War on Two Fronts: Shiloh to Gettysburg

By John Cannan | Go to book overview
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W.W. BLACKFORD


Riding with J.E.B Stuart

One of the most controversial performances of the Gettysburg Campaign was J.E.B. Stuart's handling or rather mishandling of the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia. After being roughed up by mounted Yankee troopers at Brandy Station, Stuart attempted to redeem himself by embarking on one of his famous rides entirely around the Federal army.

While it was a spectacular performance, Stuart's move failed to keep Lee informed about the movements of the enemy thus allowing the Confederates to blunder into a major engagement at Gettysburg. One of Stuart's commanders, W.W. Blackford gives this account of Brandy Station and Stuart's controversial ride in his War Years with J.E.B. Stuart.

A grand review was ordered for the 5th of June and all at headquarters were exerting themselves to the utmost to make it a success. Invitations were issued far and near, and as the time approached every train came loaded with visitors. I wrote to the University, and Mary Minor and a troop of Charlottesville girls attended. I was very sorry that my wife could not attend, but she was over three hundred miles away in Abingdon, and dreaded the journey.

When the day of review arrived the Secretary of War, General Randolph, came from Richmond to see it, and many infantry Generals and prominent men. The staff was resplendent in new uniforms, and horses were in splendid condition as we rode to the field on the level plains near Brandy Station. The ground was admirably adapted to the purpose, a hill in the centre affording a reviewing stand from which the twelve thousand men present could be seen to great advantage. It must be borne in mind that cavalry show much larger than infantry, and that these twelve thousand mounted men produced the effect of at least three times their

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