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Stuart, chief of the Confederate cavalry in Virginia, was one of the Dii Majores of the recent conflict-his career rather a page from romance than a chapter of history. Everything stirring, brilliant, and picturesque, seemed to centre in him. There was about the man a flavour of chivalry and adventure which made him more like a knight of the middle age than a soldier of the prosaic nineteenth century, and it was less the science than the poetry of war which he summed up and illustrated in his character and career.

With the majority of those who took part in it, the late revolution was a hard and bitter struggle, which they entered upon resolutely, but with unconcealed distaste. To this soldier, however, it seemed to be a splendid and exciting game, in which his blood coursed joyously, and his immensely strong physical organization found an arena for the display of all its faculties. The affluent life of the man craved those perils and hardships which flush the pulses and make the heart beat fast. A single look at him was enough to convince anybody that Stuart loved danger and adventure, and that the clear blue eyes of the soldier, “with a frolic welcome took the thunder and the sunshine.” He swung himself into the saddle, at the sound of the bugle, as the hunter springs on horseback; and at such moments his cheeks glowed, and his huge moustache curled with enjoyment. The [8] romance and poetry of the hard trade of arms seemed first to be inaugurated when this joyous cavalier, with his floating plume and splendid laughter, appeared upon the great arena of the war in Virginia.

This gay bearing of the man was plainly unaffected, and few persons could resist its influence. There was about Stuart an inspiration of joy and youth. The war was evidently like play to him-and he accepted its most perilous scenes and cruellest hardships with the careless abandon of a young knight-errant seeking adventures. Nothing seemed strong enough to break down his powerful organization of mind and body; and danger only aroused and brought his full faculties into play. He greeted it with ardour and defied it with his joyous laughter-leading his column in desperate charges with a smile upon the lips. Others might despond, but Stuart kept his good spirits; and while the air around him was full of hissing balls and bursting shell, he would hum his gay songs. In Culpeper the infantry were electrified by the laughter and singing of Stuart as he led them in the charge; and at Chancellorsville, where he commanded Jackson's corps after that great man's fall, the infantry veterans as they swept on, carrying line after line of breastworks at the point of the bayonet, saw his plume floating in front-“like Henry of Navarre's,” one of them said-and heard his sonorous voice singing, “Old Joe Hooker, will you come out of the Wilderness!”

This curious spirit of boyish gaiety did not characterize him on certain occasions only, but went with him always, surrounding every movement of the man with a certain atmosphere of frolic and abandon. Immense animal health and strength danced in his eyes, gave elasticity to the motions of his person, and rang in his contagious laughter. It was hard to realize that anything could hurt this powerful machine, or that death could ever come to him; and the perilous positions from which he had so often escaped unharmed, appeared to justify the idea of his invulnerability. Although he exposed his person recklessly in more than a hundred hot engagements, he was never wounded in any. The rosebud in his button-hole, which some child or girl had [9] given him, or rather say his mother's Bible, which he always carried, seemed to protect him. Death appeared to shrink before him and avoid him; and he laughed in the grim face, and dared it for three years of reckless fighting, in which he seemed every day to be trying to get himself killed.

His personal appearance coincided with his character. Everything about the man was youthful, picturesque, and brilliant. Lee, Jackson, and other eminent soldiers of the South, seemed desirous of avoiding, in their dress and accoutrements every species of display, and to aim at making themselves resemble as closely as possible their brave soldiers, whose uniforms were sadly deficient in military gewgaws. Stuart's taste was exactly the opposite. He was as fond of colours as a boy or a girl. His fighting jacket shone with dazzling buttons and was covered with gold braid; his hat was looped up with a golden star, and decorated with a black ostrich plume; his fine buff gauntlets reached to the elbow; around his waist was tied a splendid yellow silk sash, and his spurs were of pure gold. The stern Ironsides of Cromwell would have sneered at this “frivolous boy” as they sneered at Prince Rupert, with his scarlet cloak, his waving plume, his white dog, and his twenty-three years-all the more as Stuart had a white dog for a pet, wore a cape lined with scarlet, had a plume in his hat, and — to complete the comparison — is said to have belonged to that royal family of Stuarts from which Rupert sprang. Many excellent people did not hesitate to take the Ironside view. They regarded and spoke of Stuart as a trifling military fop — a man who had in some manner obtained a great command for which he was wholly unfit. They sneered at his splendid costume, his careless laughter, his “love of ladies;” at his banjo-player, his flower-wreathed horses, and his gay verses. The enemy were wiser. Buford, Bayard, Pleasanton, Stoneman, and their associates, did not commit that blunder. They had felt the heavy arm too often; and knew too well the weight of that flower-encircled weapon.

There were three other men who could never be persuaded [10] that Stuart was no cavalry officer, and who persisted in regarding this boyish cavalier as their right-hand man — the “eye and ear” of their armies. These men were Lee, Johnston, and Jackson.


Stuart's great career can be alluded to but briefly here. Years crammed with incident and adventure cannot be summed up on a page.

He was twenty-seven when he resigned his first-lieutenancy in the United States cavalry, and came to offer his sword to Virginia. He was sprung from an old and honourable family there, and his love of his native soil was strong. Upon his arrival he was made lieutenant-colonel, and placed in command of the cavalry on the Upper Potomac, where he proved himself so vigilant a soldier that Johnston called him “the indefatigable Stuart,” and compared him to “a yellow jacket,” which was “no sooner brushed off than it lit back.” He had command of the whole front until Johnston left the valley, when he moved with the column to Manassas, and charged and broke the New York Zouaves; afterwards held the front toward Alexandria, under Beauregard; then came the hard falling back, the struggle upon the Peninsula, the battle of Cold Harbour, and the advance which followed into Maryland. Stuart was now a general, and laid the foundation of his fame by the “ride around McClellan” on the Chickahominy. Thenceforth he was the right hand of Lee until his death.

