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Tenth annual reunion of the Virginia division army of Northern Virginia Association. Address of Major H. B. McClellan, of Lexington, Ky., on the life, campaigns, and character of Gen'l J. E. B. Stuart.

On Wednesday evening, October 27th, 1880, a large crowd packed the Hall of the House of Delegates to its utmost capacity.

At the appointed hour the orator of the evening, Major H. B. McClellan was escorted into the hall by the president of the Association (General W. H. F. Lee) and members of the Executive Committee, and was received with loud applause.

General Lee called the meeting to order, and Rev. Dr. J. William Jones opened with prayer.

General Lee said that he esteemed it a pleasure and an honor to extend to the audience a cordial welcome to this tenth annual reunion of the Virginia Division of the Army of Northern Virginia. He concluded from the brilliant audience before him that the people still cherished the memory of the brave men who during the four years of the unequal contest bore themselves nobly, and proved themselves worthy of the land that gave them birth and the cause for which they fought. [434]

He said that the Association had hitherto been very fortunate in its annual orators, and that he felt sure they were peculiarly fortunate on the present occasion. He had the honor of presenting as the orator of the evening a gentleman distinguished alike in war and in letters. He was fortunate, also, in the selection of his theme, since he was to speak of the life and character of the great cavalry chief on whose staff he had personally served, and with whom he had witnessed and participated in the great battles of the Army of Northern Virginia.

It gave him great pleasure to be able to introduce as orator of the evening, Major H. B. Mcclellan, late A. A. G. of the Cavalry Corps A. N. V., now president of Sayre Female College, Lexington Kentucky.

Major McClelland was greeted with loud applause, which was frequently,repeated as he proceeded to deliver in graceful style the following


Mr. President, Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am honored in being permitted again to stand upon the soil of Old Virginia. My spirit has been stirred to its depths as I have received the greetings of comrades with whom I have stood side by side in the day of battle; and, as I look into your faces, I can but wish that I were worthy to present my subject. Bear with me while I attempt to speak to you of one whom even Virginia may be proud to enroll among her noblest heroes.

James Ewell Brown Stuart was born in Patrick county, Va., on the 6th day of February, 1833. He died in Richmond, Va., on the 12th of May, 1864, of a wound received the day previous at the Yellow Tavern. His age at his death was 31 years 3 months and 6 days.

Through five generations his ancestry is traced back to Archibald Stuart, Sr., a native of Londonderry, Ireland, but of Scotch Presbyterian parentage, who, early in the eighteenth century, was compelled by religious persecution to seek refuge in Western Pennsylvania. Here he remained in seclusion for nearly seven years before his family could venture to join him. Removing to Augusta county, Va., about 1738, Archibald Stuart, Sr., acquired large landed estates, which he divided between his four children.

His second son, and third child, Major Alexander Stuart, was, early in the Revolutionary War, commissioned major of the regiment commanded by Colonel Samuel McDowell; and, during Colonel McDowell's [435] illness, commanded the regiment at the battle of Guilford Court-house. Two horses were killed under him in this action, and he himself, dangerously wounded, was left upon the field, and was captured by the enemy. He was subsequently exchanged, and his sword was returned to him. This valued relic is now in the possession of his grandson, the Hon. Alexander H. H. Stuart, of Va.

Judge Alexander Stuart, the youngest son of Major Alexander Stuart, was a lawyer by profession, and resided at various times in Virginia, in Illinois, and in Missouri. He held many honorable and responsible offices in each of these states. He died and was buried in Staunton, Va. His eldest son, the Hon. Archibald Stuart, of Patrick, the father of our general, was an officer in the war of 1812. He embraced the profession of law, and throughout his long and eventful life was actively engaged in the practice of his profession, and in political life. He represented first the county of Campbell, in the Virginia legislature, and was afterwards repeatedly elected from Patrick county to the same body. He was a member of the famous Convention of 1829-30, and of the Convention of 1850, in which he was actively associated with the Hon. Henry A. Wise. He represented the Patrick District in the Federal Congress during the Nullification period, and was a strong supporter of Mr. Calhoun in that crisis. Concerning his personal character I quote the words of another:

Archibald Stuart was known far and wide, both for his splendid talents and his wonderful versatility. A powerful orator and advocate, he charmed the multitude on the hustings, and convinced juries and courts. In addition to these gifts, he was one of the most charming social companions the state ever produced. Possessing wonderful wit and humor, combined with rare gift for song, he at once became the center of attraction at every social gathering. Among the people of the counties where he practiced, his name is held in great respect, and his memory is cherished with an affection rarely equalled in the history of any public man.

It is not wonderful that such an ancestry should have produced the hero whom to-night we honor. Rightfully did he inherit the stern devotion to duty and principle which caused Archibald Stuart to seek refuge in the wilds of Pennsylvania, rather than endure tyranny and oppression in his native land. Rightfully did he inherit the constancy and gallantry of the major who led his regiment at Guilford Courthouse, and who yielded his sword only when disabled by wounds and deserted by his men. Rightfully did he inherit that joyous temperament which made his father the delight of the social circle, and that [436] magnetic power by which he could impress himself upon, and control other men.

To Archibald Stuart, of Patrick, and his wife, Elizabeth Letcher Pannill, of Pittsylvania, was born a family of four sons and six daughters. Among these our general was the seventh child and youngest son. Of his brothers, William Alexander Stuart, of Russell county, Va., alone survives.

His boyhood and youth.

Stuart's early boyhood was passed at the old homestead amid the mountains of Patrick county, close to the North Carolina line. At the age of fourteen he was placed in school at Wytheville, and in 1848 he entered Emory and Henry College, Washington county, Va. During a revival of religion among the students Stuart professed conversion and connected himself with the Methodist church. His mother was a member of the Episcopal church; and ten years later, in 1859, he was confirmed in that church by Bishop Hawks in Saint Louis. Through-out his life he maintained a consistent Christain character.

