Who: James Ewell Brown ‘Jeb’ Stuart
What: Confederate cavalry commander
Where: Born Patrick County, Virginia; died Richmond, Virginia.
Why: Considered one of the greatest cavalry commanders in American history
When: Born February 6, 1833; died May 12, 1864
“The greatest cavalry officer ever foaled in America” – Major General John Sedgwick
Stuart was born in 1833 to Archibald Stuart, War of 1812 veteran, slaveholder and sometime politician. His great grandfather, Major Alexander Stuart, had commanded a regiment at the Battle of Guilford Court House. Stuart attempted to enlist in 1848 but was rejected for being underage, instead attended West Point, befriending the family of the new superintendent, Robert E Lee. He graduated 13th of 46 in 1854, and served in Texas and in Bleeding Kansas. In May 1861 he resigned and followed his home state into the Confederate Army as a lieutenant colonel. He reported to Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, who ignored his infantry designation and assigned him to command all the cavalry companies of the Army of the Shenandoah. He led his regiment in the First Battle of Bull Run, especially the Union rout. During McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign, Lee ordered Stuart to reconnoitre the Union right flank before the Seven Days Battles. He led 1,200 troopers on a famous complete circumnavigation of the Union army, returning after 150 miles with 165 captured Federals and 260 horses and mules. Before the Second Battle of Bull Run, in retaliation to losing his hat, he overran Union commander John Pope’s headquarters, capturing Pope’s dress uniform. He fought at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, and famously got engaged in the Battle of Brandy Station before Gettysburg, leaving him unable to link up with Lee until the second day of battle, leaving Lee, who relied heavily on Stuart for reconnaissance, effectively blind. Stuart died in the Battle of Yellow Tavern when a Union private shot him in the stomach. His wife Flora never remarried and wore black mourning dress for the rest of her life.
Photo credit: Library of Congress