12 May 2006 by Published in: General News 3 comments

Today is the 142nd anniversary of the death of Maj. Gen. James Ewell Brown Stuart, who received a mortal wound at the Battle of Yellow Tavern on May 11, 1864. He was taken to Richmond, where he died the next day. When Robert E. Lee heard that Stuart was dead, he said, “He never brought me a wrong piece of information” and then turned away so nobody would see the depths of his emotional response. For once, Lee’s icy exterior came down after hearing of the loss of a much beloved subordinate. Stuart was the quintessence of the Civil War cavalryman. He had a real gift for scouting and screening, and brought verve and dash to an otherwise mundane job. However, I often think that the march of technology–and the corresponding shift in the primary role of the cavalry–eventually would have left Stuart behind. I tend to think that he died at just the right moment, forever young, dashing, and heroic, and before the bloom came off the rose as a result of being beaten by the Yankees. Nevertheless, Stuart was perhaps the greatest of all American cavalrymen, and I would have been remiss had I not noted his passing.

I spoke to the Cape Fear Civil War Roundtable here in Wilmington last night. I had a very large turnout, which included old friend Horace Mewborn, who drove down from his lovely home in New Bern just to see us and to hear my talk. I’ve now been the May speaker for this group for four of the last five years. It’s a great excuse for us to visit a part of the country we dearly love and also gives us a chance to catch up with some old friends along the way. If only I could find a way to support myself here in the style to which we’ve grown accustomed…..

We spent a good morning at the beach today, and will again tomorrow. Sunday, it’s off to the Outer Banks.

To borrow a line from a favorite Jimmy Buffett song, the weather is here, wish you were beautiful. 🙂

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Comments

  1. Charles Bowery
    Mon 15th May 2006 at 12:58 am

    Eric,
    Glad you are enjoying your vacation. It’s good that you remind us all of Stuart’s talents. I believe that the various historiographical controversies that swirl around him often obscure those true talents, mainly the fact that he _was_ really good at the cavalry’s primary mission, that of gathering information and shielding the army. Plus, his short stint as a corps commander at Chancellorsville showed him to be a skilled leader of large formations. One only needs to read accounts by his subordinates to see that he spread his passion to those who followed him.
    Charles

  2. Randy Sauls
    Mon 15th May 2006 at 2:35 pm

    Eric:

    Stuart is gone, but certainly not forgotten. I was at Stuart’s grave site last year and noticed the bouquets of flowers left by visitors. Clearly, Stuart is a figure who transcends time and space, both as a militarily important historical figure and as a romantic icon. Something about the romance of the dashing calalier and the “lost cause”, I suppose. Heck of a cavalry commander in any event! Glad you are having fun here in NC. Like everywhere else, we have our share of problems, but the Old North State is indeed something special. Enjoy.

    Randy

  3. Valerie Protopapas
    Sat 20th May 2006 at 11:13 am

    Stuart’s death was, for him, at least, a blessing. He was nothing if not a cavalry leader and would not have taken well to a world in which he was not able to serve in that capacity. As well, he did not have to suffer the humiliation of defeat which would have certainly affected his generous and proud soul.

    There is a very affecting newspaper account of the visit of a lone figure to Stuart’s grave after the war. This individual stood for many long minutes obviously pondering the past. In the end, he bent down, picked a nearby wildflower, dropped the blossom on the grave and turned away with tear filled eyes. The mourner was Stuart’s friend, former scout and redoubtable partisan leader, John Singleton Mosby.

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