In 1850 he was appointed cadet at West Point, on the nomination of the Hon. T. H. Averett, of Va., and entered the Academy in June of the same year. During his career at West Point, he applied himself diligently to study; held successively nearly all the cadet offices up to the rank of cavalry sergeant and second captain; and graduated thirteenth in a class of forty-two. He was immediately commissioned brevet second lieutenant in the regiment of Mounted Rifles then serving in Texas, but owing to the prevalence of the Yellow fever in New Orleans was unable to join his regiment until December of that year, when he was engaged in the expedition against the Apachee Indians, which was commanded by Major John S. Simonson.

In October, 1854, he was promoted to be second lieutenant in the Mounted Rifles, and in May, 1855, was transferred, with the same rank, to the First Cavalry regiment, which was organized at Jefferson Barracks, near St. Louis, and was afterwards moved to Fort Leavenworth, at which post Stuart was appointed regimental quartermaster and commissary. In September and October of this year, the First Cavalry was engaged in an expedition against the Indians which entailed severe marching but no fighting. Returning to Leavenworth, Stuart was married at Fort Riley, on the 14th November, to Miss Flora Cooke, daughter of Colonel Philip St. George Cooke, commandant of that post. In December, 1855, he received promotion to be [437] first lieutenant in his regiment. During a large part of the three following years, Stuart's regiment was engaged in the attempt to preserve peace between the new settlers in Kansas Territory, during that exciting period when it was yet undetermined whether Kansas should be a free or a slave state. It was amid these stirring scenes that he made that acquaintance with “Osawatomie Brown,” which enabled him afterwards to identify him at Harper's Ferry.

The battle on Solomon river.

In the year 1857, his regiment was actively engaged in Indian warfare. The important event of the campaign was, the battle fought upon the north fork of Solomon river, probably within the limits of the present Norton county, Kansas. Here, upon the 29th of July, Colonel Sumner, with six companies of the First Cavalry, encountered and routed about three hundred Cheyenne warriors. It was during the pursuit that Stuart received a painful wound. His horse was exhausted by a chase of five miles, and he was compelled to exchange with one of his soldiers. I give these circumstances in his own words. “When I overtook the rear of the enemy I found Lomax in imminent peril from an Indian, who was on foot, and in the act of shooting him. I rushed to the rescue, and succeeded in wounding the Indian in his thigh. He fired at me in return with an Allen's revolver, but missed. I now observed Stanley and McIntyre close by. The former said, ‘Wait! I'll fetch him.’ He dismounted from his horse to aim deliberately, but in dismounting accidentally discharged his last load. Upon him the Indian now advanced with his revolver pointed. I could not stand that, but drawing my sabre rushed on the monster and inflicted a severe wound across his head; but at the same moment he fired his last barrel within a foot of me, the ball taking effect in the center of the breast, but, by the mercy of God, glancing to the left, lodging near my nipple and so far inside that it cannot be felt.”

After burying his dead, Colonel Sumner pursued the retreating Indians southward, leaving his wounded, and among them Lieutenant Stuart, in a temporary fortification, built near the battle ground, and garrisoned by one company of infantry. At the expiration of ten days Stuart was able to ride upon horseback; and as the other wounded were in condition to bear removal, this detachment started in the endeavor to reach Fort Kearny, which was supposed to be less than one hundred miles distant. Within five days the party was deserted by their Pawnee guides, and was left, during a rainy season, without [438] compass, without sun or stars to guide their course. Lost in the wilderness! In this dilemma Stuart volunteered to press forward with a small party to find Fort Kearny, and send out thence for the relief of the main body. For two days he wandered without gaining any knowledge of the fort or of his own location; but on the third day he struck a plain trail leading northward which he recognized as the mail route from Kearny to Leavenworth. Pursuing this trail for fifty-five miles, on the evening of the same day he arrived at Fort Kearny, whence succor and supplies were sent to his suffering comrades. Lost in the wilderness, with no means of determining the course in which he was marching;--traveling sometimes in a circle, and sometimes far wide of the true direction; accompanied by wearied and disheartened comrades who counseled him to abandon his attempt; convinced of cowardice, and strongly suspecting treachery on the part of his Mexican guide; beset by fog and tempest; swimming swollen and rapid rivers; with no food save the scantiest rations of fresh beef without salt; and all this while suffering from the effects of a recent and severe wound;--we find this lieutenant of the First Cavalry exhibiting the same powers of endurance, the same indomitable resolution, the same devotion to duty, the same quiet reliance upon the guiding hand of an overruling Providence which fitted him in after days for the high command which devolved upon him. Faithful in little, he was faithful also in much.

From the Fall of 1857 until the Summer of 1860 Stuart was stationed at Fort Riley, with six companies of his regiment, under the command of Major John Sedgwick, and participated in all the movements of this command against the hostile Indians. It was probably at this time that the warm personal friendship which existed between himself and Sedgwick was cemented. Certainly Sedgwick was an admirer of his gallant lieutenant, and has left it on record in his own quaint phraseology, that Stuart was “the best cavalry officer ever foaled in America;” and those who were present on the 5th May, 1864, can testify that when the news was brought in that Sedgwick had fallen in the wilderness, Stuart mourned for him as for a valued friend. Through many stirring scenes they had passed side by side. Separated by the bloody strife of civil war, they yet crossed over the dark river at no great distance from each other.

The “John Brown raid.”

