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JEB Stuart's performance in the Maryland Campaign

2 - 20 September 1862

Stuart rides around the Aop, June 1862
JEB Stuart heads the column


Major General James Ewell Brown Stuart's performance in General Robert E. Lee's Maryland Campaign during September 1862 has been described by some historians as lacking in the qualities that Lee would need for his ambitious foray into Maryland1 while others find that his actions were at least adequate if not meritorious2. This paper will examine Stuart's actions during that campaign concentrating on those before the Battle of Sharpsburg and provide a critical evaluation of his and his cavalry's performance and how it affected the outcome of Lee's Maryland Campaign. Stuart's actions during this campaign were part of and controlled by Lee's late 1862 strategy and must be evaluated in light of his tactical moves implementing that strategy. This paper will first review Lee's strategy and how it affected Stuart's actions. As part of this review, Lee's command style will be discussed vis-a-vis Stuart's well-known desire for entertainment and self aggrandizement along with Lee's specific preparations for this campaign affecting the cavalry. Next, intelligence gathering techniques and their use for both sides will be briefly presented along with a review of Lee's famous "Lost Order." Lee's few written communications to Stuart will be checked to see if Stuart was able to comply with his commander's desires. Stuart's most controversial actions, his Urbana, Maryland, dance and his failures at South Mountain will be looked at in some detail. Finally, a summary of Stuart's actions will lead into a final analysis of his total performance as Lee's "eyes and ears" during the Maryland Campaign.

Lee's Maryland Strategy

Lee's strategic plan was based on his belief that the time was ripe for a move into the border state of Maryland not only to continue the momentum he generated in defeating Major General George McClellan during the Seven Days' Campaign and Major General John Pope at Second Manassas, but to draw the Union hosts north of the Potomac and away from war-ravaged Virginia. He was certain that the Union army was demoralized after those battles and that the time was propitious to carry the war north before their army could reorganize and reinforce.3 Concomitantly, he thought it reasonable that, also based on his earlier experiences, any pursuit by Union forces from the defenses around Washington would be slow, cautious, and disorganized. Additionally, after months of hard campaigning, his troops desperately needed time to rest and recuperate so the lush, untouched farms and fields of Western Maryland and possibly Pennsylvania could provide the victuals and forage his army required.4 Lee also expressed several other reasons for this campaign including luring potential recruits into his army, but more importantly, to force the U.S. government into a position of appearing to wish to continue the war against states only seeking their independence. Influencing the 1862 U.S. Congressional elections was also part of his thinking as was the influence a winning campaign would have on foreign governments' opinions of aid to the South.5 Given Lee's views of his previous successes, and the potential for further progress towards freeing the South, Lee had very few realistic strategic moves left that would give the many attainable advantages this move into Maryland could provide.

Lee's Command Style

To attain these possible advantages, Lee relied on his ragtag veterans. He had only been in command of what he named the Army of Northern Virginia for about three months after General Joseph E. Johnston's severe wounding at Seven Pines and was still learning the capabilities of his men and their leaders. His leadership style for this army was still one of keeping loose reins despite a few noteworthy failures during the Seven Days' Campaign when some of his complex but well-planned attacks failed due to his subordinate generals' poor coordination and execution. Stuart's actions during the Seven Days' Campaign was good, especially noteworthy was his very successful "First Ride Around McClellan" during which he obtained valuable intelligence for Lee. Lee's optimistic belief in his commanding generals during the Maryland Campaign led him to divide his army into four, then five parts, without detailed written orders to any of those commanders, although it is fairly certain that, as in any campaign, he spoke with them, personally conveying his wishes and discussing alternatives.6 Lee's relatively complacent frame of mind derived from his experience during the prior few months and led to his well-founded but incorrect analysis that the beaten and demoralized Union forces would need time to reform. There was no reason for Lee to believe that the slow-moving Federal army was going to be such a threat that unusual expediency or detailed instructions on his part were needed.

Stuart, as the cavalry division commander reporting directly to Lee, could not help but be influenced by this relaxed control of his army commander, but the danger with Stuart was that the "Gay Cavalier" needed tighter control and guidance than any of Lee's other top commanders. Stuart was known to be an excellent cavalry leader as well as personally brave, but he was also prone to showy, flamboyant, and sometimes impulsive behavior, seeking and enjoying public acclaim and female adoration.7 As Lee matured as an army commander, especially after the Battle of Gettysburg, he would be more careful in making his wishes known, especially to Stuart, giving less discretion to his corps commanders. As will be seen during the Maryland Campaign, Stuart's penchant for frivolity came into play arguably detrimentally affecting his performance.

