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General J. E. B. Stuart.

Captain R. E. Frayser's tribute to his memory.

Address prepared to be delivered at the dedication of the Stuart monument at Yellow Tavern—Authentic Biography of the great cavalry leader.

On the 18th day of June, 1888, the monument erected to the memory of the late General J. E. B. Stuart was dedicated at Yellow Tavern, the spot where he fell. Among those who were to have delivered addresses on that occasion was Captain R. E. Frayser, of Stuart's staff, a highly esteemed citizen of Richmond; but owing to the lengthened proceedings and the lateness of the hour, he was prevented from speaking. His address, however, was really an authentic sketch of the career of the gallant cavalry leader, and because of its interest and value it is preserved here.

Mr. President, my Comrades and Countrymen.

We are here to-day to honor the boy of Laurel Hill and the hero of more than a hundred battles, by dedicating to his memory an unostentatious granite shaft, to mark the spot upon which he fell, mortally wounded, a little more than twenty-four years ago, while defending the city of Richmond.

The name of James Ewell Brown Stuart has already been inscribed indelibly upon the pages of history, and his illustrious deeds are [88] known to all civilized nations. His career was brief, but brilliant as the meteor that flashes athwart the heavens and leaves in its track refulgent light. Our hero was born at Laurel Hill, Patrick county, Virginia, on the 6th day of February, 1833, and fell on this field the 11th day of May, 1864. In this short period of thirty-one years, four months and twelve days, he won a glorious and imperishable name, and one that posterity will delight to cherish and honor for his noble attributes and his transcendent military achievements. It would be supererogation in me to follow this sublime man from his birth-place, through the school-room at Wytheville, Emory and Henry, at West Point, and the trackless forest in pursuit of the redman for the protection of the early settlers on the frontiers in the great Western wilds, or the conspicuous part he took in all the campaigns in our late civil war, until he fell on this field, and now known to every intelligent school-boy.

In the spring of 1855 he was transferred to the 1st Regiment United States Cavalry with the rank of second lieutenant. In December of the same year he was promoted to be first lieutenant in his regiment. With this rank and in this regiment, on the 29th day of July, 1857, upon the north fork of Solomon's river, he was engaged in a very severe battle with 300 Cheyenne warriors, in which he was shot in the breast, and the ball was never extracted. There was the same valor exhibited in this engagement that he evinced in all subsequent ones. He acted as volunteer aid to Lieutenant-Colonel Robert E. Lee in the suppression of the John Brown insurrection at Harper's Ferry and in a parley with old ‘Ossawatomie,’ at the engine house where he and his followers had taken shelter, Stuart says: ‘I approached the door in the presence of perhaps 2,000 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 carbine in his hand. Hence his remark after his capture that he could have wiped me out like a mosquito. When Smith first came to the door I recognized old Ossawatomie Brown, who had given us so much trouble in Kansas. No one present but myself could have performed that service.’

In March, 1861, Lieutenant Stuart obtained a two month's furlough, in order that he might be able to direct his own course in the event of his State seceding and with the view of returning to Virginia or removing with his family to Fort Lyon as soon as there was some decided action of his State. He first learned of the ordinance [89] of secession at Fort Riley, but his leave of absence had not at that time expired. But he at once removed with his family to St. Louis, and started down the river on a steamboat for Memphis. At Cairo he forwarded his resignation to the War Department. Immediately thereafter he was informed that he had been promoted to a captaincy in his regiment. On the 7th day of May he reached Wytheville, Va., and on that day his resignation was accepted by the War Department.

His first commission in the Lost Cause was that of lieutenantcolo-nel of infantry, dated May the 10th, 1861, with orders to report to Colonel Thomas J. Jackson, then at Harper's Ferry. He rose rapidly in his new field of operations, for he possessed all the qualities that usually insure success in life, intelligence, sobriety, integrity, energy, vigilance, firmness, and unerring judgment. Stuart's mental faculties were excellent, even in the very heat of battle, and to this is greatly due his great victories in the field. I have seen him in some hot and perilous places, but I never saw him unduly excited. Always calm in the face of danger with a presence of mind that could not be surpassed, thus verifying the couplet:

Errors not to be recalled do find
Their best redress from presence of mind.

