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Operations of General J. E. B. Stuart before Chancellorsville.

By Adjutant R. T. Hubard, of the Third Virginia Cavalry.
The following extract was clipped from the Richmond (Virginia) Daily Whig, of July 31, 1879:

Mahone at Chancellorsville.

Colonel William E. Cameron, in Philadelphia Weekly Times.
Meantime, what of the army thus beset and imperilled? We have said that General Slocum's column encountered no opposition in the tedious and circuitous march to Kelly's, or in effecting the passage of two difficult streams. The Southern historians have either omitted remark on this subject or have implied that General Lee received opportune intelligence of what was passing on his left. Neither the records nor events themselves justify this view of the case. General Stuart, usually so vigilant, seems on this occasion to have been surprised. General Hooker says that four hours after his three corps had crossed the Rappahannock the Southern cavalry were still picketing Richards' ford, and the writer knows that when, thirty-six hours after the passage, General Meade came within sight of Chancellorsville, General Stuart had not yet interposed any body of horse between his advance and Fredericksburg. Nor is it possible that General Lee received timely information of the Federal operations. It is incredible that he would, by choice, have allowed Hooker to concentrate at Chancellorsville with the option, when there, of taking his line in reverse, or of moving upon his line of communications and forcing a battle upon unequal terms. Two brigades (Mahone's and Posey's) of Lee's army were stationed at United States ford, and their commander only received notice of the approaching danger when General Meade was crossing at Ely's ford, only six miles distant, and then from a straggling cavalryman. General Mahone moved at once to Chancellorsville, and it was well he did, for at daybreak the following morning the Federals moved upon his outposts.

A gallant officer and gentleman, like Colonel Cameron, would not wittingly, I know, cast any unjust reproach upon the memory of that Christian prtriot, the bravery of whose deeds — from his first charge at Manassas to that crowning act of heroism at Yellow tavern, where he interposed less than three thousand men between Sheridan's splendidly appointed corps of 12,000 cavalry and the capital of the Confederacy, and gave his own glorious life to the city's defence — will all, some day, adorn the brightest pages of Virginia's history, and, for generations, cause the name of Stuart to be cherished by those who love the noble and the true in human [250] nature. He sleeps quietly in Hollywood. No monumental shaft or statue of bronze calls the attention of those who frequent our public squares to Virginia's loss when Stuart fell. But his men — those who, on the long, weary march, or in thickest conflict, gladly followed where he led the way; those who, sleeping without shelter, often in rain, ice and snow, rose at his bugle blast, and, though chilled with cold and pinched by hunger, rushed headlong upon the half awakened and confounded divisions of Federal infantry--knew and loved him. His fame is safe in their keeping. He has been blamed for Gettysburg, and yet, with the approval of the Commanding-General, he had gone on an expedition almost unparallelled for the endurance of himself and his command. They crossed the Potomac, marched nearly three days and nights without stopping, except for an hour or so to feed. They destroyed wagon trains of valuable army stores. Nearly a thousand horses and mules and about two hundred wagons were taken. He scattered several considerable bodies of the enemy's troops, and but for erroneous information, which brought him nearly in collision with a superior force, when his men and horses were nearly worn out for want of rest, compelling him to make a considerable detour, he would have reached our army before the battle on the day preceding the great struggle at Gettysburg.

Our cavalry was always made the scapegoat for the disasters that occurred, yet the official statements will show that they rendered most signal service to the army and the country; and that from the constant wear and tear of being always in the saddle, and, the greater part of the time, skirmishing or engaged in more serious conflicts, their losses aggregated fully as much as the other arms of the service.