Stuart's Cavalry Division

Lee had done little formal reorganization of his relatively new command since Second Manassas and the Battle of Chantilly; his 6,4008 man cavalry division was still commanded by Jeb Stuart. It consisted of three brigades: Brigadier General Wade Hampton's Brigade containing the 1st North Carolina Cavalry, 2nd South Carolina Cavalry, 10th Virginia Cavalry, Cobb's (Georgia) Legion, and the Jeff. Davis (Mississippi) Legion; Fitzhugh Lee's Brigade of the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 9th Virginia Cavalry; and Colonel Thomas Munford commanding Robertson's Brigade of the 2nd, 6th, 7th, and 12th Virginia Cavalry and the 17th Virginia Battalion.9 Munford had relieved Brigadier General Beverly Robertson on 4 September,10 Robertson having been transferred to North Carolina. Robertson, not a friend of Stuart or Lee, had performed poorly under Major General "Stonewall" Jackson at the Battle of Cedar Mountain on 9 August 1862 and with mixed results under Stuart; Robertson, a good administrator, trainer and disciplinarian, performed poorly in combat as his subsequent service amply demonstrated.11 Ironically, Munford, Stuart's newest commander, did much heavy fighting in Maryland doing an excellent job. Stuart also commanded the Horse Artillery under Captain John Pelham with R.P. Chew's (Virginia) battery; J.F. Hart's (South Carolina) battery, and Pelham's (Virginia) battery.

In his preparations for his Maryland adventure, Lee took measures to ready his army including Stuart's cavalry division. In Special Orders No. 187 issued on 2 September he directed Stuart to send men from his command who had unserviceable horses due to overwork or lack of shoes to return to Second Manassas. There, in addition to resting and reshoeing, the men were to collect arms and other materials to be shipped to Richmond for repair and redistribution.12 Clearly he wanted Stuart's cavalry in good condition for its upcoming exertions but one could question that Lee might have relied more on Stuart's abilities as a commander to organize his own troopers. However, as seen in some of his other communications, Lee was probably more concerned with collecting arms than with reshoeing horses. At this stage of the war, the South still was relying on the Union as a key supplier of armaments.

Stuart the "Gay Cavalier"

During this campaign, Stuart was true to form with his penchant for frolic and female attention. He was "fond of show and with much personal vanity, craving admiration in the parlor as well as on the field, with a taste for music and poetry and song, desiring as much the admiration of handsome women... with full appreciation of his won well-won eminence"13 is how one of Jackson's staff described him. One of his most memorable and notorious escapades occurred on the evening of 8 September near his headquarters at Urbana, Maryland. Stuart and his Prussian aide, Major Heros von Borcke, planned the ball to be held at an abandoned female academy to thank a local family, the Cockys, for their hospitality, and to entertain an attractive, favorite female kinswomen of theirs known as the "the New York Rebel."14 Stuart supplied music using Brigadier General William Barksdale's 18th Mississippi band and decorated the hall with their Mississippi regiments' battle flags. Enlisted men and junior officers were employed in cleaning the hall and inviting guests while von Borcke supplied the hand-written invitations and supervised the decorations adding bouquets of roses.15 While the ball progressed splendidly, a few miles away towards Hyattstown, the 1st New York Cavalry decided on a reconnaissance resulting in pushing back some of Hampton's videttes. News of this skirmish was brought to Stuart at the ball; Stuart and his staff mounted and rode to the scene accompanied by Pelham's horse artillery and soon drove off the outgunned New Yorkers. Stuart and his victorious troopers then returned to the ball and recommenced the festivities only to be interrupted by Confederate casualties being taken upstairs above the ballroom. Stuart and his officers lost many of their comely ladies-turned-surgeons as they treated the enlisted wounded. The ball then continued to dawn.16 Stuart and his staff spent the next day in needful relaxation, Stuart next visiting army "headquarters, where he flirted with Miss Katherine Markall and her friends."17 "Stuart was ready to see and talk to every good-looking woman"18 during his visits to Lee's army headquarters in Best's Grove near Frederick.