He received a thorough military education at West Point, graduating thirteen in a class of forty-six members. He hesitated when about to leave his alma mater, whether he would pursue the law or arms as a profession. He finally chose the latter, and received a commission as brevet second-lieutenant in the regiment of mounted riflemen, then serving in Texas, dated July 1st, 1854, and he first rendered active service in an expedition against the Apache Indians in a portion of the country that was little known at the time. In this march the Muscalero Apaches were forced to flee across the Rio Grande into Mexico. It would consume too much time for me to give an account of the skirmishes, scouts and hardships of this expedition. That you may know how well this great leader we are honoring to-day acquitted himself, we will mention here what General J. S. Simonson, his commanding officer at the time, says about him: ‘Lieutenant Stuart was brave and gallant, always prompt in the execution of orders, and reckless of danger and exposure. I considered him at that time one of the most promising young officers in the United States Army.’ This is indeed, a high compliment when taken in connection with the large number of young officers serving [90] at that time in the army. I believe the first fight in which Stuart was engaged was with a band of Comanche Indians while crossing Peacus river.

Yes, this presence of mind was of incalculable value to him. It enabled him to overcome obstacles and to meet all emergencies, by which at times he extricated himself and command from the powerful grasp of the enemy. This I witnessed in June, 1862, in his memorable raid around McClellan's army, which was applauded by the civilized world at the time as a brilliant achievement, and pronounced by Napoleon III, then on the throne of France, as a grand piece of strategy, and one that could not be excelled by any officer. Under orders of his chief he was required to make a reconnoisance on the right of the Federal army while it lay on the Chickahominy menacing Richmond. Stuart, by his boldness and hard fighting, had penetrated to the rear of the Federals, and had reached a point that was alarmingly perilous. He had cut through the enemy's lines and destroyed transports, commissary, and quartermaster trains, by which means he had stirred up the whole Federal army, as a mischievous boy does sometimes a colony of hornets, and there was no way he could possibly retrace his steps, the road over which he had come was filled with the enemy; for the Federals fully expected he would endeavor to return by it to the Confederate lines, and they had taken steps to crush him.

Here he was being hotly pursued, and could in no way receive any succor from the Confederates, for he was wholly cut off from them by the Federals on the Chickahominy. There was but one remedy in this trying dilemma, and that was to go forward and pass around McClellan's whole army. But how was this to be done when a river confronted him which was swollen by heavy rains and was no longer fordable, and the danger was thickening every moment by an enraged and powerful foe gathering around him and his command and threatening them with annihilation and capture. But Stuart was equal to the emergency. I saw him as he approached the river and made observations up and down the stream, but he did not show any signs of fear or anxiety as he sat on his horse stroking his luxuriant beard as he pondered over the situation. He had, in the meantime, dispatched a courier to General Lee apprising him of his perilous position. After doing this, he learned that at a point below the ford there were the remains of an old bridge, to which he hastened with his command. Upon his arrival there he discovered scarcely a skeleton of a bridge, for the Confederates in their retreat up [91] the Peninsular had destroyed it. But it occurred to Stuart that he would, under such trying circumstances, make an effort to rebuild it. He placed a strong picket in his rear, and dismounted a portion of his command, and under his eye commenced earnest and unremitting work. Timbers were taken from an old warehouse in the neighboring field and carried hurriedly to the spot where nothing remained but the debris of the bridge. There were men to receive and to put them together as they were delivered upon the banks of the river. The rapidity with which those timbers were united by unskilled hands was a surprise even to they who performed the work. The bridge possessed little or no architectural beauty after being completed, but it possessed great strength, which was more desirable than an attractive appearance, and the amateur bridge builders received the hearty thanks of the whole command. While this work was going on Stuart had in his rear a threatening and formidable force gathering to strike him, and this was the only means of escape.

