Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Year of Glory: The Life and Battles of Jeb Stuart and His Cavalry, June 1862-June 1863

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Year of Glory: The Life and Battles of Jeb Stuart and His Cavalry, June 1862-June 1863

Article excerpt

Year of Glory: The Life and Battles of Jeb Stuart and His Cavalry, June 1862-June 1863. By Monte Akers. (Philadelphia and Oxford, Eng.: Casemate, 2012. Pp. 371. $32.95, ISBN 978-1-61200-130-2.)

If it is possible in this postmodern era to write an old-fashioned hagiography, author and attorney Monte Akers has done it in Year of Glory: The Life and Battles of Jeb Stuart and His Cavalry, June 1862-June 1863. Summing up General James Ewell Brown Stuart's impact and career in the epilogue, Akers lists some of the notable Confederate generals who almost won the war and then proclaims that "none surpassed the record of bravery, achievement, and devotion to duty of Jeb during his--and the Confederacy's--greatest year" (pp. 331-32). Similar superlatives are found in the prologue and scattered throughout the book.

Akers avers that he is not trying to "elevate" Stuart's reputation but rather "to recapture and evoke, once again, the laughter, tears, and excitement of that unique time," Stuart's greatest year, June 1862 to June 1863 (p. 14). Within the parameters of that goal, Akers does a good job keeping the focus on Stuart and his staff (and his family and superiors to a lesser degree). Here is Akers's description of Stuart leading the Second Corps at Chancellorsville: "As usual, he led from the front rather than directed from the rear. He galloped back and forth along the lines of his divisions, shouting, commanding, and singing" (p. 280). Or here is Akers's attempt to divine Stuart's mindset on the eve of the Gettysburg campaign: "He almost certainly intended to salvage all of his lost glory during those few days, to rekindle the fires of adoration that had been ignited a year before when he made the first ride around [General George B.] McClellan" (p. 326). Akers's task is simplified by his reliance on staff memoirs and biographies for his sources. …

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