Stuart's actions in camp in Maryland were similar to those encountered in his various Virginia headquarters but one must question his judgment in continuing to pursue such merriment in unfriendly country in the face of the Army of the Potomac advancing towards him. One of his headquarters staff officers called the sojourn at Urbana "delightful" since "[t]here was nothing to do but await the advance of the great army preparing around Washington" and enjoy "the society of the charming girls around us to the utmost."19 The staff officer does go on to state that the horses remained saddled day and night and that the staff slept with their clothes and spurs on, so Stuart at least looked to be ready to dash off at any moment to attend his duties. Clearly, Stuart's mood of jollity and lack of serious concern about the enemy prevailed and infected his staff. It is likely, however, that this mood was at least partially influenced by Lee's relative calm state of mind believing that the Union advance was typical of what he saw of the events during the Peninsular Campaign prior to the Seven Days' Campaign. That slow, cautious advance he expected here too, even though he did not know that McClellan was back in charge and was moving faster than Lee would "find convenient" as he would later write. Complacency in the Confederate camps should not have infected Stuart since he, as Lee's eyes and ears, should have watched the enemy as closely as possible to ensure that Lee was not surprised. Stuart's frivolities can be criticized since he did not keep Lee well informed about Union movements and obviously portrayed relative unconcern spending much time and effort in entertaining himself and his staff, efforts better directed at assiduously scouting the enemy. His poor scouting was his most noteworthy fault in this campaign.

Lee's Assumptions Fail

In addition to Lee's assumption that the Union army would respond to his moves slowly,20 he further assumed that large Union garrisons at Martinsburg and Harper's Ferry would, upon learning that the Confederate army was between them and Washington, abandon those locations and retreat.21 Since Lee planned to use the Shenandoah Valley as his line of communication, it was critical that these two garrisons not impede his line. Even though Lee initially expected to meet most of his food and forage needs in Maryland, ammunition was critical; Winchester was to be his major supply depot but Lee did not ensure that Martinsburg and Harper's Ferry were evacuated. He fell into the trap of assuming that those garrisons would follow reasonable military tactics but he did not know that Harper's Ferry, to which the Martinsburg garrison retreated, was ordered to remain in place and to fight until relieved by the Army of the Potomac.22 Thus, these two failed assumptions resulted in Lee having to divide his army into four parts, three to capture Martinsburg and Harper's Ferry, and the fourth to march to Hagerstown. Stuart's upcoming poor performance at South Mountain began with this division which led to his failure to follow Lee's instructions to hold the mountain passes.

Lee's Intelligence Sources

Lee relied on Stuart for intelligence of the enemy's moves but also used other available means including civilian reports and newspapers such as the Baltimore Sun.23 However, intelligence in a mostly hostile area was not as readily obtained or as reliable as in Virginia thus Lee was forced to use what was at hand. However, there is little documentary evidence of Lee's intelligence sources save for the capture by Stuart's troopers of the Union lookout station on Sugarloaf Mountain on 6 September which they held until Brigadier General Alfred Pleasonton's troopers recaptured it on 11 September.24 Nothing is reported of what use Confederates made of its commanding vista. Based on other campaigns, Lee probably had direct or indirect access to some of the other usual sources including prisoner interrogations, captured documents or intercepted telegraph messages, etc., but given the results of his actions during this campaign based on what he knew, Lee's intelligence gathering was inadequate. Apparently a Confederate "secret service fund of several hundred dollars in greenbacks... [available] through Col. Porter Alexander" did not prove helpful either.25 However, it is also true that McClellan's intelligence in this generally friendly country was little better than Lee's. Stuart and Pleasonton maintained fairly effective cavalry screens thwarting both Union and Confederate efforts to gauge the other's movements.26 At least Lee was not hampered by greatly exaggerated reports of his opponent's troop strengths to the same extent as was McClellan who had Allan Pinkerton to thank. If there was one intelligence coup of this campaign, it was McClellan's finding the famous Lost Order, Lee's Special Order, No. l91 on 13 September. McClellan arguably had all the intelligence he needed to annihilate Lee, but he was unable to discern which was accurate and reliable, and he characteristically failed to move quickly enough even after finding the Lost Order.27


Three Heroes
Generals Jackson, Lee, and Stuart

The "Lost Order"

