemy's movements...but the enemy advanced with equal rapidity on his left, and continued to obstruct communication with our main body." Although this manner of writing seemed to avoid an accusatory tone, General Lee would also clearly state, "Upon the suggestion of (Stuart) that he could damage the enemy and delay his passage of the river by getting in his rear, he was authorized to do so, and it was left to his discretion whether to enter Maryland east or west of the Blue Ridge; but he was instructed to lose no time in placing his command on the right of our column as soon as he should perceive the enemy moving northward...The movements of the army preceding the battle of Gettysburg had been much embarrassed by the absence of the cavalry." [11] General Lee also mentioned in an earlier report that General Stuart was to "...take position on the right of our column as it advanced." [9]

General Stuart's ride would deny his Commander the use of both his cavalry and its valuable intelligence concerning the whereabouts of the Union forces until the battle at Gettysburg was into its second day. Arriving on the field the afternoon of July 2nd, Lee would instruct Stuart to hold General Ewell's left. On July 3rd, those responsibilities and the hopes that he could exploit any found weakness in the Union line would send him into a collision with Brigadier General David McMurtrie Gregg's Federal Cavalry. [C]

Rummel Farm on East Cavalry Field.Often overlooked by visitors to the Battlefield are the monuments, markers, and grounds of what is now called the East Cavalry Field. General Stuart would initially emerge from the woods along Cress Ridge on the Rummel Farm, pictured to your right, with 6,300 Southern Cavalrymen. A Confederate Officer with the Virginia Cavalry would describe the fierce conflict that followed as "hand to hand, blow for blow, cut for cut, and oath for oath." After two hours of fighting, which included an initial artillery duel, the Confederates mounted one final grand charge. A ferocious counterattack lead by newly promoted Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer, blunted the Confederate thrust and brought an end to the days fighting. Neither side gained an advantage, but General Stuart's men were kept from gaining access to the potentially vulnerable rear of the Union lines, allowing the Federal infantry to focus all of their efforts on repulsing Pickett's Charge. [C]

Michigan Cavalry Monument on East Cavalry Field.After the Battle, General Stuart would attempt to answer his critics in his Official Report. He would say in part, "It was thought by many that my command could have rendered more service had it been in advance of the army the first day at Gettysburg, and the commanding general complains of a want of cavalry on the occasion; but it must be remembered that the cavalry (Jenkins' brigade) specially selected for advance guard to the army by the commanding general on account of its geographical location at the time, was available for this purpose, and had two batteries of horse artillery serving with it. If therefore, the peculiar functions of cavalry with the army were not satisfactorily performed in the absence of my command, it should rather be attributed to the fact that Jenkins' brigade was not as efficient as it ought to have been, and as its numbers (3,800) on leaving Virginia warranted us in expecting. Even at that time, by its reduction incident to campaign, it numbered far more than the cavalry which successfully covered Jackson's flank movement at Chancellorsville, turned back Stoneman from the James, and drove 3,500 cavalry under Averell across the Rappahannock. Properly handled, such a command should have done everything requisite, and left nothing to detract by the remotest implication from the brilliant exploits of their comrades, achieved under circumstances of great hardship and danger. [9]

Grave marker for General JEB Stuart.Despite the occasional bitter controversy, General Lee would continue to hold his Cavalry Commander in the highest esteem with Stuart serving faithfully and valiantly through the following spring. Sadly, the South would mourn his passing a year later on May 12, 1864 as Stuart's Cavalry strove to stop Union Cavalry commander Major General Phillip Henry Sheridan from approaching the Confederate Capitol of Richmond during the Battle of Yellow Tavern. The Confederate Army and people throughout the south would lament the loss of such a talented and devoted officer. After receiving his mortal wound and seeing some of his outnumbered men retreating, he called out to them "Go back! Go back! Do your duty as I've done mine, and our country will be safe. Go back! Go back!." Upon learning of his death, General Lee would respond, "I can scarcely think of him without weeping." [42]