Jeb Stuart and the Confederate Defeat at Gettysburg

Jeb Stuart and the Confederate Defeat at Gettysburg

Jeb Stuart and the Confederate Defeat at Gettysburg

Jeb Stuart and the Confederate Defeat at Gettysburg

Synopsis

"The Army was much embarrassed by the absence of the cavalry," Robert E. Lee wrote of the Gettysburg campaign, stirring a controversy that has never died. Lee's statement was an indirect indictment of General James Ewell Brown ("Jeb") Stuart, who was the cavalry. This book reexamines the questions that have shadowed the legendary Confederate hero and offers a fresh, informed interpretation of his role at Gettysburg. Avoiding the partisan pros and cons characterizing previous accounts, Warren C. Robinson reassesses the historical record to come to a clearer view of Stuart's orders for the crucial battle (as well as what was expected of him), of his actual performance, and of the impact his late arrival had on the outcome of the campaign. Though Stuart may not have disobeyed Lee's orders, Robinson argues, he did abuse the general's discretion by raiding Washington rather than scouting for the army at Gettysburg-a move that profoundly affected the Confederate fortunes and perhaps the war itself.

Excerpt

Gen. James Ewell Brown (J. E. B., [Jeb]) Stuart is fi rmly placed alongside Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in the front rank of Confederate heroes. He seems to epitomize the lost cause—the bold young cavalry leader of the legendary Army of Northern Virginia who [died game] at the head of his troops. History has been kind to him, and his reputation has grown over the years. But he has always had his critics, and even in his lifetime he was more than a little controversial. Some said he was more concerned with making fl amboyant gestures and enhancing his personal reputation than with winning battles or advancing the cause of the South. His role in the Gettysburg campaign of June–July 1863, in particular, cast a shadow over his other accomplishments and has become the subject of countless books and articles.

The problem was that Stuart was not with the Army of Northern Virginia when it made its fateful march into Pennsylvania in mid1863 and did not rejoin it until the second day of the battle at Gettysburg. Lee later wrote that the army had been [embarrassed] by the absence of the cavalry, stirring up a controversy that has never died. Lee's statement is an indirect indictment of Stuart, for he was the cavalry. Why were Stuart and the cavalry absent? Did Stuart's absence mean that he disobeyed Lee's orders, or was Lee himself to blame because he gave faulty orders? Did Stuart's absence really affect the outcome at Gettysburg? All these questions have been debated endlessly, and the literature itself is a battleground, highly partisan, built around selective quotations from the written record . . .

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