The various possible explanations of how this order was lost28 are not as important as the results of its finding which merits a brief discussion as it reflects on Stuart's and Lee's subsequent actions. Harsh believes that its finding had little consequence because McClellan was already moving more rapidly than Lee and Stuart knew and believed29 and that regardless, the Army of the Potomac realistically did not have the abilities needed to chase down Lee's fragmented army.30 Stuart informed Lee on the evening of 13 September that McClellan had been given a document which appeared to be one of some import. However, not until after the war did Lee declare that McClellan's finding of the order was "a great misfortune" and that up to that time, McClellan had been moving slowly.31 Stuart's inability to accurately gauge Union movements and numbers may not necessarily reflect poorly on Stuart's scouting but show the effectiveness of Union efforts to thwart such attempts. Also, operating in a hostile country in the face of larger Union forces had to negatively affect Stuart's reconnaissance. Stuart's tardy report dated 13 February 1864 about his Maryland Campaign typically underplays his inability to accurately understand Union deployments and movements. For example, on 12 September, he reported that [t]he enemy studiously avoided displaying any force, except a part of Burnside's corps, and built no camp-fires in their halt at Frederick that night" so Stuart, despite taking "[e]very ascertain what the nature of the enemy's movement was", was unsuccessful.32 The normally resourceful Stuart was here thwarted by lack of campfires and was unable to use any of his usual clever schemes to gather information about Union movements. Certainly McClellan's responses upon finding the lost order and Lee's actions after its finding define the remainder of the campaign, the only controversial aspect being how much difference it made in reality. Many historians agree with Lee's post-war statement that it was the deciding factor; however, some disagree arguing that McClellan was already moving relatively quickly before finding the order.

Stuart's inability to give Lee accurate information of Federal movements before the order was found resulted in Lee not worrying about dividing his army into four parts to take Harper's Ferry and Martinsburg. Once it was found, Stuart's inaccurate reports of the ensuing Union pursuit put Lee's divided army at serious risk of being defeated in detail because Stuart, and therefore Lee, believed that McClellan was marching the bulk of his forces directly to relieve Harper's Ferry. That this made good military sense for McClellan in Lee's eyes cannot be disputed. But Lee overestimated the numbers of Union forces sent directly to rescue the Harper's Ferry garrison, and he did not know, because of lack of good intelligence, that heavy forces were instead being sent to Turner's Gap. McClellan believed that he could send his forces through the gaps in South Mountain then turn south to relieve Harper's Ferry. His plan was only thwarted by that garrison's precipitate surrender. Another major factor contributing to Lee's near disaster at South Mountain was Stuart's and Lee's lack of knowledge that Jackson had not quickly taken the Martinsburg and Harper's Ferry garrisons according to plan. Once Lee learned of this delay, he quickly realized that he had to prevent McLaws from being overwhelmed from the rear so Lee now had to defend the South Mountain gaps. Added concern for Lee was that his army was then fragmented into five parts since he had sent Longstreet with the army trains to Hagerstown based on an inaccurate report of a Union advance from Pennsylvania. Here again, accurate reports would have allowed Longstreet's forces to remain closer to Boonsborough to have given quicker support to Hill at the South Mountain passes. One could easily argue that Stuart should have been charged with helping to ensure that Lee's scattered units would remain in better contact with the army commander but evidence shows that Lee's three forces contending at Harper's Ferry and even Stuart himself maintained inadequate and tardy contact with army headquarters, this despite having cavalry detachments assigned to the detached commands.33

Lee's Orders to Stuart

Lee's instructions to Stuart during the campaign are brief but provide some insight regarding Lee's requirements. On 3 September, Lee had Stuart send Fitzhugh Lee's and Hampton's brigades in feints towards Washington at Alexandria and Dranesville, Virginia, to distract and confuse the enemy; Stuart and his command then rested blissfully at Dranesville.34 On 5 September Lee ordered Stuart to screen for Jackson's troops as they entered Maryland but Stuart failed to accomplish much on Jackson's behalf leading a worried Jackson to use part of his infantry as a screen to the east.35 Also on 5 September, Stuart was reminded to "keep careful watch for a Federal movement from Washington and to report the slightest sign of an advance."36 Stuart's early mission of demonstrating towards Washington and Baltimore on both flanks of the Union advances to deceive and confuse them37 was later augmented by requirements to screen the army, scout and delay the Union advance.38 In Special Orders No. 191 dated 9 September, Stuart's role was described in paragraph VIII: "General Stuart will detach a squadron of cavalry to accompany the commands of Generals Longstreet, Jackson, and McLaws, and, with the main body of the cavalry, will cover the route of the army, bringing up all stragglers that may have been left behind." These assignments were poorly done since the troopers numbers were too small to be of much use for each command as screeners or scouts and apparently were not well used as couriers. Part of Stuart's mission was amended by Lee on 13 September after learning more of the Union advance: Stuart was to keep Major General Lafayette McLaws on Maryland Heights "informed of the movements of the enemy."39 Lee's dispatch the day before told McLaws that Stuart's cavalry occupied the Middletown Valley.40 Stuart now must help McLaws by protecting his flanks and rear while providing him intelligence. Stuart apparently took this additional mission to help McLaws to heart as he decided to leave the defense of Turner's Pass, on the National Road which led to Boonsboro, exclusively to Major General Daniel H. Hill without telling either Hill or Lee. Stuart and his headquarters moved south after leaving Colonel Thomas Rosser's 5th Virginia Cavalry with Hill.41 Rosser, posted to Fox's Gap, a smaller gap a mile south of Turner's Gap, did not receive adequate instructions from Stuart who appeared unconcerned, leading to Rosser's post-war comment that "Stuart did not expect the enemy would advance on Boonsboro, and was careless in guarding the roads leading that way."42