The incidents of his career from the spring of 1862 to May, 1864, would fill whole volumes. The ride around McClellan; the fights on the Rapidan; the night march to Catlett's, where he captured General Pope's coat and official papers; the advance to Manassas; the attack on Flint Hill; the hard rear-guard work at South Mountain; holding the left at Sharpsburg; the circuit of McClellan again in Maryland; the bitter conflicts near Upperville as Lee fell back; the fighting all along the slopes of the Blue Ridge; the “crowding 'em with artillery” on the night at [11] Fredericksburg; the winter march upon Dumfries; the battle of Chancellorsville, where he commanded Jackson's corps; the advance thereafter, and the stubborn conflict at Fleetwood Hill on the 9th of June; the hard, obstinate fighting once more to guard the flanks of Lee on his way to Gettysburg; the march across the Potomac; the advance to within sight of Washington, and the invasion of Pennsylvania, with the determined fights at Hanovertown, Carlisle, and Gettysburg, where he met and drove before him the crack cavalry of the Federal army; the retreat thereafter before an enraged enemy; the continuous combats of the mountain passes, and in the vicinity of Boonsboroa; the obstinate stand he made once more on the old ground around Upperville as Lee again fell back; the heavy petites guerres of Culpeper; the repulse of Custer when he attacked Charlottesville; the expedition to the rear of General Meade when he came over to Mine Run; the bitter struggle in the Wilderness when General Grant advanced; the fighting all along the Po in Spotsylvania; the headlong gallop past the South Anna, and the bloody struggle near the Yellow Tavern, where the cavalier, who had passed through a hundred battles untouched, came to his end at last-these are a few of the pictures which rise up before the mind's eye at those words, “the career of Stuart.” In the brief space of a sketch like this, it is impossible to attempt any delineation of these crowding scenes and events. They belong to history, and will sooner or later be placed upon recordfor a thousand octavos cannot bury them as long as one forefinger and thumb remains to write of them. All that is here designed is a rough cartoon of the actual man — not a fancy figure, the work of a eulogist, but a truthful likeness, however poorly executed.


I have supposed that the reader would be more interested in Stuart the man than in Stuart the Major-General commanding. History will paint the latter-my page deals with the former chiefly. It is in dress, habits, the tone of the voice, the demeanour [12] in private, that men's characters are read; and I have never seen a man who looked his character more perfectly than Stuart.

He was the cavalier par excellence; and everything which he did, or said, was “in character.” We know a clergyman sometimes by his moderation, mild address, black coat, and white cravat; a merchant by his quick movements and “business-like” manner; a senator by his gravity; and a poet by his dreamy eye. You saw in the same manner, at a single glance, that Stuart was a cavalry-man — in his dress, voice, walk, manner, everything. All about him was military; and, fine as his costume undoubtedly was, it “looked like work.” There was no little fondness, as I have said, for bright colours and holiday display in his appearance; and he loved the parade, the floating banner, the ring of the bugle, “ladies' eyes” --all the glory, splendour, and brilliant colouring of life; but the soldier of hard fibre and hard work was under the gallant. Some day a generation will come who will like to know all about the famous “Jeb Stuart” --let me therefore limn him as he appeared in the years 1862 and 1863.

His frame was low and athletic-close knit and of very great strength and endurance, as you could see at a glance. His countenance was striking and attracted attention — the forehead broad, lofty, and indicating imagination; the nose prominent, and inclining to “Roman,” with large and mobile nostrils; the lips covered with a heavy brown moustache, curled upward at the ends; the chin by a huge beard of the same colour, which descended upon the wearer's breast. Such was the rather brigandish appearance of Stuart-but I have omitted to notice the eyes. They were clear, penetrating, and of a brilliant blue. They could be soft or fiery-would fill with laughter or dart flame. Anything more menacing than that flame, when Stuart was hard pressed, it would be difficult to conceive; but the prevailing expression was gay and laughing. He wore a brown felt hat looped up with a star, and ornamented with an ebon feather; a double-breasted jacket always open and buttoned back; gray waistcoat and pantaloons; and boots to the knee, decorated with small spurs, which he wore even in dancing. To proceed with my catalogue of the soldier's accoutrements: on marches he threw over his [13] shoulders his gray cavalry cape, and on the pommel of his saddle was strapped an oil-cloth overall, used as a protection in rain, which, instead of annoying him, seemed to raise his spirits. In the midst of rain-storms, when everybody was riding along grum and cowering beneath the flood pouring down, he would trot on, head up, and singing gaily. His arms were, a light French sabre, balanced by a pistol in a black holster; his covering at night, a red blanket, strapped in an oil-cloth behind the saddle. Such was the “outer man” of Stuart in camp and field. His fondness for bright colours, however, sometimes made him don additional decorations. Among these was a beautiful yellow sash, whose folds he would carefully wrap around his waist, skilfully tying the ends on the left side so that the tassels fell full in view. Over this he would buckle his belt; his heavy boots would be changed for a pair equally high, but of bright patent leather, decorated with gold thread; and then the gallant Jeb Stuart was ready to visit somebody. This love of gay colours was shown in other ways. He never moved on the field without his splendid red battle-flag; and more than once this prominent object, flaunting in the winds drew the fire of the enemy's artillery on himself and staff. Among flowers, he preferred the large dazzling “Giant of battles,” with its blood-red disk. But he loved all blooms for their brilliance. Lent was not his favourite season. Life in his eyes was best when it was all flowers, bright colours, and carnival.

He was a bold and expert rider, and stopped at nothing. Frequently the headlong speed with which he rode saved him from death or capture — as at Sharpsburg, where he darted close along the front of a Federal regiment which rose and fired on him. The speed of his horse was so great that not a ball struck him. At Hanovertown, in 1863, and on a hundred occasions, he was chased, when almost unattended, by Federal cavalry; but, clearing fence and ravine, escaped. He was a “horse-man” in his knowledge of horses, but had no “passion” for them; preferred animals of medium size, which wheeled, leaped, and moved rapidly; and, mounted upon his “Skylark,” “Star of the east,” “Lady Margaret,” or “Lily of the Valley,” he was the picture [14] of a bold cavalier, prepared to go into a charge, or to take a gallop by moonlight-ready for a fight or a frolic.

