A midnight charge [from the times-dispatch, May 16, 1904.]And the death of General J. E. B. Stuart.
He proposed to advance on the enemy's Camp at Yellow Tavern.Made a Reconnoisance but found the Federal pickets wide awake.
[For account of death of General Stuart, see Southern Historical Society Papers, Vols. XXIX, p. 22; XXX, p. 236.]
While the article following deals, in part, with the much controverted point as to how Jeb Stuart received his death wound, a far more interesting question is discussed by its author. That is, with respect to a charge Stuart desired to make upon the enemy's camp on the night, or morning, rather, preceding the battle of Yellow Tavern. The adventures of General Stuart made in a scout, designed to ‘locate’ the enemy, the cavalry sergeant describes as follows: I was a member of Company C, 1st Virginia cavalry, and will commence my story by relating what happened the night before the killing of Stuart. I will show that he expected the general engagement to come off the next day, and also that he knew the odds against him would be very heavy. The General conceived the idea of charging the enemy's camp that night. Our camps were not very far apart. About 12 o'clock at night, my captain, C. F. Jordan, came to me and waked me up and said that General Stuart had sent for me, and wanted me to report to him at once, mounted. I asked the captain what the general wanted. The captain said he did not know. As he wanted me to come mounted, I supposed he was going to send me off on a scout or wanted me to go with him to reconnoiter, as I had done before, so I was particular about loading my pistol and carbine with fresh cartridges. I reported to him as quickly as possible. As I rode up to his tent I could see him sitting in there by himself. He had a light. He could see no one else about, his horse was nearby. As I stepped in front of his tent, I said: ‘Here I am, General, ready for orders.’ He came  out, and said: ‘Sergeant, I want you with me to-night. I'm going to charge the enemy's camp.’ (He always addressed me as ‘Sergeant,’ as I was a sergeant in my company.) “Wait here and I will be ready directly to start.” He had notified all of the different commands to meet and form at a certain place. He very soon came out of his tent and mounted his horse, a very pretty gray or cream colored mare, which he prized very much. Some friend of his had made him a present of her. I was riding a fine gray horse myself, which I had recently bought. We started off and he went straight to where the command was already formed by fours. We took our positions at the head of it and he gave the command, ‘Forward,’ and off we started, all perfectly quiet, no one talking, as I suppose they had been ordered to keep quiet. Whether the men knew what the General's intentions were or not, I do not know. We had one piece of artillery with us, and after going a short distance across a field, then into a piece of woods a little distance, he halted the command and told them to remain there until he returned. He then said: ‘Sergeant, we will ride on.’ After going a little ways, he said: ‘I want to find a position to place that gun’ (meaning that piece of artillery). We had not gone over three or four hundred yards before we were halted by a picket. It was dark or getting so, and we did not see them until we were halted in twenty feet of them or nearer. I asked the General, in a very low tone, ‘If it was not our picket?’ We had come upon them so soon after starting. He said: ‘No, they are Yankees;’ and just as he replied, they fired a volley at us. Seven shots, we counted, successive shots, very close together, and we could see seven men. Our horses wheeled to the right into some bushes. They were badly frightened. The General said: ‘Sergeant, are you hurt?’ I replied: ‘No, sir; are you?’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘but I am afraid my horse is.’ I said ‘my horse does not jump like he was hurt, and we had then turned and were going back the way we came.’ The General said: ‘Sergeant, that firing has just spoiled my fun.’ We made a miraculous escape. They were so close to us, I suppose they were asleep, and did not hear us until we got right on them. I suppose it was near 2 o'clock then. We went back to the command. The General said: ‘We will wait where we are until day begins to break, and I will fire from here into their camp.’  The pickets were firing around their camp, and we could hear them giving orders. When day began to break, we could see them moving out, and the General commenced firing into their camp with that gun, as fast as possible, and it got away from there in a hurry. From that time on we had some skirmishing until the general engagement commenced, near Yellow Tavern. The General kept me busy that day carrying orders. It was the hardest and hottest day's work I ever did. It was one of the hardest fought battles during the mar. I was told by one of our commanding officers—one who was in a position to know—that we fought about five to one against us. We did not have over 1,500 men in action, if that number; about 2,200 or 2,300, all told. Fitz. Lee's division did the fighting. I did the hardest day's work and had more narrow escapes than I ever had on any battlefield during the war. I was in most of them. I was carrying orders for General Stuart the whole day in every direction across that battlefield, and came within a hair's breadth of being killed many times. General Stuart exposed himself very much. When I went with an order I always found him in a different place, when I returned to him. I saw no other courier, and never saw any of his staff with him, but always found him alone when I returned from carrying an order. When I was not carrying orders I was riding over the battlefield with him. He went over the field very