Likely Lee was suffering from not being more specific in his requirements to Stuart because he believed that a substantial part of Stuart's division was holding Turner's Pass in South Mountain with Hill's support as part of Lee's desire that Stuart cover the army's rear. Lee learned that "the enemy was advancing more rapidly than was convenient from Fredericktown, [so Lee]...determined to return with Longstreet's command to South Mountain, to strengthen Hill's and Stuart's divisions, engaged in holding the passes of the mountains, lest the enemy should fall upon McLaw's rear, drive him from the Maryland Heights, and thus relieve the garrison at Harper's Ferry."43

Lee reiterated Stuart's role after the army left Frederick and moved west in his 19 August 1863 final official report of the Harper's Ferry and Maryland operations. "General Stuart, with the cavalry, remained east of the mountains, to observe the enemy and retard his advance."44 With the benefit of hindsight, Lee describes the events which led to the Battle of South Mountain stimulated by McClellan's finding of S.O. 191. "[McClellan] immediately began to push forward rapidly, and on the afternoon of the 13th was reported approaching the pass in South Mountain, on the Boonsborough and Fredericktown road. The cavalry under General Stuart fell back before him, materially impeding his progress by its gallant resistance, and gaining time for preparations to oppose his advance."45 In this later report Lee downplayed Stuart's lead role in the planned defense of Turner's Pass but accurately described Stuart's role in delaying the Union advance from Frederick and through the Catoctin Mountains to the foot of South Mountain before Turner's Gap.

Stuart at South Mountain

One of the key complaints against Stuart has been that he seriously underestimated the forces that were pursuing him to South Mountain. Stuart asked Hill to send a brigade to South Mountain to help hold it because two Federal brigades were chasing him. Hill sent Colonel Alfred Colquitt first and after the Union troops stopped at the base of the mountain, Colquitt talked with Stuart suggesting that the infantry could hold the turnpike with Stuart's troopers guarding the roads around the gap. However, Stuart said that "he could not remain—that he should move with his cavalry toward Harpers Ferry - that I would have no difficulty holding my position—that the enemy's forces, he thought, consisted of cavalry and one or two brigades of infantry."46After Stuart told Hill this inaccurate news, and believing that Turner's Gap was no place for cavalry, he moved south heading for McLaws position, leaving Hill to face overwhelming odds. Stuart's comments regarding use of his cavalry in and near the gap clearly show that his preferred method for fighting his cavalry was mounted,47 but shortly events showed dismounted Confederate cavalry at Fox's and Crampton's Gaps were effective. Stuart's official report also states that he gave full information to Hill,48 an obvious effort to deny Hill's claims that Stuart told him little of value of the Union approach.49