It was out of the saddle, however, that Stuart was most attractive. There he was busy; in his tent, when his work was once over, he was an insouciant as a boy. Never was there a human being of readier laughter. He dearly loved a joke, and would have one upon everybody. They were not mild either. He loved a horse-joke, and a horse-laugh. But the edge of his satire, although keen, was never envenomed. The uproarious humour of the man took away anything like sarcasm from his wit, and he liked you to “strike back.” What are called “great people” sometimes break their jests upon lesser personages, with a tacit understanding that the great personage shall not be jested at in return. Such deference to his rank was abhorrent to Stuart. He jested roughly, but you were welcome to handle him as roughly in return. If you could turn the laugh upon him, you were perfectly welcome so to do, and he never liked you the less for it. In winter-quarters his tent was a large affair, with a good chimney and fireplace; in the summer, on active service, a mere breadth of canvas stretched over rails against a tree, and open at both ends. Or he had no tent, and slept under a tree. The canvas “fly” only came into requisition when he rested for a few days from the march. Under this slight shelter, Stuart was like a king of rangers. On one side was his chair and desk; on the other, his blankets spread on the ground: at his feet his two setters, “Nip” and “Tuck,” whom he had brought out of Culpeper, on the saddle, as he fell back before the enemy. When tired of writing, he would throw himself upon his blankets, play with his pets, laugh at the least provocation, and burst into some gay song.

He had a strong love for music, and sang, himself, in a clear, sonorous, and correct voice. His favourites were: “The bugle sang truce, for the night cloud had lowered;” “The dew is on the blossom;” “Sweet Evelina,” and “Evelyn,” among pathetic songs; but comic ones were equal or greater favourites with him: “If you get there before I do;” “The old gray horse;” “Come out of the wilderness,” and “If you want to have a good [15] time, join the cavalry,” came from his lips in grand uproarious merriment, the very woods ringing with the strains. This habit of singing had always characterized him. From the days in the valley when he harassed Paterson so, with his omnipresent cavalry, he had fought and sung alternately. Riding at the head of his long column, bent upon some raid, or advancing to attack the enemy, he would make the forest resound with his sonorous songs; and a gentleman who met him one day, thus singing in front of his men, said that the young cavalier was his perfect ideal of a knight of romance. It might almost, indeed, be said that music was his passion, as Vive la joie! might have been regarded as his motto. His banjo-player, Sweeny, was the constant inmate of his tent, rode behind him on the march, and went with him to social gatherings. Stuart wrote his most important dispatches and correspondence with the rattle of the gay instrument stunning everybody, and would turn round from his work, burst into a laugh, and join uproariously in Sweeney's chorus. On the march, the banjo was frequently put in requisition; and those “grave people” who are shocked by “frivolity” must have had their breath almost taken away by this extraordinary spectacle of the famous General Stuart, commanding all the cavalry of General Lee's army, moving at the head of his hard-fighting corps with a banjo-player rattling behind him. But Stuart cared little for the “grave people.” He fought harder than they did, and chose to amuse himself in his own way. Lee, Johnston, and Jackson, had listened to that banjo without regarding it as frivolous; and more than once it had proved a relaxation after the exhausting cares of command. So it rattled on still, and Stuart continued to laugh, without caring much about “the serious family” class. He had on his side Lee, Jackson, and the young ladies who danced away gaily to Sweeny's music-what mattered it whether Aminadab Sleek, Esq., approved or disapproved!

The “young lady” element was an important one with Stuart. Never have I seen a purer, more knightly, or more charming gallantry than his. He was here, as in all his life, the Christian gentleman, the loyal and consistent professor of religion; but [16] with this delicacy of the chevalier was mingled the gaiety of the boy. He was charmed, and charmed in return. Ladies were his warmest admirers — for they saw that under his laughing exterior was an earnest nature and a warm heart. Everything drew them towards him. The romance of his hard career, the adventurous character of the man, his mirth, wit, gallantry, enthusiasm, and the unconcealed pleasure which he showed in their society, made him their prime favourite. They flocked around him, gave him flowers, and declared that if they could they would follow his feather and fight with him. With all this, Stuart was delighted. He gave them positions on his staff, placed the flowers in his button-hole, kissed the fair hands that presented them, and if the cheek was near the hand, he would laugh and kiss that too. The Sleek family cried out at this, and rolled their eyes in horror-but it is hard to please the Sleek family. Stuart was married, a great public character, had fought in defence of these young ladies upon a hundred battlefields, and was going to die for them. It does not seem so huge an enormity as the Sleeks everywhere called it — that while the blue eyes flashed, the eyes of women should give back their splendour; while the lips were warm, they should not shrink from them. Soon the eyes were to grow dim, and the lips cold.

