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It appears, then, according to his own narrative, that General Stuart moved his command and W. I. F. Lee's secretly through the woods to a position, “and hoped to effect a surprise upon the enemy's rear.” Did he accomplish his object Stuart further says: “My plan was to employ the enemy in front with sharpshooters, and move a command of cavalry upon their left flank from a position lately held by me.” But in the next sentence, he proceeds to state the reasons why this plan was not successful, and further on in the report he squarely acknowledges his failure:

Notwithstanding the favorable results obtained, I would have preferred a different mode of attack, as already indicated, but I soon saw that entanglement by the force of circumstances narrated, was unavoidable, and determined to make the best fight possible. ... Had the enemy's main body been dislodged, as was confidently hoped and expected, I was in precisely the right position to discover it and improve the opportunity. I watched keenly and anxiously the indications in his rear for that purpose; while in the attack which I intended, which was forestalled by our troops being exposed to view, his cavalry would have separated from the main body, and gave promise of solid results and advantages. After dark I directed a withdrawal * * * My cavalry and artillery were somewhat jeopardized before I got back to my command by the enemy's having occupied our late ground.

A nice discrimination is not required to detect throughout Stuart's report a desire to explain why his attack upon Gregg was unsuccessful. First, his column debouched into the open ground, and gave notice of his intended attack to his enemy; next, the rout of Jenkins' Brigade caused a like movement to those on the left; then the impetuosity of the First Virginia carried them too far, and their horses failed under it, and finally, a withdrawal to the York road was directed by Stuart, because his advanced position was hazardous on account of the proximity of the enemy's infantry. The two reports are harmonious in that one (Gregg's) claims to have successfully resisted an attack, and the other (Stuart's) admits that he was not successful in his operations against the right and rear of the Union line. The reports seem to conflict somewhat in their statements regarding the result of the charges made by certain contending regiments, but an analysis of the statements made by each, will go far toward harmonizing them, and the truth may easily be eliminated. It should be borne in mind that it is a weakness of human nature to cover up our failures, as far as possible, and to set forth our successes prominently. Especially is this true when we feel and know that everything has been done to insure success that a more than ordinary prudence, ability, and bravery could dictate.

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J. E. B. Stuart (5)
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