But returning to the immediate subject of this article, the reader must bear in mind that General Stuart, at Culpeper Courthouse, was picketing the Rappahannock river, from its confluence with the Rapidan up to near its source in the mountains; that his two small brigades of cavalry, and his horse artillery, were expected to guard the entire line from the Blue Ridge to Chancellorsville. Company “G,” Third regiment, to which I then belonged, had on its rolls between seventy-five and eighty men, yet on the 17th March, 1863, but thirty men could be turned out fit for duty, and with that force the company went into action at Kelly's ford. The regiment had two hundred and forty officers and men in line that day, lost three killed and nearly forty wounded, and lost [251] heavily in horses. In the summer of 1865, I wrote out a sort of journal of our cavalry movements. I find I there state that the pickets at Kelly's ford were captured on the 29th April, 1863, but the reserve being stationed further back, made their escape, though their communication with Richards' ford was cut off, so they could not give the alarm to that post according to instructions in such cases. The weather was cloudy and misty, and the surprising force got across the stream, above or below the ford, and under cover of the darkness of early dawn attacked the pickets in rear. Stuart, upon being advised of a force crossing at Kelly's ford, naturally looked for an advance upon Culpeper, and made his dispositions accordingly.

It must be borne in mind that those important arteries of supply — the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad and the James River and Kanawha canal — were frequently the objective points which were aimed at by heavy columns of Federal troops during the war. That a large column, or even a mixed column of cavalry and infantry, crossing at Kelly's ford, would aim at Gordonsville, Columbia, or some point nearer Richmond (on the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad), was, therefore, more probable than that they constituted a part of a column of attack on General Lee's position at Fredericksburg. Even though they moved out from Kelly's ford on the Germanna road, they might afterwards move to the right and cross the Rapidan at Raccoon or Morton's ford. Accordingly, we find that General Stuart moved forward from his camps and formed his line of battle between Kelly's ford and Culpeper Courthouse. Expecting an attack by a largely superior force, it behooved him to be cautious and to act on the defensive. He awaited the enemy's advance. Their skirmishers and ours were engaged. So situated, our commander could not assume that they were not going to attack his position, until after such lapse of time as repelled such an idea. So, shortly after noon, he becoming convinced, from the long delay to advance, that they did not mean to advance upon Culpeper, withdrew the greater part of his forces from the Culpeper front, and moved around to the right, so as to interpose his troops between the upper fords of the Rapidan and the enemy. In the presence of such superior numbers, his command could not accomplish much more than to act as a corps of observation. He, however, shelled the enemy's trains, retarded their march, and took some prisoners. It was nearly night before the enemy's movement became fully enough developed to make it [252] certain that his columns were to cross at Germanna and Ely's fords. The intelligence, with as much of detail as was practicable, was telegraphed General Lee from Culpeper Courthouse. There was one regiment of cavalry, the Tenth Virginia, Colonel J. Lucius Davis, serving on detached duty with General Lee at Fredericksburg, and picketing the fords at Germana, Ely's, &c. At nightfall of the 29th April, Colonel Thomas F. Owen, of the Third Virginia cavalry, was ordered to proceed, with two squadrons of his regiment (leaving the others under command of Lieutenant-Colonel William R. Carter), towards Fredericksburg, crossing at Raccoon ford, and, if possible, getting in front of the Federal column at Germanna ford. Colonel Owen was a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, a fine swordsman, and as bold and dauntless as any officer in the army. The night was dark and rainy, the men could hardly see their file leaders, and our progress was slow. At midnight we reached Locust Grove, and dispatched two strong scouting parties, one towards Germanna and one towards Ely's ford, with instructions to get as close to the enemy as possible, ascertain his strength and position, then to follow on the line of our march and report. We then moved on until reaching a point on the Plank road, nearly opposite, and only a few miles from Germanna ford. Here we halted, dismounted in the woods, and reclining against trees or in fence corners, slept in a drenching rain for nearly two hours. Neither we nor our horses had eaten anything since the morning before. At 3 A. M. a dispatch from General Fitz. Lee directed us to move forward, get in front of and delay the enemy, and give all attainable information to General R. E. Lee. We struck the Germanna road near Wilderness tavern, turned up towards Germanna ford, and sent