Stuart was best loved by those who knew him best; and it may here be recorded that his devotion towards his young wife and children attracted the attention of every one. His happiest hours were spent in their society, and he never seemed so well satisfied as when they were in his tent. To lie upon his camp-couch and play with one of his children, appeared to be the summit of felicity with him; and when, during the hard falling back near Upperville, in the fall of 1862, the news came of the death of his little daughter Flora, he seemed almost overcome. Many months afterwards, when speaking of her, the tears gushed to his eyes, and he murmured in a broken voice: “I will never get over itnever!” He seemed rough and hard to those who only saw him now and then; but the persons who lived with him knew his great kindness of heart. Under that careless, jesting, and often curt demeanour, was a good, true heart. The fibre of the man [17] was tough under all strain, and his whole organization was masculine; but he exhibited, sometimes, a softness of feeling which might almost be called tenderness. A marked trait of his character was this: that if he had offended anybody, or wounded their feelings, he could never rest until he had in some way made amends. His temper was irascible at times, and he would utter harsh words; but the flaming eyes soon softened, the arrogant manner disappeared. In ten minutes his arm would probably be upon the shoulder or around the neck of the injured individual, and his voice would become caressante. This was almost amusing, and showed his good heart. Like a child, he must “make up” with people he had unintentionally offended; and he never rested until he succeeded. Let it not be understood, however, that this placability of temperament came into play in “official” affairs. There Stuart was as hard as adamant, and nothing moved him. He never forgave opposition to his will, or disobedience of his orders; and though never bearing malice, was a thoroughly good hater. His prejudices were strong; and when once he had made up his mind deliberately, nothing would change him. He was immovable and implacable; and against these offenders he threw the whole weight of his powerful will and his high position, determined to crush them. That, however, was in public and official matters. In all the details of his daily life he was thoroughly lovable, as many persons still living can testify. He was the most approachable of major-generals, and jested with the private soldiers of his command as jovially as though he had been one of themselves. The men were perfectly unconstrained in his presence, and treated him more like the chief huntsman of a hunting party than as a major-general. His staff were greatly attached to him, for he sympathized in all their affairs as warmly as a brother, and was constantly doing them some “good turn.” When with them off duty, he dropped every indication of rank, and was as much a boy as the youngest of them-playing marbles, quoits, or snowball, with perfect abandon and enjoyment. Most charming of all in the eyes of those gentlemen was the fact that he would not hesitate to decline invitations to entertainments, on the plainly stated ground [18] that “his staff were not included” --after which I need give myself no further trouble to explain why he was the most beloved of generals!

I have spoken of his reckless exposure of his person in battle. It would convey a better idea of his demeanour under fire to say that he seemed unaware of the presence of danger. This air of indifference was unmistakable. When brave men were moving restlessly, or unconsciously “ducking” to avoid the bullets showering around them, Stuart sat his horse, full front to the fire, with head up, form unmoved — a statue of unconsciousness. It would be difficult to conceive of a greater coolness and indifference than he exhibited. The hiss of balls, striking down men around him, or cutting off locks of his hair and piercing his clothes, as at Fredericksburg, did not seem to attract his attention. With shell bursting right in his face and maddening his horse, he appeared to be thinking of something else. In other men what is called “gallantry” is generally seen to be the effect of a strong will; in Stuart it seemed the result of indifference. A stouter-hearted cavalier could not be imagined; and if his indifference gave way, it was generally succeeded by gaiety. Sometimes, however, all the tiger was aroused in him. His face flushed; his eyes darted flame; his voice grew hoarse and strident. This occurred in the hot fight of Fleetwood Hill, in June, 1863, when he was almost surrounded by the heavy masses of the enemy's cavalry, and very nearly cut off; and again near Upperville, later in the same year, when he was driven back, foot by foot, to the Blue Ridge. Stuart's face was stormy at such moments, and his eyes like “a devouring fire.” His voice was curt, harsh, imperious, admitting no reply. The veins in his forehead grew black, and the man looked “dangerous.” If an officer failed him at such moments, he never forgave him; as the man who attracted his attention, or who volunteered for a forlorn hope, was never forgotten. In his tenacious memory, Stuart registered everybody; and in his command, his word, bad or good, largely set up or pulled down.

To dwell still for a few moments upon the private and personal character of the man-he possessed some accomplishments unusual in famous soldiers. He was an excellent writer, and his [19] general orders were frequently very striking for their point and eloquence. That in which he called on his men after the ride around McClellan to “avenge Latane!” and that on the death of Major Pelham, his chief of artillery, are good examples. There was something of the Napoleonic fervour in these compositions, and, though dashed off rapidly, they were pointed, correct, and without bombast. His letters, when collected, will be found clear, forcible, and often full of grace, elegance, and wit. He occasionally wrote verses, especially parodies, for which he had a decided turn. Some of these were excellent. His letters, verses, and orders, were the genuine utterances of the man; not laboured or “stiff,” but spontaneous, flowing and natural. He had in conversation some humour, but more wit; and of badinage it might almost be said he was a master. His repartee was excellent, his address ever gay and buoyant, and in whatever society he was thrown he never seemed to lose that unaffected mirthfulness which charms us more perhaps than all other qualities in an associate. I need scarcely add that this uniform gaiety was never the result of the use of stimulants. Stuart never drank a single drop of any intoxicating liquid in his whole life, except when he touched to his lips the cup of sacramental wine at the communion. He made that promise to his mother in his childhood, and never broke it. “If ever I am wounded,” he said to me one day, “don't let them give me any whiskey or brandy.” His other habits were as exemplary. I never saw him touch a card, and he never dreamed of uttering an oath under any provocation-nor would he permit it at his quarters. He attended church whenever he could, and sometimes, though not often, had service at his headquarters. One day a thoughtless officer, who did not “know his man,” sneered at preachers in his presence, and laughed at some one who had entered the ministry. Stuart's face flushed; he exhibited unmistakable displeasure, and said: “I regard the calling of a clergyman as the noblest in which any human being can engage.” This was the frivolous, irreverent, hard-drinking personage of some people's fancies — the man who was sneered at as little better than a reprobate by those whom he had punished, and who, therefore, hated and slandered him!



Such, in brief outline, was this “Flower of cavaliers,” as he moved in private, before the eyes of friends, and lived his life of gentleman. An estimate of the military and intellectual calibre of the man remains to be made — a rapid delineation of those traits of brain and nerve combined which made him the first cavalry officer of his epoch — I had nearly written of any epoch.