In 1859 Stuart visited his home in Virginia on leave of absence; and, while attending the General Convention of the Episcopal church [439] at Richmond in October, was called to Washington to negotiate with the War Department concerning the sale to the government of a sabre attachment which he had invented, and for which he held a patent. While in Washington on this business the news was received of the “John Brown raid” at Harper's Ferry. Stuart was requested to convey to Arlington a secret communication to Lieut. Colonel Robert E. Lee, who had been selected to command the marines sent to suppress the insurrection. Although the facts had been kept entirely concealed, he perceived that something unusual was transpiring, and volunteered his services as Aid to Colonel Lee. The part taken by Stuart in this brief war has been so often misstated that I give his own account taken from a letter to his mother written in January, 1860. He distinctly disclaims the honor, so often ascribed to him, of having led the storming party against the Engine House; but testifies to the gallantry of Lieut. Green, commander of the marines, and of Major Russel, paymaster in the same corps, who, side by side led the assault. He says: “I was deputed by Colonel Lee to read to the leader, then called Smith, a demand to surrender immediately; and I was instructed to leave the door after his refusal, which was anticipated, and wave my cap; at which signal the storming party was to advance, batter open the doors, and capture the insurgents at the point of the bayonet. I approached the door in the presence of two thousand spectators, and told Mr. Smith that I had a communication for him from Colonel Lee. He opened the door about four inches and placed his body against the crack, with a cocked carbine in his hand. The parley was a long one. He presented his propositions in every possible shape, and with admirable tact; but all amounted to this, that the only condition upon which he would surrender was, that he and his party should be allowed to escape. Some of his prisoners begged me with tears to ask Col. Lee to come and see him. I told them he would never accede to any terms but those he had offered; and as soon as I could tear myself away from their importunities I left, waved my cap, and Col. Lee's plan was carried out.” * * * “When Smith first came to the door I recognized old ‘Osawatomie Brown,’ who had given us so much trouble in Kansas. No one then present but myself could have performed this service.”

In the Summer of 1860 the First cavalry was engaged in building Fort Wise, now Fort Lyon, and from this point Lieutenant Stuart, who had been notified of his promotion to a captaincy, but had not yet received his commission, made his way to Virginia in the Spring of 1861, and offered his sword for the defence of his native state. His resignation [440] as an officer in the United States Army was accepted on the 7th of May.

His first commission in the Confederate service was that of lieutenant colonel of infantry, dated 10th May, 1861, with orders to report to Col. T. J. Jackson, at Harper's Ferry. This commission was issued by the State of Virginia.

At the beginning of the war the impression prevailed that the cavalry was a comparatively unimportant arm of the service. The infantry and artillery attracted public attention, and into these branches pressed those ardent spirits who were naturally desirous of promotion and distinction in the service of their country. Among the officers of the old army reluctance was manifested to entering the cavalry service; and no one presented himself who seemed fitted for the duty of organizing the scattered cavalry companies into an efficient command.

I give the following circumstance as narrated to me by Stuart himself.

At a meeting for consultation of officers belonging to the command at Harper's Ferry, the question was discussed who should command the cavalry. Sharing the common reluctance to entering this service; believing that he would thereby forfeit his own prospects of rapid promotion; yet sensible of the imperative need that some one should organize the outpost service of the army; believing moreover that his own education in Indian warfare and frontier service, in which he had been constantly engaged for six years, fitted him for the required duties; he felt constrained to lay aside his personal preference and to offer his services for the position. The assignment was made and he entered at once upon his duties. Now every energy was devoted to the instruction of his officers and men. Day and night he was upon the picket line. A new spirit was infused into a languid service. The cavalry commenced to respect themselves, and to appreciate the importance of their duties; and soon both officers and men learned that an eye was upon them from which no dereliction of duty could escape, but which was equally ready to mark out and reward any exhibition of skill and gallantry.

On the 16th July, 1861, he received from the State of Virginia his commission as Colonel of Cavalry. On the 24th September of the same year he was made Brigadier-General by the government of the Confederate States; and on the 25th of July, 1862, he was commissioned Major-General by the same authority.

The limits of this address will not permit a detailed account of Stuart's services at the battles of the First Manassas, of Williamsburg [441] and of Seven Pines. It must suffice to say that, while holding his cavalry in reserve ready to improve any advantage, he personally participated largely in these engagements, directing especially the movements and fire of our artillery, a diversion of which he was particularly fond.

The Chickahominy raid.

On the 13th and 14th and 15th of June, 1862, Stuart prosecuted his famous ride around McClellan's army on the Chickahominy. I have in my possession the autograph letter of General Robert E. Lee, which conveyed to Stuart his instructions. This letter is of so much interest that I venture to give it in full. It is marked “Confidential” and is dated:

Headquarters Dobb's farm, 11th June, 1862.
General J. E. B. Stuart, Comanding Cav'y:
Gen'l,--You are desired to make a scout movement to the rear of the enemy now posted on the Chickahominy, with a view of gaining intelligence of his operations, communications, &c., and of driving in his foraging parties and securing such grain, cattle, &c., for ourselves as you can make arrangements to have driven in. Another object is to destroy his wagon trains said to be daily passing from the Piping-tree road to his camp on the Chickahominy. The utmost vigilance on your part will be necessary to prevent any surprise to yourself, and the greatest caution must be practiced in keeping well in your front and flanks reliable scouts to give you information. You will return as soon as the object of your expedition is accomplished; and you must bear constantly in mind while endeavoring to execute the general purpose of your mission, not to hazard unnecessarily your command, or to attempt what your judgment may not approve; but be content to accomplish all the good you can, without feeling it necessary to obtain all that might be desired.

I recommend that you take only such men and horses as can stand the expedition, and that you use every means in your power to save and cherish those you do take. You must leave sufficient cavalry here for the service of this army, and remember that one of the chief objects of your expedition is to gain intelligence for the guidance of future movements.

Information received last evening, the points of which I sent you, lead me to infer that there is a stronger force on the enemy's right than was previously reported. A large body of infantry as well as cavalry was reported near the Central railroad. Should you find upon investigation [442] that the enemy is moving to his right, or is so strongly posted as to make your expedition inopportune, as its success in my opinion depends upon its secrecy, you will, after gaining all the information you can, resume your former position.

