Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Year of Desperate Struggle: Jeb Stuart and His Cavalry, from Gettysburg to Yellow Tavern, 1863-1864

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Year of Desperate Struggle: Jeb Stuart and His Cavalry, from Gettysburg to Yellow Tavern, 1863-1864

Article excerpt

Year of Desperate Struggle: Jeb Stuart and His Cavalry, from Gettysburg to Yellow Tavern, 1863-1864. By Monte Akers. (Philadelphia and Oxford, Eng.: Casemate, 2015. Pp. 291. $32.95, ISBN 978-1-61200-282-8.)

Monte Akers is an attorney and the author of several other fiction and nonfiction books, including Year of Glory: The Life and Battles of Jeb Stuart and His Cavalry, June 1862-June 1863 (Philadelphia, 2013), the prequel to the book under review here. Rather than writing an all-encompassing biography of General J. E. B. Stuart, Akers targets a popular audience and offers a detailed examination of the last eleven months of the cavalry commander's life, using soldier memoirs, newspaper articles, and official records.

Akers examines the events and the controversies in Stuart's life in 1863-1864, including an analysis of General Robert E. Lee's orders to Stuart in the days leading up to the battle of Gettysburg and the various accounts of Stuart's wounding and death at the battle of Yellow Tavern. Akers argues that Stuart was greatly affected by the outcome of the battle of Gettysburg, more so than his contemporaries realized. Akers shows that the grand reviews, parties, balls, and raids that Stuart often conducted before Gettysburg diminished drastically in frequency and scope after that battle. Positive and effervescent before Gettysburg, Stuart became so somber and subdued afterward that Akers claims that today's doctors would possibly diagnose Stuart as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The nineteenth-century honor code is a more likely explanation for Stuart's subdued behavior after Gettysburg.

Akers writes with a detailed storytelling style, though sometimes the narrative is labored. …

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