Out of his peculiar sphere he did not display marked ability. His mind was naturally shrewd, and, except in some marked instances, he appeared to possess an instinctive knowledge of men. But the processes of his brain, on ordinary occasions, exhibited rather activity and force than profoundness of insight. His mental organization seemed to be sound and practical rather than deep and comprehensive. He read little when I knew him, and betrayed no evidences of wide culture. His education was that of the gentleman rather than the scholar. “Napoleon's Maxims,” a translation of Jomini's Treatise on War, and one or two similar works, were all in which he appeared to take pleasure. His whole genius evidently lay in the direction of his profession, and even here many persons doubted the versatility of his faculties. It will remain an interesting problem whether he would have made a great infantry commander. He was confident of his own ability; always resented the dictum that he was a mere “cavalry officer;” and I believe, at one time, it was the purpose of the Confederate authorities to place him in command of a corps of infantry. Upon the question of his capacity, in this sphere, there will probably be many opinions. At Chancellorsville, when he succeeded Jackson, the troops, although quite enthusiastic about him, complained that he had led them too recklessly against artillery; and it is hard for those who knew the man to believe that, as an army commander, he would ever have consented to a strictly defensive campaign. Fighting was a necessity of his blood, and the slow movements of infantry did not suit his genius. With an army under him, it is probable that he would either have achieved magnificent successes or sustained [21] overwhelming defeats. I confess I thought him equal to anything in his profession, but competent judges doubted it. What every one agreed about, however, was his supreme genius for fighting cavalry.

He always seemed to me to be intended by nature for this branch of the service. Some men are born to write great works, others to paint great pictures, others to rule over nations. Stuart was born to fight cavalry. It was only necessary to be with him in important movements or on critical occasions, to realize this. His instinct was unfailing, his coup d'oeil that of the master. He was a trained soldier, and had truly graduated at West Point, but it looked like instinct rather than calculation — that rapid and unerring glance which took in at once every trait of the ground upon which he was operating, and anticipated every movement of his adversary. I never knew him to blunder. His glance was as quick, and reached its mark as surely as the lightning. Action followed like the thunder. In moments of great emergency it was wonderful to see how promptly he swept the whole field, and how quickly his mind was made up. He seemed to penetrate, as by a species of intuition, every design of his opponent, and his dispositions for attack or defence were those of a mastermind. Sometimes nothing but his unconquerable resolution, and a sort of desperation, saved him from destruction; but in almost every critical position which he was placed in during that long and arduous career, it was his wonderful acumen, no less than his unshrinking nerve, which brought him out victorious.

This nerve had in it something splendid and chivalric. It never failed him for a moment on occasions which would have paralysed ordinary commanders. An instance was given in October, 1863. Near Auburn his column was surrounded by the whole of General Meade's army, then retiring before General Lee. Stuart massed his command, kept cool, listened hour after hour as the night passed on, to the roll of the Federal artillery and the heavy tramp of their infantry within a few hundred yards of him, and at daylight placed his own guns in position and made a furious attack, under cover of which he safely withdrew. An earlier instance was his raid in rear of General McClellan, [22] in June, 1862, when, on reaching the lower Chickahominy, he found the stream swollen and unfordable, while at every moment an enraged enemy threatened to fall upon his rear with an overpowering force of infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Although the men were much disheartened, and were gloomy enough at the certain fate which seemed to await them, Stuart remained cool and unmoved. He intended, he said afterwards, to “die game” if attacked, but he believed he could extricate his command. In four hours he had built a bridge, singing as he worked with the men; and his column, with the guns, defiled across just as the enemy rushed on them. A third instance was the second ride around McClellan in Maryland, October, 1862; when coming to the Monocacy he found General Pleasanton, with a heavy force of cavalry, infantry, and artillery, in his path, but unhesitatingly attacked and cut his way through. Still another at Jack's Shop, where he charged both ways — the column in front, and that sent to cut him off-and broke through. Still another at Fleetwood Hill, where he was attacked in front, flank, and rear, by nearly 17,000 infantry and cavalry, but charging from the centre outwards, swept them back, and drove them beyond the Rappahannock.

Upon these occasions and twenty others, nothing but his stout nerve saved him from destruction. This quality, however, would not have served him without the quick military instinct of the born soldier. His great merit as a commander was, that his conception of “the situation” was as rapid and just as his nerve was steady. His execution was unfaltering, but the brain had devised clearly what was to be done before the arm was raised to strike. It was this which distinguished Stuart from others — the promptness and accuracy of his brain work “under pressure,” and at moments when delay was destruction. The faculty would have achieved great results in any department of arms; but in cavalry, the most “sudden and dangerous” branch of the service, where everything is decided in a moment as it were, it made Stuart one of the first soldiers of his epoch. With equal-or not largely unequal-forces opposed to him, he was never whipped. More than once he was driven back, and two or three times “badly [23] hurt;” but it was not the superior genius of Buford, Stoneman, Pleasanton, or other adversaries, which achieved those results. It was the presence of an obstacle which his weapon could not break. Numbers were too much for brain and acumen, and reckless fighting. The hammer was shattered by the anvil.


Stuart was forced, by the necessities of the struggle, the nature of the country, and the all-work he had to perform, to depend much upon sharp-shooting. But he preferred pure cavalry fighting. He fought his dismounted skirmishers with obstinacy, and was ever present with them, riding along the line, a conspicuous target for the enemy's bullets, cheering them on. But it was in the legitimate sphere of cavalry that he was greatest. The skirmishing was the “hard work.” He had thus to keep a dangerous enemy off General Lee's flanks as the infantry moved through the gaps of the Blue Ridge towards Pennsylvania, or to defend the line of the Rappahannock, when some Federal commander with thousands of horsemen, “came down like a wolf” on General Lee's little “fold.” It was here, I think, that Stuart vindicated his capacity to fight infantry, for such were the dismounted cavalry; and he held his ground before swarming enemies with a nerve and persistence which resembled Jackson's.