I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,


R. E. Lee, Gen'l.

In carrying out these instructions Stuart moved on the 13th directly northward, to create, if possible, the impression that he was destined to reinforce Jackson. His command consisted of 1200 men, selected from the 1st, 4th and 9th Virginia cavalry, and from the Jeff Davis legion; and commanded by Colonels Fitz Lee, W. H. F. Lee and W. T. Martin. He was accompanied by one section of artillery under charge of Lieutenant James Breathed. He bivouacked the first night opposite Hanover Court-house, but early the next morning turned his course directly to the right. Up to this time no one beside himself had any true idea of the destination of the expedition; but now the commandants of regiments were informed of the general objects to be attained, in order that their more intelligent co-operation might thereby be secured, Hanover Court-house was found to be in the possession of the enemy's cavalry; but while Stuart was making preparation to attack in rear as well as in front, the enemy withdrew towards Mechanicsville, and was allowed to pursue his way unmolested. At the Old Church occurred the only serious conflict during the expedition. Here Captain Royall, commanding two squadrons of the 5th Regular cavalry, attempted to dispute the way; but he was completely routed and himself dangerously wounded by Captain Latane‘s squadron of the 9th Viriginia cavalry. In this charge the gallant Latane lost his life. This was the only casualty among the Southern cavalry.

Stuart had now penetrated to the rear of the Federal army, and was directly upon its line of communication with the York river. The information he had gained definitely accomplished the prime object of his expedition. He had located the camps of the enemy, and had ascertained that the Federal right flank was not extended as General Lee feared was the case, and that the way was clear for Jackson to follow in his footsteps. But now the question must be decided how he could with safety return from his dangerous situation. To retrace his steps he must of necessity pass through Hanover Court-house, with the South Anna river on his right, now swollen and impassable from heavy rains. The Federal cavalry encountered there in the morning had doubtless conveyed information of his movements to their main body, [443] and, strongly reinforced, would be ready to dispute his return. Hard fighting and perhaps serious loss would surely await him at Hanover Court-house. With quick determination he decided to pass entirely around the Federal army, trusting that he would be able to cross the Chickahominy below the enemy's left, before troops could be collected and sent in pursuit. Stuart says in his report: “In a brief and frank interview with some of my officers I disclosed my views; but while none accorded a full assent, all assured me a hearty support in whatever I did. With an abiding trust in God, and with such guarantees of success as the two Lees and Martin and their devoted followers, I regarded this enterprise as most promising. * * * There was something of the sublime in the implicit confidence and unquestioning trust of the rank and file in a leader guiding them apparently into the very jaws of the enemy, every step appearing to them to diminish the faintest hope of extrication.”

Stuart reached Tunstall's station on the York River railroad by dark. A detachment sent to the Pamunky river burned two transports loaded with stores and a train of wagons. At Tunstall's great quantities of provisions and many wagons were captured and burned, and the railroad bridge over Black creek was destroyed. For miles around the country was illuminated by these hilarious cavalrymen. Having thoroughly completed this work, Stuart pushed on to Talleysville, and by daylight had reached Forge bridge over the Chickahominy. Another difficulty now presented itself. The stream was past fording and the bridge destroyed. But a few hours work produced a frail structure over which the artillery could cross, and by one o'clock in the afternoon the whole command was safe from molestation. Stuart brought back with him 165 prisoners, and 260 captured mules and horses. He lost but one man, the lamented Captain Latane. A broken pole compelled the abandonment of a limber chest on the upper side of the Chickahominy.

The results of this expedition were most important and satisfactory. Within a few days Stuart with his cavalry conducted Jackson's corps over the same route to McClellan's rear, and on the 27th the crushing defeat of the Federal right wing was consummated at Cold Harbor. Aside from these strategic considerations the influence of this expedition on the morale not only of the cavalry but of the whole army was most important; and we have the authority of the Count of Paris for the statement that by it the confidence of the north in McClellan was shaken. In after days we became more accustomed to the eccentric movements of large bodies of cavalry, and had ofttimes to lament that [444] the Federal troopers were such apt pupils in this new school of tactics; but at this time Stuart's raid was absolutely unique in warfare. The recital of the bare facts sounded more like a fairy tale than sober truth; and the astonishment of our troops at the boldness of such a leader was only equalled by the enthusiasm which his success inspired. Jackson's victories in the Valley had at this same time created the wildest ardor, and now the hopes of all were centred in the immortal three--Lee, Jackson, Stuart, under whom the army of Northern Virginia felt itself invincible. Who can doubt the result had not our glorious leader been deprived of both his right arm and his left? When Jackson fell, when Stuart was no more, brave hearts still hoped, but 'twas hoping against hope.

I cannot now follow Stuart as he led our cavalry through the seven days battles around Richmond; at Cedar mountain; at the second battle of Manassas; through the first Maryland campaign, and at Fredericksburg. I cannot do more than make bare mention of his midnight descent upon the rear of Pope's army at Catlett's station — or of his expedition into Pennsylvania, when he again electrified both nations by passing for the second time around McClellan's army as it lay on the banks of the Potomac — returning to the Virginia shore without the loss of a man or a horse, having accomplished one of the most wonderful marches on record. Nor is it my intention to enter into the details of the Chancellorsville campaign. The distinguished officer who, one year ago, spoke to you from this place, has given with eloquence and power, which I cannot hope to equal, the history of the cavalry in that battle. He has told you how paucity of numbers was compensated for by the skill of the commander and the heroism and devotion of his men. I would but add some personal reminiscences of those days.


It was a weird scene which the dim moonlight disclosed when Stuart was recalled from Ely's ford to take command of Jackson's corps. The news of the fall of their great chieftain had spread among the men, and a sense of awe and dread seemed to pervade the lines, made still more impressive by the stillness which succeeded the enemy's terrific cannonade. A. P. Hill, wounded and disabled, was still upon the field, although Rodes, his next in rank in the corps, was temporarily in command. I was present at the conference between Stuart, Hill and Rodes, when Rodes yielded up the command to Stuart. The history of the war does not afford a more striking instance of magnanimous and [445] patriotic self-sacrifice. Already on that day had General Rodes won the especial commendation of the great Jackson, whose dying testimony was, “General Rodes' promotion should date from Chancellorsville;” and now succeeding to the command of his corps there seemed to open up before him a grand opportunity for personal distinction.