Stuart had decided that the main Union effort would be directly from Frederick to Harper's Ferry so he departed for McLaws' command with Hampton's forces leaving Colonel Munford at Crampton's Gap located about seven miles south of Turner's Gap. McLaws later stated that Stuart gave him poor intelligence about the Union strength near Crampton's Gap: "[Stuart] told me he did not believe there was more than a brigade of the enemy".50 Thus within two days, Stuart had given wildly inaccurate estimates of Union numbers to Hill at Turner's Gap, and McLaws about Crampton's Gap. In both instances, Stuart rode away from these critical areas leaving inadequate forces for their defense. Subsequently, both gaps were quickly forced by overwhelming strength. "The usually reliable Stuart was either off his form or suffering a patch of bad luck".51 Stuart again defends his actions by noting that Fitzhugh Lee's Brigade successfully defended the rear of the Confederate retreat from Turner's Gap and Hampton's Brigade McLaw's rear from Pleasant Valley to Harper's Ferry. He glosses over his failure to accurately gauge the Union numbers before each gap and Lee's desires that Stuart defend the gaps. Again, Stuart, not unlike other general officers in their official reports, portrays his movements as deliberate, well-planned, and successful despite their poor results. Stuart's ride from Harper's Ferry to Sharpsburg to personally bring the good news about its fall to Lee (about which Lee had already received news)52 can be viewed as another of his unnecessary grandstanding exploits despite his statement that Jackson asked him to do so.53 Here, as later at Gettysburg, Lee had no time to coddle Stuart and met his report with a brusque reply.54

Stuart at Sharpsburg

At Sharpsburg, Stuart was employed on Lee's far left flank covering the Confederate line from the Potomac to Jackson's left. There, Stuart had in addition to his cavalry his horse artillery under Pelham.55 Stuart's performance during the battle of Sharpsburg was commendable. Lee's report stated that "General Stuart, with the cavalry and horse artillery, performed the duty intrusted to him of guarding our left wing with great energy and courage, and rendered valuable assistance in defeating the attack on that part of our line."56 Perhaps with the crisis at hand, Stuart had little time for festivities being under the watchful eyes of the army commander and senior generals. Stuart finally was able to fulfill Lee's expectations. Stuart's noteworthy actions during the battle do not mask his previous poor performances which demonstrably contributed to Lee's being forced to stand and fight on the Antietam and nearly losing his army.


In the final analysis, Stuart's performance during Lee's Maryland Campaign receives mixed reviews: his screening was very good, his rear guard actions mixed, and his scouting poor. A few historians, aided perhaps by hindsight viewing a failed Confederate campaign, have found Stuart lacking, while most others find it at least adequate if not commendable. His screening efforts prior to and including the Frederick sojourn were at least good; rearguard actions from Frederick to South Mountain and his noteworthy defensive actions in Sharpsburg especially at Nicodemus Hill with his artillery are generally viewed as very good; his miscues at the South Mountain gaps and Harpers Ferry are recognized as failures. Virtually no modern historians or contemporaries have found that his scouting was good. Stuart's contemporary critics such as Rosser57 and Hill58 were not his friends so their statements must be viewed carefully. Even Stuart's most competent leader in Maryland, Munford, thought little of Stuart and was not careful about hiding it.59 Too, Pleasanton's cavalry performance, compared to Stuart's, shows that Pleasonton, for the most part, gave McClellan poorer quality intelligence than Stuart gave Lee. This shows that the spreading of disinformation by Stuart's troopers and other Confederates worked well. And Pinkerton's wonderful estimates of Confederate strength he gave McClellan are legendary here as well as during the Peninsular Campaign.

All who knew Stuart recognized his "Gay Cavalier" personality; it is likely that critics of his performance include those who in general viewed with a jaundiced eye his pleasure-seeking activities epitomized in Maryland by the Urbana Ball. Stuart's casual approach early in the campaign60 was probably influenced by Lee's relatively relaxed sojourn in Frederick and his light touch in overseeing his general officers.61 The focus of most studies of the Maryland Campaign has found that the reason for its failure was the finding of the Lost Order by McClellan but this concentration masks other contributory aspects such as Stuart's inadequate scouting. No doubt Stuart's even more egregious failure during the Gettysburg Campaign has also overshadowed his marginally better performance in Maryland.

-- Laurence Freiheit, Berkeley Springs, West Virginia
AotW Member

© 2006, Larry Freiheit

The illustration at the top is of General Stuart at the head of his column on the famous ride around the Federal Army of the Potomac in June 1862. The original lithograph by Henry Alexander Ogden was published in about 1900, and is at the US Library of Congress.

The lower picture is from Three Heroes, General Robert E. Lee on horseback flanked by Stonewall Jackson and Jeb Stuart, by F.C. Buroughs, 1893. It, too, is in the collection of the Library of Congress.