It was in the raid, the flank movement, the charge, and the falling back, with cavalry proper, however, that he exhibited the most conspicuous traits of the soldier. The foundation of his successes here was a wonderful energy. The man was a warmachine which never flagged. Day or night he was ready to mount at the sound of the bugle. Other commanders, like the bonus Homerus, drowsed at times, and nodded, suffering their zeal to droop; but Stuart was sleepless, and General Lee could count on him at any instant. To that inexhaustible physical strength was united a mentality as untiring. The mind, like the body, could “go day and night,” and needed no rest. When all around him were broken down, Stuart still remained fresh and [24] unwearied; ready for council or for action; to give his views and suggest important movements, or to march and make an attack. His organization was of the “hair-trigger” kind, and the welltempered spring never lost its elasticity. He would give orders, and very judicious ones, in his sleep — as on the night of the second Manassas. When utterly prostrated by whole days and nights spent in the saddle, he would stop by the roadside, lie down without pickets or videttes, even in an enemy's countryas once he did coming from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in July, 1863-sleep for an hour, wrapped in his cape and resting against the trunk of a tree, and then mount again, as fresh apparently, as if he had slumbered from sunset to dawn.

As his physical energies thus never seemed to droop, or sprang with a rebound from the weight on them, so he never desponded. A stouter heart in the darkest hour I have never seen. No clouds could depress him or disarm his courage. He met ill-fortune with a smile, and drove it before him with his gallant laughter. Gloom could not live in his presence, and the whole race of “croakers” were shamed into hopefulness by his inspiring words and demeanour. Defeat and disaster seemed to make him stronger and more resolute, and he rose under pressure. In moments of the most imminent peril to the very existence of his command, I have seen him drum carelessly with his fingers on the knee thrown over the pommel of his saddle, reflect for an instant without any trace of excitement, and then give the order to cut a path through the enemy, without the change of a muscle. At such moments, it was plain that Stuart coolly made up his mind to do his best, and leave the rest to the chances of arms. His manner said as plainly as any word: “I am going to make my way out or die — the thing is decided upon-why make a to-do about it?” So perfect was his equanimity upon such occasions, that persons ignorant of the extent of the peril could not realize that any existed. It was hard to believe, in presence of this “heart of oak,” with his cool and indifferent manner, his composed tones and careless smile, that death or capture stared the command in the face. And yet these were just the occasions when Stuart's face of bronze was most unmoved. Peril brought out his [25] strength. The heaviest clouds must obscure the landscape before his splendid buoyancy and “heart of hope” were fully revealed. That stout heart seemed invincible, and impending ruin could not shake it. I have seen him strung, aroused, his eye flaming, his voice hoarse with the mingled joy and passion of battle; but have never seen him flurried or cast down, much less paralysed by a disaster. When not rejoicing like the hunter on the traces of the game, he was cool, resolute, and determined, evidently “to do or die.” The mens oequa in arduis shone in the piercing blue eye, and his undaunted bearing betrayed a soul which did not mean to yield — which might be crushed and shattered, but would not bend. When pushed hard and hunted down by a swarm of foes, as he was more than once, Stuart presented a splendid spectacle. He met the assault like an athlete of the Roman amphitheatre, and fought with the ferocity of a tiger. He looked “dangerous” at such moments; and those adversaries who knew him best, advanced upon their great opponent thus standing at bay, with a caution which was born of experience.

These observations apply with especial justice to the various occasions when Stuart held with his cavalry cordon the country north of the Rappahannock and east of the Blue Ridge, while General Lee either advanced or retired through the gaps of the mountains. The work which he did here will remain among his most important services. He is best known to the world by his famous “raids,” as they were erroneously called, by his circuits of McClellan's army in Virginia and in Maryland, and other movements of a similar character. This, however, was not his great work. He will live in history as the commander of Lee's cavalry, and for the great part he played in that leader's most important movements. What Lee designed when he moved Northward, or fell back from the valley, it was a matter of the utmost interest to the enemy to know, and persistent efforts were made by them to strike the Confederate flank and discover. Stuart was, however, in the way with his cavalry. The road to the Blue Ridge was obstructed; and somewhere near Middleburg, Upperville, or Paris, the advancing column would find the wary cavalier. Then took place an obstinate, often desperate [26] struggle — on Stuart's part to hold his ground; on the enemy's part to break through the cordon. Crack troops-infantry, cavalry, and artillery — were sent upon this important work, and the most determined officers of the United States Army commanded them.

Then came the tug of war. Stuart must meet whatever force was brought against him, infantry as well as cavalry, and match himself with the best brains of the Federal army in command of them. It was often “diamond cut diamond.” In the fields around Upperville, and everywhere along the road to Ashby's Gap, raged a war of giants. The infantry on both sides heard the distant roar of the artillery crowning every hill, and thought the cavalry was skirmishing a little. The guns were only the signal of a hand-to-hand struggle. Desperate charges were made upon them; sabres clashed, carbines banged; in one great hurlyburly of rushing horses, ringing sabres, cracking pistols, and shouts which deafened, the opposing columns clashed together. If Stuart broke them, he pressed them hotly, and never rested until he swept them back for miles. If they broke Stuart, he fell back with the obstinate ferocity of a bull-dog; fought with his sharpshooters in every field, with his Horse Artillery upon every knoll; and if they “crowded him” too closely he took command of his column, and went at them with the sabre, resolved to repulse them or die. It was upon this great theatre that he displayed all his splendid faculties of nerve, judgment, dash, and obstinacy-his quickness of conception, rapidity of decision, and that fire of onset before which few opponents could stand. The infantry did not know much about these hot engagements, and cherished the flattering view that they did all the fighting. General Lee, however, knew accurately what was done, and what was not done. In Spotsylvania, after Stuart's fall, he exclaimed: “If Stuart only were here! I can scarcely think of him without weeping.”