He believed, moreover, that because Stuart belonged to a different arm of the service he was not entitled to claim the command. Possessing the modest confidence of the true soldier in his own ability to meet the responsibility devolving upon him, he was yet willing to place the command in Stuart's hands, because, as he said with quiet dignity, he understood that such was General Jackson's wish, and because Stuart's name was more widely and more favorably known in the army, and would tend to restore the confidence of the troops shaken by the fall of Jackson.

Military authorities will probably decide that Stuart, as next in rank to A. P. Hill, was entitled to the command; but this cannot detract from the honor due the gallant soldier, who yielded up the opportunity for personal distinction when he believed that the interests of his country so required, as readily as he. afterwards laid down his life in the same cause. “He that ruleth his spirit” is better “than he that taketh a city.”

During the heat of the conflict on the next morning, as I was making my way through the woods toward our line of battle, I saw a lad coming slowly toward the rear, whose right arm was dangling from the elbow by some shreds of flesh. As he approached me he said--

Mister! can't you cut this thing off? It keeps knocking against the trees, and it's mightily in my way.”

I was somewhat appalled at the prospect of a surgical operation, but could not refuse to do what lay in my power to help the poor boy. So, dismounting from my horse, I improvised a tourniquet from some strips torn from a blue blouse lying near at hand, and applying it to the artery above the elbow, proceeded to amputate the offending member with my pocket knife. While the operation was in progress, I enquired--

“Which is your regiment?”

Said he--

“I belong to that North Carolina regiment in there. I'm just sixteen, and I've just come from home. Don't you think it's a hard case that I should get hit in my first fight? We drove them out of one line of breastworks, and I was on top of the second when I got hit. But, oh! how we did make them git.” [446]

Brave boy! I directed him to the rear, where he no doubt soon met with skillful attention from our surgeons. I saw him no more, but I trust that his sturdy spirit sustained him and ensured his recovery. Such boys grow into men who are an honor to any country.

It has fallen to my lot on previous occasions, but in a different manner, to give the southern view of the cavalry battles at Fleetwood, at Aldie, Middleburg and Upperville, which occurred during the month of June, 1863, at the opening of the Gettysburg campaign. Some northern writers have persistently claimed notable victories in these engagements; but I have shown that the claim is without foundation. No amount of argument can convince the Virginia horsemen who rode down the enemy's cannon at Fleetwood, or the Cobb's Georgia legion who came out of the fight with bloody sabres, or the Stuart horse-artillery who fought the enemy with their sponge staffs, and even with their fists, that the 9th of June, at Brandy station, was aught but a day of glory to the southern cavalry. No repeated assertions can convince the survivors of Fitz Lee's old brigade that the enemy could ever have moved James Breckinridge from behind that stone wall at Aldie; and no amount of florid rhetoric can persuade the men who fought under Stuart between Middleburg and Upperville, on that memorable Sabbath, the 21st of June, that there was anything of shame or defeat in retiring all day before the enemy's cavalry, supported by a corps of infantry, and yet giving up hardly five miles of ground. I must not weary you with the story of those days; but I cannot refrain from again placing on record the main facts concerning the cavalry operations in the

Gettysburg campaign.

Information received from his scouts, and especially from Mosby, led Stuart to believe that he could inflict serious damage upon the enemy, and perhaps derange his plans by passing around Meade's army, between it and Washington, rejoining General Lee in Pennsylvania. The plan was submitted to the Commanding-General, and Stuart was permitted to use his discretion in carrying it out.

The circumstances under which General Stuart received his orders well illustrate his spirit and hardihood as a soldier. The night of the 23d of June was most inclement. A pitiless rain poured without cessation from the clouds, and the land was drenched. Although the shelter of an old house was available, at bed-time Stuart ordered his blanket and oil cloths to be spread under a tree in the rear of the house, and directed me to sleep on the front porch where I could [447] readily light my candle and read any dispatches which might come during the night. I remonstrated with him upon this needless exposure; but his reply was, “No! my men are exposed to this rain, and I will not fare any better than they.” It was late in the night when a courier arrived from Army Headquarters bearing a dispatch marked “confidential.” Under ordinary circumstances I would not have ventured to break the seal, but the rain poured down so steadily that I was unwilling to disturb the general unnecessarily, and yet it might be important that he should immediately be acquainted with the contents of the dispatch. With some hesitation I opened it and read. It was a lengthy communication from General Lee, containing the directions upon which Stuart was to act. I at once carried it to the general and read it to him as he lay under the dripping tree. With a mild reproof for having opened a document marked “confidential,” the order was committed to my charge for the night, and Stuart was soon asleep. The letter discussed at length the plan proposed of passing around the enemy's rear. It informed General Stuart that General Early would move upon York, Pennsylvania, and that he was desired to place his cavalry as speedily as possible with that, the advance division of Lee's right wing. The letter suggested that as the roads leading northward from Shepherdstown and Williamsport were already incumbered by the infantry, the artillery, and the transportation of the army, the delay which would necessarily occur in passing by these, would, perhaps, be greater than would ensue if General Stuart passed around the enemy's rear.

The letter further informed him that if he chose the latter route General Early would receive instructions to look out for him, and endeavor to communicate with him; and York, Pennsylvania, was designated as the point in the vicinity of which he was to expect to hear from Early, and as the possible, if not probable, point of concentration of the army.

The whole tenor of the letter gave evidence that the Commanding-General approved the proposed movement, and thought that it might be productive of the best results, while the responsibility of the decision was placed upon General Stuart himself. Well may General Longstreet say: “Authority thus given a subordinate general implies an opinion on the part of the commander that something better than the drudgery of a march along our flank might be open to him, and one of General Stuart's activity and gallantry should not be expected to fail to seek it.”