frequently by himself, and exposed himself very much. The last order I took from him that evening was to General Wickham, my brigadier-general. On my return I found him alone, between 4 and 5 o'clock (nearer 5 I suppose, judging from the sun), some distance in front of the Baltimore Light Infantry. He dismounted with his right arm through his bridle rein, holding his glasses to his eyes with both hands, looking across a field at the edge of a piece of woods some distance off, a half or three quarters of a mile or more. I could see with the naked eye a body of men mounted near the woods, but could not tell what they were about. When I rode up to Stuart he took down his glasses and turned his head, and saw who it was. He said to me: ‘Sergeant, they are preparing yonder to charge this battery, and if I don't have a regiment mounted to meet them they will capture it. I want you to go and bring up the lead horses of the 1st regiment.’ I asked: ‘Where are they, General? I don't know where you  had them left.’ He pointed and said: ‘They are in a straight line from here, in this direction, about a mile off. Go as fast as your horse can carry you, and get them here as quick as possible. I will have the men to meet them.’ “I will have them up in a few minutes, General,” I replied. I turned my horse, and as I looked back I saw the General looking again through his glasses, with his right arm through his bridle rein. I set out at fill speed; and that was the last time I ever saw my beloved and gallant general. I went straight to the horses, without any trouble, and was not over three minutes in getting there. My horse was a good one and a fast one. I found the men that were holding the horses all mounted and the horses turned the right way, and I started them off at once, as fast as they could come back, in the same track that I went, and met the men coming to meet the horses, as the General told me he would have them meet them, about three hundred yards from where I left General Stuart, and I am sure I was not gone altogether over fifteen minutes. I left him by himself. He must have mounted his horse as soon as I left him and ridden to where the 1st regiment was in line of battle. I dismounted and ordered the men from the field to meet the horses, that they might mount and meet the enemy's charge, to save the Baltimore Light Artillery. That must have been the time when Mr. Oliver saw him riding alone through the woods towards them, and took his position between him and another Maryland man of Company K, of the 1st Virginia regiment of cavalry. He may have ordered all of the companies to meet the horses before he got there, as that company was on the extreme left, and when he got to Company K found it was too late to order them, and let them remain. The balance of the regiment certainly met the horses, and left the field before the General was shot. I was riding at the head of the regiment of led horses, Company C, being in front, when we met the men. The men had just about finished mounting and were ready to make the charge and I expected to see General Stuart ride up every second. I intended to join him, but General Fitz Lee rode up right in front of me and said: ‘It is too late to charge now. The enemy have made the charge and captured the Baltimore Light Artillery, and General Stuart has been shot. I am am afraid mortally wounded.’ The men called out, some of them, ‘For God's sake, General, let us charge them, anyhow.’ ‘No, it is too late,’ General Fitz Lee  replied, ‘we are going to retreat now, and I want the regiment to cover our retreat.’ I never saw such a distressed looking body of men in my life as they looked to be, many of them shedding tears when they heard our gallant General had been shot, and the first they knew of his being shot, was when General Fitz Lee told them with tears in his eyes. He knew too well what a shock such sad news would be to the Old First. He knew what the men thought of Stuart, and what their beloved General thought of them. The regiment was General Stuart's old regiment. He was their first colonel. He drilled them thoroughly on foot and on horseback. I suppose it was one of the best drilled regiments in the whole cavalry service, if not the best. He endeared himself to his men, and the men endeared themselves to him. The First did cover the retreat and fought all night, holding the enemy in check until we got to Mechanicsville the next morning. There we met the enemy again and defeated them. Mr. Oliver's statement, I have no doubt-or part of it — is correct, the part about his own Company K. The other companies could easily have been ordered from the field to meet the horses, without his knowing it, as he was stationed in the extreme left and probably not in sight. Mr. Dorsey's statement also, I have no doubt, is correct; both could easily be to my mind. I knew Company K, and I know General Stuart thought very highly of it. It was a gallant command and I know it had a high regard for our beloved General Stuart. These statements of Mr. Oliver's and Mr. Dorsey's, I Saw in the issues of October 23, 1903, of the Baltimore Sun. General Stuart was no doubt seen giving orders to the First Virginia Cavalry in line of battle to go to meet their horses, to mount and make a charge, to save the Baltimore Artillery. He did not get mounted in time to make the charge. That action of General Stuart's may have been mistaken by others for rallying his men to charge to save the Baltimore Artillery. These statements are absolutely correct, and can be substantiated. My captain, C. F. Jordan, will confirm many of-them. There has been so many differences of opinion as to how Stuart was mortally wounded, and how he happened to be where he was, at the time he was shot, I, being in a position to know something about it, have made these statements.