The great cavalier had protected the Southern flanks upon a hundred movements; guarded the wings upon many battlefields, penetrated the enemy's designs, and given General Lee information in every campaign; and now when the tireless brain [27] was still, and the piercing eyes were dim, the country began to comprehend the full extent of the calamity at Yellow Tavern, in May, 1864, and to realize the irreparable loss sustained by the cause when this bulwark fell.


I have noticed Stuart's stubbornness, nerve, and coolness. His dash and impetuosity in the charge have scarcely been alluded to, and yet it was these characteristics of the man which chiefly impressed the public mind. On a former page he has been compared to Rupert, the darling of love and war, who was never so well satisfied as when dashing against the Roundhead pikes and riding down his foes. Stuart seems to have inherited that trait of the family blood — for it seems tolerably well established that he and Rupert were descended from the same stock, and scions of that family which has given to the world men of brain and courage, as well as faineans and libertines. To notice briefly this not uninteresting point, the “family likeness” in the traits of Stuart and Prince Rupert is very curious. Both were utterly devoted to a principle which was their life-blood — in Rupert it was the love of royalty, in Stuart the love of Virginia. Both were men of the most impetuous temper, chafing at opposition, and ready at any instant to match themselves against their adversaries, and conquer or die. Both were devoted to the “love of ladies,” gallant to the echo; of a proud and splendid loyalty to their word; of unshrinking courage; kind and compassionate in temper, gay and smiling in address; fonder of fighting than of looking to the commissariat; adored by their men, who approached them without fear of a repulse; cavalry-men in every drop of their blood; fond of brilliant colours, splendid pageants, the notes of the bugle, the glitter of arms: Rupert with his snowy plume, Stuart with his black one;--both throwing over their shoulders capes of dazzling scarlet, unworn by men who are not attached to gay colours; both taking a white dog for a pet; both proud, gay, unswerving, indomitable, disdainful of low things, passionately devoted to glory; both men in brain and character [28] at an age when others are mere boys; both famous before thirtyand for ever-such were the points of resemblance between these two men. Those familiar with the character of the greatest cavalry-man of the English struggle, and with the traits of Stuart, the most renowned of the recent conflict, will not fail to see the likeness.

But I pass to “Stuart in the charge.” Here the man was superb. It was in attack, after all, that his strongest faculties were exhibited. Indeed, the whole genius and temperament of the Virginian were for advancing, not retreating. He could fall back stubbornly, as has been shown; and he certainly did so in a masterly manner, disputing every inch of ground with his adversary, and giving way to an enemy's advance under bloody protest. At these times he displayed the obstinate temper of the old Ironsides of Cromwell, when they retired in serried ranks, ready to turn as they slowly retreated, and draw blood with their iron claws. But when advancing upon an adversary — more than all in the impetuous charge-Stuart as no longer the Roundhead; he was the Cavalier. Cavalier he was by birth and breeding and temperament; and he sprang to meet an enemy, as Rupert drove forward in the hot struggle of the past in England. You could see, then, that Stuart was in his element. Once having formed his column for the charge, and given his ringing order to “Form in fours! Draw sabre!” it was neck or nothing. When he thus “came to the sabre,” there was no such word as fail with him. Once in motion to hurl his column against his adversary, he seemed to act upon the Scriptural precept to forget those things which were behind, and press on to those which were before. That was the enemy in front; and to ride over, and cut right and left among them, was the work before him. At such moments there was something grand in the magnificent fire and rush of the soldier. He seemed strong enough to ride down a world. Only a glance was needed to tell you that this man had made up his mind to break through and trample under foot what opposed him, or “die trying.” His men knew this; and, when he took personal command of the column, as he most often did, prepared for tough work. His occasional roughness of address to both [29] officers and men had made him bitter enemies, but the admiration which he aroused was unbounded. The men were often heard to say, in critical places: “There goes old Jeb to the front, boys; it's all right.” And an officer whom he had offended, and who hated him bitterly, declared with an oath that he was the greatest cavalry commander that had ever lived. The reported words of General Sedgwick, of the United States Army, may be added here: “Stuart is the greatest cavalry officer ever foaled in North America.”

The impetuosity here noted was undoubtedly one of the most striking traits of the man. In a charge, Stuart seemed on fire, and was more the Chief of Squadron than the Corps Commander. He estimated justly his own value as a fighting man, when he said one day: “My proper place would be major of artillery;” and it is certain that in command of a battalion of fieldpieces, he would have fought until the enemy were at the very muzzles of his guns. But in the cavalry he had even a better field for his love of close fighting. To come to the sabre best suited his fiery organization, and he did come to it, personally, on many occasions. He preferred saying, “Come on” to “Go on.” The men declared that he was reckless, but no one could say that he had ever sent his column where he was not ready to go himself. If he made a headlong and determined attack upon an overpowering force — a thing common with him-he was in front himself, or fighting among the men. He never seemed to feel, as far as my observation went, that his life was any more valuable than that of the humblest private soldier. After one of these occasions of reckless exposure of himself, I said to him: “General, you ought not to put yourself in the way of the bullets so; some day you will be killed.” He sighed and replied: “Oh, I reckon not; but if I am, they will easily find somebody to fill my place.” He had evidently determined to spend and be spent in the Southern struggle, which had aroused his most passionate sympathies. This love of native land came to add a magnificent fervour to the natural combativeness of the man. As a “free lance,” Stuart would have been careless of his person; but in the Southern struggle he was utterly reckless. [30]

This indifference to danger was evidently a trait of blood, and wholly unaffected. Nor, for a long time, did his incessant exposure of himself bring him so much as a scratch. On all the great battle-fields of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, as well as in the close and bitter conflicts of his cavalry at Fleetwood, Auburn, Upperville, Middleburg, South Mountain, Monocacy, Williamsport, Shepherdstown, Paris, Barbee's, Jeffersonton, Culpeper Court-House, Brandy, Kelly's Ford, Spotsylvania — in these, and a hundred other hotly-contested actions, he was in the very thickest of the fight, cheering on the sharpshooters, directing his artillery, or leading his column in the charge, but was never hurt. Horses were shot under him, bullets struck his equipments, pierced his clothes, or cut off curls of his hair, as at Fredericksburg, but none ever wounded him. In the closest melee of clashing sabres the plume of Stuart was unscathed; no sword's edge ever touched him. He seemed to possess a charmed life, and to be invulnerable, like Achilles. Shell, canister, and round-shot tore their way through the ranks around him, overthrowing men and horses-many a brave fellow at his side fell, pierced by the hissing bullets of Federal carbines-but Stuart, like Rupert, never received a wound. The ball which struck and laid him low at the Yellow Tavern on that black day of May, 1864, was the first which touched him in the war. In a hundred battles they had passed to the left and right of him, sparing him.