He lost no time after crossing the same for he was still in the enemy's country and could only check his pursuers for a time by the destruction of the bridge, which he burnt, immediately after crossing with his command. He was now in Charles City county, but still separated from the Confederate army, and there was but one road by which he could escape and that is known as the James river road which was occupied at that time by General Hooker with a large Federal force. Stuart passed rapidly through treacherous bogs and estuaries on the north side of the Chickahominy until he reached a point known as Green Oak, here he left the Chickahominy and marched with great rapidity to Brukland on James river, halting an hour or more to snatch some repose at Judge Isaac H. Christian's in this neighborhood. He resumed his march for the Confederate lines, but without his command, for this was left here with orders to move at a later hour. Taking a courier and myself as guide he started at night for the headquarters of General Lee, at that time at Dobb's farm, near Richmond, a distance of thirty miles. Pause for a moment and think of a general officer separating himself from his whole command and riding the distance already mentioned, with only two men, a whole night through a country occupied at the time by hostile forces actually engaged in scouting and picketing all the roads, placing his life in great peril every moment of the time. Stuart was a splendid rider, going at a gallop nearly the whole way, and frequently in the advance of both courier and guide. There was one point in this all-night ride that was thrillingly perilous, and that was [92] when he approached the locality of White Oak Swamp, for this was occupied by General Hooker, who held a position on the extreme left of the Federal army, extending within a very short distance of James river, and there was but one public highway between Hooker and the river, and this was the road this fearless cavalryman was upon and the only one by which he could reach the Confederate lines. Hooker could have closed this avenue easily had he been aware of his approach; but there was no demonstration whatever as this bold raider dashed into the lines of his friends with laughter and a merry twinkle in his eye. This feat has now placed him in a friendly and genial atmosphere; but he still has fifteen more miles to ride before he can reach the headquarters of his chief, and he hurries on to Fulton, at which point he gave orders to his guide to inform Governor John Letcher of his safe arrival and also that of his wife. He then went immediately to inform General Lee of all he had done. This is an inexhaustible theme, and it is impossible for me in these remarks to follow this chivalrous knight through all of his campaigns and to give you the faintest record of his great deeds. I followed him from the Peninsula through nearly all of his battles in Virginia and Maryland. I was with him on his advance into Pennsylvania, and in that stubbornly contested battle of Gettysburg, with him while covering the retreat from that bloody and ill-fated field, and I could give you some interesting incidents of it all if I had the time. There was continuous fighting from the time Stuart crossed the Potomac until his return to Virginia.

In manoeuvering cavalry there has never been his equal in this country. He could always handle his command in such manner as to win a victory with anything like equal numbers of men opposed to him. He was a man who possessed a heart that was warm and generous, and one that could be easily touched. In proof of this, I will mention an incident which occurred on the Rappahannock, while the army was at rest. I had a young man in my signal corps who applied to me for a furlough. But I declined approving it, on the ground of his having just returned to camp from a leave of absence of ten days, and there were others who had not been to their homes for a year, and who were anxious to do so. Finding he could not get my approval, he sent his application through an irregular channel, setting forth the fact that his object in going home was to get married. Stuart, without knowing he had just returned to duty from home (for the applicant was careful in concealing this fact), returned the application to me with this indorsement: ‘Why [93] not let the applicant go bome? Such good intentions should not be thwarted.’ He did go, and the nuptials were consummated. I have known him to lie on the ground, and exposed to all kinds of weather, giving as a reason that he did not wish to fare more comfortably than his men. Time, that great destroyer of all mankind, has greatly depleted the squadrons he put in the field; still those that survive revere his memory, and will ever honor his name, for the ties that bind old soldiers cannot for light and trivial causes be destroyed. Men who have espoused a common cause and who have experienced hardships together, who have touched elbows and fought under the same banner, always have mutual regard and esteem one for the other. We have an illustration of this in those brave men who followed Napoleon in his victories at Jena, Marengo and Austerlitz, and in his reverses at Leipsic and Waterloo, in his marches over treacherous and rugged roads, in the midst of ice and snow storms, in his disastrous campaigns in Russia. In 1840, long years after Napoleon's army had been disbanded, and the rattle of musketry and the roar of artillery had been silenced, by the consent of the English government, a small French squadron went out from the French waters to convey the remains of the mighty conqueror to his beloved France from that lonely isle to which he had been banished by a cruel foe. On their arrival at Havre, they were received with the greatest veneration; also at Paris, where they were interred in the Church of the Invalides on the 18th of December, 1840.

The most interesting feature in the proceedings on their arrival in France was the gathering of surviving veterans, who gave expression to their deep grief by weeping like children over his dust. It was this love and admiration of his soldiery that made him one of the greatest monarchs that ever reigned in Europe.