Having received his orders on the night of the 23d of June, Stuart [448] prepared on the 24th to execute them. The three brigades of Hampton, Fitz Lee and W. H. F. Lee, the last under Colonel Chambliss, were ordered to rendezvous that night at Salem; and Robertson's and Jones' brigade, under command of Brigadier-General B. H. Robertson, “were left in observation of the enemy on the usual front, with full instructions as to following up the enemy in case of withdrawal, and joining our main army.” (Stuart's report.)

This force added to Jenkins' brigade, which constituted the advance of Ewell's corps in Pennsylvania, was fully equal in numbers to the brigades which accompanied Stuart; and he was certainly justified in considering it sufficient to fulfill every duty which might be required by the commanding General from the cavalry.

Time would fail me in narrating the stirring incidents of the nine days and nights of marching and fighting which now ensued. After destroying the canal, railroads and telegraph in Maryland and Pennsylvania, interrupting for more than two days all communication between Washington and Meade's army, capturing a large number of prisoners and wagons, and destroying a great amount of public property, Stuart reached Hanover, Pennsylvania, on the 30th of June. Here he had an encounter with Kilpatrick's cavalry, which, though not serious in its nature, yet detained him until nightfall of the same day. He had now been separated from the army for six days, with no intelligence of Lee's movements save what he could gather from the northern newspapers. From these he learned that General Early was in York, Pennsylvania; and every other item of news which he could gain led him to think that General Lee's plans were being carried out as originally proposed, and that the concentration of our army would take place in the vicinity of York, Pennsylvania, or at some point north of it on the Susquehanna.

He was now within striking distance of York, and anxiously expected, in accordance with General Lee's letter of instructions, that he would receive some word from Early. But for some reason, which will probably never be explained, the order to endeavor to communicate with Stuart had never reached General Early, nor did he have any knowledge whatever of Stuart's proposed movement around the enemy's rear, and while Stuart was engaged with Kilpatrick's cavalry at Hanover, Early was moving from York to Heidlersburg by way of East Berlin, and White's battalion of cavalry, which had been detached from Jones' brigade to accompany his division, moved on the direct road from York toward Gettysburg. White's battalion must have passed within seven miles, [449] and Early's division within ten miles of Stuart's column. Could General Stuart have known of this movement, he might have freed himself from embarrassment by burning his captured wagons (which, indeed, he atone time prepared to do), and withdrawing from the engagement with Kilpatrick he could have effected a junction with Early during the afternoon or the night of the same day. This would have brought him to Gettysburg in time to participate in the battle of the first day. But Providence directed otherwise; and still believing that our army was upon the Susquehanna, Stuart pressed forward to Carlisle, and two days, precious days, were lost in a useless march.

Many of our ablest Confederate generals have expressed the opinion that the separation of any part of our cavalry from the main army, during this campaign, was an error in strategy on the part of Lee and Stuart, and that the failure of the campaign is largely to be attributed to this cause. I believe the time has passed when any one would be disposed to censure Stuart for this movement; and that it is conceded that if blame must fall, it must fall upon the Commanding-General who authorized and stimulated his lieutenant in this course of action. But it is noticable that no writer on this subject has endeavored to show how General Stuart's presence with the army would have caused other results. Before this strategy of General Lee is condemned, or Stuart can be blamed, it must be shown that more accurate information of the enemy's movements would have been obtained by the opposite course; or that Stuart failed to leave in communication with the army a force of cavalry sufficient for the duty of observation. And here it must be conceded that had Stuart followed Longstreet's crossing at Shepherdstown, and operated upon that flank, he could have gained information concerning the enemy only by using individual scouts, or by making reconnoissances in force. For the latter purpose, the cavalry under his command was utterly insufficient. Unless provided with an infantry support, Stuart could have made no movement which would have held out any hope of piercing the cavalry which enveloped Hooker's advance; and a reconnoissance of Southern cavalry, supported by infantry, is something which I do not remember ever to have occurred in the army of Northern Virginia. General Early speaks wisely when he says: “It is doubtful whether the former alternative would have enabled him (Stuart) to fulfill General Lee's expectations.”

The only other ground upon which complaint could justly be urged against Stuart is that he denuded the army of its cavalry. But I have already shown that he left upon the front, vacated by him, two brigades, which numbered at least 2500 men, commanded by two of [450] the senior brigadiers of the cavalry, and with full instructions. There can be no reasonable ground for supposing that this command, which was in daily and almost hourly communication with the commanding General, could not have learned everything concerning the enemy's movements which Stuart could have discovered in the same place; and had these brigades been moved northward on the 26th of June, they would have reached such position on the 28th as to have stopped Buford's march, and would have so occupied him as to have prevented him from reaching Gettysburg on the 30th.

When Stuart arrived at Gettysburg, nothing of rest was allowed the weary horsemen who had accompanied him on his recent severe march. On the evening of the third day's battle they were called upon to encounter the enemy's cavalry in a severe and bloody fight; and on every succeeding day, until our army recrossed the Potomac, they withstood the enemy's attacks as they closely followed our retreating forces, and shielded our infantry, and, save in one single instance, the transportation of our army from all molestation.

I regret that I must turn away from the brief but brilliant campaign of October, 1863; brilliant at least so far as the cavalry was concerned; and that I cannot speak of those last days of his warfare, when his courage and capacity shone forth with more than usual lustre. I must hasten to place before you the portrait of this noble man, this gallant soldier. His face was marked by one feature which would have misled a physiognomist in predicting his character and future. A prominent chin, and firmly set lips, are generally considered indicative of firmness and tenacity of purpose. But Stuart's chin was so short and retiring as positively to disfigure his otherwise fine countenance; and among the cadets at West Point he bore the nick-name of “Beauty Stuart,” a “lucus a non lucendo.” This disfigurement was, in maturer years, entirely concealed by a wealth of flowing brown beard, above which appeared a well-shaped nose and a broad and high forehead.