1   Harsh is the most thorough interpreter of Lee's actions during his Maryland Campaign and views Stuart's poor scouting among the chief reasons for its failure. "Stuart's performance in the Maryland campaign has perhaps been overrated" (114); "Either Lee misinterpreted the information he was receiving from his cavalry chief, or Stuart was supplying faulty intelligence" (166); "Stuart either did not discern, or detected but failed to alert Lee of, the considerable increase in the activity of the Federal cavalry on the 8th"(121); "Stuart moved too early and his execution was too casual...his operations not only exposed the rears of Walker and McLaws to the south, but they also left uncovered in the center the National Turnpike...along which...the Federal infantry was now advancing"(188); "The eyes and ears of the Confederate army [Stuart], while neither blind nor deaf, saw and heard very little on September 12" (205); "Lee's lack of alarm...was ignorance due to faulty intelligence" (212); and, "Stuart did not at first recognize the threat imminent in the advance of the Army of the Potomac...he did not grasp that time was running against the Confederates" (230). See also John Michael Priest, Before Antietam: The Battle for South Mountain, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996). Priest also was not impressed with Stuart's performance and showed his less attractive sides which also infected his staff with his need to "satisfy personal needs" and who "did not overexert himself" (2 ñ 3); "in Urbana, Jeb Stuart and the division's staff...spent the day resting" (60); "As was their custom, Stuart and his staff officers had decided to spend their leisure hours in comfort" (90); and "Stuart and his close knit staff quartered themselves in a comfortable farmhouse...and generally enjoyed themselves" (102).
Harsh, Joseph L., Taken at the Flood, Kent (Oh): Kent State University Press, 1999  [AotW citation 615]

2   Harsh did not find Stuart's performance universally poor, e.g., "On this occasion, Jeb Stuart justified his reputation for alert reconnaissance" (19). Not a few others also have found Stuart's actions valuable to Lee. Edwin C. Fishel, The Secret War for the Union: The Untold Story of Military Intelligence in the Civil War, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996), shows that Stuart did well. "Stuart maintained a tight cavalry screen, meanwhile scouting and threatening both of the Federal's flanks and spreading reports that had the invaders marching in several directions" (213). "[Union cavalry Brigadier General Pleasonton] would have to cope with Jeb Stuart's expert screening operations" (224).  [AotW citation 616]

3   US War Department, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (OR), 128 vols., Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1880-1901, Ser. 1, Vol. 19, pt. 2, pg. 590  [AotW citation 617]

4   Ibid., pg. 594  [AotW citation 618]

5   Ibid., pg. 600  [AotW citation 619]

6   Harsh shows a few verbal exchanges Lee had such as with Jackson and Stuart, (107-8); the infamous Brigadier John G. Walker interview which Harsh finds mostly took place in Walker's mind (133-145); and with Jackson and Longstreet (145-152).  [AotW citation 620]

7   Thomas, Emory M., Bold Dragoon: The Life of J.E.B. Stuart, New York: Random House, 1988, pg. 128.
Davis, Burke, Jeb Stuart, The Last Cavalier, New York: Rinehart, 1957, pg. 211  [AotW citation 621]

8   OR, Ser. 1, Vol. 19, pt. 1, pg. 67. McClellan's report dated 15 October 1862 contains this estimate by Nathaniel Banks which also shows total forces at Antietam of 97,445 for the South and 87,164 for the Union. Compare an arguably more realistic estimate of 5,600 on 1 September 1862 in Harsh (39).   [AotW citation 622]

9   Ibid., pg. 810  [AotW citation 623]

10   OR, Ser. 1, Vol. 19, pt. 2, pg. 595. Special Orders No. 188, 5 September formally transferred Robertson to the Department of North Carolina. The same order also returned Cobb's Legion from Major General A.P. Hill to Stuart to be replaced by a company from the 12th Virginia Cavalry, and the cavalry squadron serving with D.H. Hill to be returned to Stuart when Stuart takes the advance.  [AotW citation 624]

11   Robertson's actions at Brandy Station in June 1863 and during the subsequent Gettysburg Campaign exemplify his inefficient command. Hill described him as "wonderfully inefficient" (169). Hill dickered with Robert E. Lee to whom Robertson should be transferred (182-183). It is likely that Stuart encouraged this transfer if he did not actively seek it.
Bridges, Hal, Lee's Maverick General: Daniel Harvey Hill, Lincoln: The University of Nebraska Press, 1991, pp. 169, 182-183  [AotW citation 625]