The foregoing presents as accurate an outline of Stuart as the present writer, after a close association with him for two or three years, could draw. No trait is feigned or fanciful, and the picture is not exaggerated, though it may seem so to some. The organization of this man was exceptional and very remarkable. The picture seems a fancy piece, perhaps, but it is the actual portrait. The gaiety, nerve, courage, dash, and stubborn resolution of that man were as great as here described. These were the actual traits which made him fill so great a space in the [31] public eye; and as what he effected was not “done in a corner,” so what he was became plain to all.

He was hated bitterly by some who had felt the weight of his hot displeasure at their shortcomings, and some of these people tried to traduce and slander him. They said he was idle and negligent of his duties-he, the hardest worker and most wary commander I ever saw. They said, in whispers behind his backin that tone which has been described as “giggle-gabble” --that he thought more of dancing, laughing, and trifling with young ladies than of his military work, when those things were only the relaxations of the man after toil. They said that ladies could wheedle and cajole him-when he arrested hundreds, remained inexorable to their petitions, and meted out to the “fairest eyes that ever have shone” the strictest military justice. They said that he had wreaths of flowers around his horse, and was “frolicking” with his staff at Culpeper Court-House, so that his headquarters on Fleetwood Hill were surprised and captured in June, 1863, when he had not been at the Court-House for days; sent off every trace of his headquarters at dawn, six hours before the enemy advanced; and was ready for them at every point, and drove them back with heavy loss beyond the river. In like manner the Sleeks sneered at his banjo, sneered at his gay laughter, sneered at his plume, his bright colours, and his merry songs. The same good friends invented stories of rebukes he had incurred from General Lee, when he uniformly received from that great friend and commander the highest evidences of regard and confidence. These winged arrows, shot in secret by the hand of calumny, which in plain Saxon are called lies, accompanied Stuart everywhere at one period of his career; but the Southern people could not be brought to believe them. They flushed the face of the proud and honest cavalier, sometimes, and made the blue eyes flash; but what could he do? The calumnies were nameless; their authors slunk into shadow, and shrank from him. So he ended by laughing at them, as the country did, and going on his way unmindful of them. He answered slander by brave action-calumny by harder work, more reckless exposure of himself, and by grander achievements. Those secret [32] enemies might originate the falsehoods aimed at him from their safe refuge in some newspaper office, or behind some other “bomb-proof” shelter-he would fight. That was his reply to them, and the scorn extinguished them. The honest gentleman and great soldier was slandered, and he lived down the slanderfighting it with his sword and his irreproachable life, not with his tongue.

When death came to him in the bloom of manhood, and the flush of a fame which will remain one of the supremest glories of Virginia, Stuart ranked with the preux chevalier Bayard, the knight “without reproach or fear.”

The brief and splendid career in which he won his great renown, and that name of the “Flower of cavaliers,” has scarcely been touched on in this rapid sketch. The arduous work which made him so illustrious has not been described — I have been able to give only an outline of the man. That picture may be rude and hasty, but it is a likeness. This was Stuart. The reader must have formed some idea of him, hasty and brief as the delineation has necessarily been. I have tried to draw him as the determined leader, full of fire and force; the stubborn fighter; the impetuous cavalier in the charge; the, at times, hasty and arrogant, but warm-hearted friend; the devoted Christian, husband, and father; the gayest of companions; full of fun, frolic, laughter, courage, hope, buoyancy, and a certain youthful joyousness which made his presence like the sunshine. Upon this last trait I have dwelt much — the youth, and joy, and hope, which shone in his brilliant eyes and rang in his sonorous laughter. He passed before you like an incarnate spring, all mirth and sunshine; but behind was the lightning. In those eyes as fresh and blue as the May morning, lurked the storm and the thunderbolt. Beneath the flowers was the hard steel battle-axe. With that weapon he struck like Cceur de Lion, and few adversaries stood before it. The joy, romance, and splendour of the early years of chivalry flamed in his regard, and his brave blood drove him on to combat. In the lists, at Camelot, he would have charged “before the eyes of ladies and of kings,” like Arthur; on the arena of the war in Virginia he followed his instincts. Bright eyes were ever [33] upon the daring cavalier there, and his floating plume was like Henry of Navarre's to many stout horsemen who looked to him as their chosen leader; but, better still, the eyes of Lee and Jackson were fixed on him with fullest confidence. Jackson said, when his wound disabled him at Chancellorsville, and Stuart succeeded him: “Go back to General Stuart and tell him to act upon his own judgment, and do what he thinks best — I have implicit confidence in him.” In Spotsylvania, as we have seen, General Lee “could scarcely think of him without weeping.” The implicit confidence of Jackson, and the tears of Lee, are enough to fill the measure of one man's life and fame.

Such was Stuart-such the figure which moved before the eyes of the Southern people for those three years of glorious encounters, and then fell like some “monarch of the woods,” which makes the whole forest resound as it crashes down. Other noble forms there were; but that “heart of oak” of the stern, hard fibre, the stubborn grain, even where it lies is mightiest. Even dead and crumbled into dust, the form of Stuart still fills the eye, and the tallest dwindle by his side-he seems so great.

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