But how shall I describe his eyes? I have seen them when their color seemed to be the blackness of the thunder cloud, lit up with flashes of intensest lightning; and again when the soft light of roguish merriment revealed a pupil of calm bluish grey. Even when commander of the cavalry his appearance was striking rather than handsome. His height was about five feet eleven inches, his body short, and his legs and arms longer than the proportions of beauty will allow. But while this length of limb did not conduce to gracefulness in the parlor, especially when made more conspicuous by the cavalry jacket, which was his only style of dress, it contributed in no small degree to [451] his grace and skill as a horseman. No better rider was to be found among his fox-hunting Virginia troopers, and his appearance in times of excitement, and when well mounted, was magnificent.

The character of Stuart presents two phases, so strikingly contrasted, that we almost hesitate to assign them to the same individual. It is nearly the contrast between levity and dignity, between boyishness and greatness. The novelist has seized upon the one phase, and delights to depict the gaiety of the cavalryman, who was wont to make the woods to ring with his merriment.

The historian, who records his real greatness, will perhaps regret that he was not clothed in more of quiet dignity and reserve; but those who associated with him in daily intercourse, not only revered the genius which brought them safely through a thousand perils in the accomplishment of his great designs; they also loved him, because the general commanding could unbend to become the “bon camarade” by the bivouac fire.

Let me endeavor to show both sides of this remarkable character.

Remember, that Stuart was a young man. He had scarcely completed thirty-one years when stricken down at the Yellow Tavern. His physical constitution was superb, and his powers of endurance defied fatigue. Simple existence was to him a pleasure. The dark side of life had no charms for him, and even if it forced itself upon his attention found but scant utterance in his words. The joyous flow of animal spirits was as natural to him and as irrepressible as the happy song to the birds of Spring. Sometimes this feeling found expression in uproarious mirth around the camp-fire, where general, staff-officers and couriers assembled after a day of toil in office-work, and formed a circle in which all distinctions of rank were forgotten, when Sweeny brought out his banjo, and one and all swelled high the chorus,

If you want to have a good time
Jine the cavalry.

Surely no set of school-boys was ever more noisy or more undignified than were we. But words cannot describe the charm of such scenes to men who daily faced the stern realities of war. A. P. Hill once laughingly declared that he would not again allow Stuart and Sweeney to visit his camp, for they demoralized his men, and made them all wish to “jine the cavalry.”

At times this spirit of mirth found expression in practical jokes at the expense of some member of the staff; and All-Fool's Day was [452] sure to witness some successful strategem against peace and sobriety in our camp. Sometimes after hours of close application in office duties Stuart would call his adjutant from his desk and demand a contest in a game of marbles, which he would pursue with all the eagerness of a boy for half an hour, and then return to serious labor. Sometimes the call would be for a serenade, and a midnight stroll, with his bugler as chief musician, and a few of the staff as assistants, would break the monotony of camp life.

Would you tie down this laughing spirit to that gravity of conduct which is expected of an old man? He would not then have been Stuart.

In a somewhat graver form this joyous temperament constituted one of the strong points of his character, and was one of the elements which gave to him that wonderful control over the minds and actions of his men. Now it was the expression of that indomitable will and cheerful courage which could dispute the ground over miles of country, foot by foot, and day after day, when falling back in the presence of a superior force of the enemy. Did destruction threaten a portion of the line? Stuart was sure to appear when danger was most imminent, and his cheerful voice would restore confidence to the drooping. You might hear the men say as he rode along the line, “There he goes, boys! We're all right now.” It was the expression of that tenacity of purpose, which would not relax its grasp until the desired object was attained, or its attainment was proven clearly impossible. It gave him his two great maxims of war: “If you are in doubt what to do, attack,” and “Believe that you can whip the enemy, and you have half won the battle.” It inspired that wonderful courage which seemed, and yet only seemed, unconscious of danger; which might be overwhelmed with numbers, but which death itself could not subdue.

Had this light and joyous nature constituted the controlling feature of Stuart's character, he would never have achieved greatness. The temptations of youth would probably have carried him away into excesses which would have ruined his usefulness. But, as I have already said, in his boyhood he professed the religion of Christ, and ever afterward maintained a consistent Christian character. He was absolutely pure and temperate in his personal habits. I have heard him say repeatedly, never had one drop of spirituous liquor of any kind passed his lips, and that he had not even tasted wine except at the sacramental table. Devotion to duty — duty to his God, duty to his country, was the ruling principle of his life. His reliance upon an overruling Providence was simple and complete. When about to graduate at West Point, he discusses, in letters to his father, the future which lies before [453] him; and while much inclined to adopt the law as his profession, he reverently recognizes the fact that the disposal of his life is in the hands of the Supreme Power.

When wounded in the hospital camp at Solomon's River, he finds occupation for his mind in the companionship of his Prayer Book and Army Regulations, and he thankfully ascribes his escape and recovery to the mercy of his God. In every great success which crowned his arms in after days, he gives thanks to the kind Providence which has guided and protected him through a thousand dangers.

He was careful, as far as possible, to provide chaplains for all of his regiments, and encouraged the holding of religious meetings, whenever the exigencies of the service would permit. There are doubtless some here present who can testify to his interest, and active participation in the Chaplains' Association meetings during the winter of 1863 and 1864 at Orange Court-house.

He was by no means devoid of personal ambition, and proper self-assertion. He ardently desired the applause of his superiors and of his country, and was keenly alive to adverse criticism. The gay side of his character gave to some envious minds the opportunity to point at him the shaft of slander; but, while deeply wounded, he suffered in silence, and left his vindication to his country and his own true record. He possessed one fault, which appears in many of his earlier reports of battles; a fault at which an enemy may sneer, but which will readily be forgiven by a friend. He could never see or acknowledge that he was worsted in an engagement. It was the enemy who ought to be whipped, and must be whipped. Defeat he could never confess — no! not when borne wounded and dying from his last battle field; for even then he cried aloud to his disorganized and retreating men, “Go back! Go back! and do your duty as I have done mine, and our country will be safe.” “Go back go back! I had rather die than be whipped.”