forward another scouting party of five men. Between 6 and 7 A. M., our scouts from Germanna ford reported a heavy column of fifteen to twenty thousand infantry across, with a considerable advance guard of cavalry, which was mounted, and forming to move forward. Shortly after the head of their column came in sight, and our Colonel ordered his first squadron to charge them, he supporting with the others. This they did in gallant style, driving the enemy out of sight. In about half an hour the enemy advanced again in heavier force upon them, and they fell back slowly towards their support. Skirmishers were then thrown out on both sides, and a sharp fusilade kept up for some time. Our scouts from Ely's ford coming in about 8 o'clock, I was ordered to select a well mounted [253] trooper, and send a dispatch to General Fitzhugh Lee of what we had learned as to the force at Germanna ford, and also that a heavy wagon train and artillery train were across at Ely's, and, under escort of a large force of infantry, moving towards Chancellorsville. We had sent couriers towards Chancellorsville, to communicate with any of General R. E. Lee's troops found there. I handed the dispatch to Sergeant Bacon, Company A. The fork of the road was now between our force and the enemy, we having slowly retired before his advance. The first squadron again advanced to the charge, and opened the road. Away galloped our courier up the Plank road, and was soon out of sight. But alas! for him — a squad of Yankees dashed across the angle between the two roads, under cover of woods, and captured him before he had gone a mile. He was smart enough to swallow the dispatch and keep mum. Couriers returning from Chancellorsville reported they had been unable to communicate with our troops, wno were falling back; and the Federal troops were already at Chancellorsville and sending out scouting detachments. It was now nearly 9 o'clock A. M We wheeled about and moved on towards Chancellorsville. But finding a strong force in our front, we turned to the right towards Todd's tavern. My Colonel much regretted the unavoidable delay in getting information from his scouting parties — caused, in part, by the severity of the weather, and in part by the difficulties of the work they had to perform in trying to get near the main body of the advancing army. He was informed that a considerable cavalry force was moving across his route and going towards Spotsylvania Courthouse. Nevertheless, deeming the details of information he had gotten important, although he knew that General Lee had been warned by telegraph of the advance, he ordered me, as his column moved along, to send a dispatch to General R. E. Lee. It was still raining, but very slightly. I selected a faithful courier, William A. Bruce, wrote the dispatch on the side of the road, my knee serving for a writing desk, on a scant slip of paper, all I had left, as we left our camp expecting to go at once into action. I gave Colonel Taylor, A. A. G., all the information we had of the two columns moving from Germanna and Ely's ford. And this dispatch was delivered at General R. E. Lee's headquarters between 12 and 1 o'clock that day. Courier Bruce said it was the first intelligence received that morning at army headquarters from the direction of Chancellorsville. Orders were immediately issued for General Jackson's corps to move towards [254] Chancellorsville. After feeding our horses at Todd's tavern, we reported to General Wright, of Anderson's division, at Tabernacle church, eight or nine miles west from Fredericksburg. He moved forward that evening, and finding nothing but cavalry in his front, was disposed to regard the whole movement as a feint and a “big scare.” We bivouacked for the night on the road side, in rear of General Wright's lines.

I will conclude this article with an incident connected with General Jackson. I was required to detail a lieutenant and detachment of men to report to him on the morning of May 1st. Putting Lieutenant Charles R. Palmore in command, and sending them forward, I walked up the road to get a look at General Jackson. Meeting with my college-mate, Major Alexander Pendleton, of the General's staff, he told me that both General Anderson and General Wright had expressed the opinion, notwithstanding the information we had brought, that this was nothing but a “reconnoissance in force,” and he thought General Jackson inclined to the same opinion. The General was standing a little to the right of the road, without side arms, in a gray frock coat, with a short skirt, gray pants, glazed cap, pulled down over his eyes, and with paper and pencil in hand, tracing directions to Lieutenant Palmore (who stood on his right) for the movements of his detachment. Palmore's bridle-reins were hanging on his arm, and his horse standing close up. Receiving his instructions, he turned mounted, and without looking, pulled his horse to the left. The horse's head came in contact with General Jackson's right shoulder, causing him to “right face” very suddenly. Never taking his eyes from the paper, the General continued his reflections, without being in the least disturbed.

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