12   OR, Ser. 1, Vol. 19, pt. 2, pg. 589  [AotW citation 626]

13   Douglas, Henry Kyd, I Rode With Stonewall, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1940, pg. 269  [AotW citation 627]

14   Davis pg. 195  [AotW citation 628]

15   Priest, pg. 45.  [AotW citation 629]

16   Ibid., pg. 50.  [AotW citation 630]

17   Ibid., pg. 53.  [AotW citation 631]

18   Douglas, pg. 149.  [AotW citation 632]

19   Blackford, William W., Lt. Col CSA, War Years with Jeb Stuart, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1945, pg. 140  [AotW citation 633]

20   Harsh, pg. 129.  [AotW citation 634]

21   OR, Ser. 1, Vol. 19, pt. 1, pg. 139  [AotW citation 635]

22   Harsh, pg. 315.  [AotW citation 636]

23   Harsh, pp. 9, 79.  [AotW citation 637]

24   Fishel, pg. 212.  [AotW citation 638]

25   Harsh, pg. 108.  [AotW citation 639]

26   Fishel, pg. 213.  [AotW citation 640]

27   Harsh, pg. 241.  [AotW citation 641]

28   In this thorough article, Jones argues convincingly that the most likely culprit was Henry Kyd Douglas. First published in Civil War Regiments: A Journal of the American Civil War, Vol. 5, No. 3, (1997), Savas Publishing Co.
Jones, Wilbur D., Who Lost the Lost Order? Stonewall Jackson, His Courier, and Special Orders No. 191, Published c. 2002, first accessed 01 June 2006, <>  [AotW citation 642]

29   Harsh, pg. 252.  [AotW citation 643]

30   Harsh, pg. 241.  [AotW citation 644]

31   Gallagher, Gary W., Editor, Lee the Soldier, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996, pg. 26  [AotW citation 645]

32   OR, Ser. 1, Vol. 19, pt. 1, pg. 816  [AotW citation 646]

33   Harsh, pg. 299.  [AotW citation 647]

34   Harsh, pp. 67-71.  [AotW citation 648]

35   Harsh, pp. 88-91.  [AotW citation 649]

36   Harsh, pg. 108.  [AotW citation 650]

37   OR, Ser. 1, Vol. 19, pt. 1, pg. 145  [AotW citation 651]

38   Ibid., pg. 145  [AotW citation 652]

39   OR, Ser. 1, Vol. 19, pt. 2, pg. 607  [AotW citation 653]

40   Ibid., pg. 606.  [AotW citation 654]

41   Harsh, pg. 244.  [AotW citation 655]

42   Harsh, pg. 234.  [AotW citation 656]

43   OR, Ser. 1, Vol. 19, pt. 1, pg. 140  [AotW citation 657]

44   Ibid., pg. 145.  [AotW citation 658]

45   Ibid., pg. 146.  [AotW citation 659]

46   Bridges, pg. 101.  [AotW citation 660]

47   OR, Ser. 1, Vol. 19, pt. 1, pg. 817, "This was obviously no place for cavalry operations, a single horseman passing from point to point on the mountain with difficulty."  [AotW citation 661]

48   Ibid., pg. 817.  [AotW citation 662]

49   Bridges, pp. 101, 102.  [AotW citation 663]

50   Ibid., pg. 854.  [AotW citation 664]

51   Sears, Stephen W., Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1983, pg. 145  [AotW citation 665]

52   Harsh, pg. 307.  [AotW citation 666]

53   OR, Ser. 1, Vol. 19, pt. 1, pg. 819  [AotW citation 667]

54   Harsh, pg. 322.  [AotW citation 668]

55   Sears, pg. 145.  [AotW citation 669]

56   OR, Ser. 1, Vol. 19, pt. 1, pg. 152  [AotW citation 670]

57   Thomas, pg. 261. Stuart's failure to gain Rosser's promotion earlier in the war had to influence Rosser's anti-Stuart feelings noted here in 1863.  [AotW citation 671]

58   Bridges, pg. 30.  [AotW citation 672]

59   Priest, pg. 7.  [AotW citation 673]

60   Priest, pp. 3, 4, 60.  [AotW citation 674]

61   Murfin, states that "Stuart had rather free license with his maneuvering" implying that Lee did not keep a tight rein on Stuart.
Murfin, James V., The Gleam Of Bayonets: The Battle Of Antietam And Robert E. Lee's Maryland Campaign, September, 1862, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1965, pg. 169  [AotW citation 675]