His devotion to the society of ladies was one of the noblest and purest instincts of his nature. Towards them he was as naive and unsuspecting as a child, and as pure in thought and action. He paid a ready homage not alone to youth and beauty, but to sterling qualities of mind and heart; and he accepted the admiration and friendship bestowed upon him in the true spirit of chivalry. A request from a lady, even though she were a stranger, laid him under an obligation. Of this a touching illustration occurred in his last moments.

Having given directions for the disposition of his personal effects and official papers, he said to me:

You will find in my hat a small Confederate flag, which a lady of [454] Columbia, South Carolina; sent me, with the request that I would wear it upon my horse in a battle and return it to her. Send it to her.

And again:

My spurs, which I have always worn in battle, I promised to give to Mrs. Lilly Lee, of Shepherdstown, Va.

I was at loss how to interpret the directions concerning the flag; for I had never seen any such decoration upon his hat. But upon examining it the flag was found within its lining, stained with the sweat of his brow; and among his papers I found the letter which had conveyed the request. Probably from the time of its reception the matter had passed from his attention, and yet upon his death-bed he could remember and provide for the granting of this request.

Noble heart! pure knight! Many are the tears which I have seen do honor to thy memory from those whose hearts were won by little acts of courtesy such as this.

I may venture in this presence, surrounded by many who knew and loved him, to draw the veil which covers his domestic life and repeat to you some of the sacred words of husband to his wife.

While occupied in the active movements which succeeded the first Maryland campaign he received intelligence of the serious illness of his darling child Flora, and thus he writes:

November 2, 1862.

Dr. Brewer's first dispatch was received yesterday, and I answered it at once. The second came to-day, saying our darling's case was doubtful, and urges me in your name to come. I received it on the field of battle. I was at no loss to decide that it was my duty to you and to Flora to remain here. I am entrusted with the conduct of affairs, the issue of which will affect you, her, and the mothers and children of our whole country much more seriously than we can believe. If my darling's case is hopeless there are ten chances to one that I will get to Lynchburg too late; if she is convalescent why should my presence be necessary? She was sick nine days before I knew it. Let us trust in the good God, who has blessed us so much, that he will spare our child to us, but if it should please Him to take her from us let us bear it with Christian fortitude and resignation.


November 6, 1862.

The affliction fell at last; the intelligence reached me this morning. I was somewhat expecting it, and yet it grieves me more the more I think of it. When I remember her sweet voice, her gentle ways, and affection for “Papa,” and then think that she is gone, my heart is ready to burst. I want to see you so much. I [455] know she is better off, but it is a hard blow to us. I have been in battle every day since I heard of our darling's sickness, November 2d. She died November 3rd, and I heard of it on the 6th. I have been harassing and checking a heavy force, believed to be McClellan's. God has shielded me thus far from bodily harm, but I feel perfect resignation to go at his bidding and join my little Flora.


April 8, 1863.

I go forth into the uncertain future. My sabre will not leave my hand for months. I am sustained in the hour of peril by the consciousness of right, and upheld by the same Almighty hand, which has thus far covered my head in the day of battle, and in whom I put my trust.


July 10, 1863.

Upon the eve of another battle I write to say God has mercifully spared me through many dangers and bloody fields. My cavalry has nobly sustained its reputation, and done better and harder fighting than it ever has since the war. Pray, without ceasing, that God will grant us the victory.

Once more:

March, 1862.

The next Summer will probably be the most eventful in a century. We must nerve our hearts for the trial, with a firm reliance upon God. * * * What a mockery would liberty be, with submission. I, for one, though I stood alone in the Confederacy, without countenance or aid, would uphold the banner of Southern independence as long as I had a hand to grasp the staff, and then die, before submitting. I want my wife to feel the same enthusiasm; let me hear her nobler words of encouragement and faith. Tell my boy, when I am gone, how I fell; and never to forget the principles for which his father struggled. * * * Think how much better to have your husband in his grave, after a career true to every duty and every responsibility to you, his country, and his God, than an inglorious existence, a living shame to you and to his children.

Among his last utterances was his answer to the President's enquiry, “General, how do you feel?” “Easy,” he replied, “but willing to die if God and my country think I have fulfilled my destiny, and done my duty.” “God and my country.” In these words we have the secret of his greatness.

Citizens of Richmond! he sleeps beneath the sod of your own beautiful Hollywood. For the honor of your matrons and your maidens he laid down his life. By his blood were your homes preserved from sack and desolation; and it is fitting that you should number him among [456] your own dead. Doubtless this proud city will honor herself in doing honor to her defender, and we shall soon see the stately monument, which will tell to future generations, the story of that noble life, and that heroic death.

How sleep the brave who sink to rest,
By all their country's wishes blest!
When Spring with dewy fingers cold
Returns to deck their hallowed mould,
She there shall dress a fairer sod
Than Fancy's feet have ever trod.

By fairy hands their knell is rung;
By forms unseen their dirge is sung;
There Honor comes, a pilgrim grey,
To bless the turf that wraps their clay,
And Freedom shall awhile repair
To dwell a weeping hermit there.

Maj. McClellan took his seat amid loud applause, was warmly congratulated by a number of comrades, and on motion of Attorney-General Field, the thanks of the Association were tendered the orator, and a copy of his address solicited for publication.

The old officers of the Association were unanimously elected, except that Colonel Thomas H. Carter was made vice-president and Colonel W. H. Palmer added to the executive committee.

It was pleasant to see present, as tearful listeners, the widow of Gen. Stuart, (now the accomplished principal of the Virginia Female Institute, Staunton, Va.,) his son, his daughter, and his brother, (W. A. Stuart, Esq., of Saltville,) and to witness the enthusiasm with which former members of Stuart's staff, and others of the old cavalry corps would greet Maj. McClellan's appreciative tribute to their loved and honored chieftain whose “feather” they had proudly followed in the brave days of 1861-64, and whose memory they have enshrined in their heart of hearts.

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