I have already said Stuart chose arms as a profession, in which he made his mark. But I feel satisfied he would have been a grand success in any sphere of life. I am pleased to see here to-day, witnessing and participating in these ceremonies, a magnificent military organization, named in honor of our ideal cavalryman, and commanded, too, by an old soldier who followed him. His great worth and brilliant record has not been forgotten in Richmond or his native county. For there nestles an enterprising and prosperous town, not very remote from the North Carolina border, that bears his name, which has become so illustrious. And as time rolls on his fame will spread in song and story.

I believe the day will come, and I trust it is in the near future, [94] when a grand monument will be erected by that lovely city he lost his life defending. In the hurry of business pursuits and other causes, meritorious acts of public men are sometimes overlooked for a time. It was only on the 14th of this month, in the historic village of Brooklyn, Conn., there was dedicated an equestrian statue to General Israel Putnam for great military deeds performed more than a century ago, which consumed long years in memorializing the Connecticut Legislature for funds sufficient to pay for it. The statue stands near the den where he shot the wolf, and from which he dragged him feet foremost in the presence of his alarmed neighbors.

I was not on this ill-starred field; but it is well known to the world the formidable and fearless force of cavalry and artillery with which Stuart had to contend. It has been estimated at more than twelve thousand, commanded by a skilled and intrepid leader, that had for his object the capture and sack of Richmond, and was rapidly approaching that city, when Stuart intercepted him at this point, and had his first tilt with him on the Telegraph Road. About 4 o'clock a brigade of mounted cavalry was thrown suddenly on the extreme left of the Confederate line, to which Stuart hastened, for he knew it was a weak point to which the enemy had directed this mounted charge. In this charge the enemy captured a battery on the left and repulsed nearly the entire left line. Immediately on the Telegraph Road, at a point Captain Dorsey occupied, about eighty men had collected. In the midst of these Stuart threw himself, and by his directions inspired and held them firm, while the enemy, with the quickness and violence of a cyclone, swept by them. With these valorous men he fired in their flank and rear as they passed. These brave men were met by the 1st Virginia Cavalry and driven back. As they retreated, one of their number, who had been dismounted, inflicted the fatal wound by pistol, from which Stuart died the next day. But before this sad catastrophe occurred he had struck the enemy, hip and thigh, with that violence with which Samson smote the Philistines, that caused him to recoil and to abandon the capture of Richmond. As Stuart was conveyed by loving hands from the field, he observed some of his men leaving the scene of action. He called out to them: ‘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.’

These were his last orders on the battlefield. While dying in yon city the next day, he heard the roar of artillery, and turned to Major [95] McClellan, who was by his bedside, and asked him what it meant. He was told that Gracie's brigade and other troops had moved out against the enemy's rear on Brook turnpike. He turned his eyes upward and exclaimed: ‘God grant they may be successful, but,’ said he ‘I must be prepared for another world.’

I have already alluded to the vigilance of this officer while on the out-post and elsewhere. In support of what I have already said, I exhibit here to-day a field telegram sent by him to me. It is dated at Orange Courhouse, March 10th, 1864. The envelope is the original and the grime of war is upon its face, but it is none the less interesting on this account. It was sent by telegraph to me at Hamilton's Crossing, and it reads as follows:

Watch the Potomac closely, to see if Kilpatrick's command passes.

J. E. B Stuart, Major-General.

It will be remembered that in the early part of March, 1864, Kilpatrick made a raid on Richmond with nearly thirty-six hundred cavalry, with the intention of liberating the Federal prisoners, and capturing Richmond. The disasters of this expedition are too well known for me to narrate them here.

An effectionate brother has erected to Stuart a massive granite shaft on a beautiful knoll in Hollywood, near the rippling waters of the majestic James, and in the shade of that thriving and picturesque city for which he lost his life while the Mede was thundering at its gates, and when the Persian was almost on the throne.

In closing I will give you a pen picture of this conspicuous cavalryman. Some of his old soldiers may recognize it: A young man with florid complexion, five feet ten inches in height, perfectly erect, with broad shoulders and a flowing auburn beard, blue eyes, prominent nose, lofty and expanded brow, a well developed head, and a veritaable athlete in physique. But still this picture would be incomplete if I omitted the felt hat with black plume and elaborate yellow silk sash, heavy jack boots and spurs. All of these were ever kept scrupulously neat. Thus I may present you the typical cavalryman— ‘JebStuart.

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