One of the myths that J. D. Petruzzi and I tried to dispel in our book Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg is the criticism that Jeb Stuart failed to take steps to provide intelligence to Robert E. Lee during his ride to Gettysburg. That criticism is not well-founded, as Stuart did, indeed, forward significant intelligence to the Confederate authorities.
We know this because a June 27, 1863 dispatch from Stuart, reporting that the Army of the Potomac had moved north toward Leesburg and the Potomac River and had abandoned its base of operations at Fairfax Court House, was published in John Beauchamp Jones’ excellent 1866 book A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary. As the title suggests, Jones worked in the Confederate War Department, and saw these dispatches as they came through. Jones included the language of the dispatch in his book in its entirety. We quoted it verbatim in the book and cited to Jones’ book as the source.
So, we know for a fact that the report was received by the Confederate War Department, and we know for a fact that the report is available for use by researchers in a prominent and well-known source.
Yesterday, while searching the online archive of the Richmond Dispatch newspaper, I found the article below, which was published in the July 2, 1863 edition of the paper:
Capture of Fairfax C. H.–Hooker’s army.
The following official dispatch was received at the War Department Tuesday night:
Headq’rs Cav. Div.,
June 27, 1863.
General S. Cooper:
I took possession of Fairfax C. H. this morning at 9 o’clock, together with a large quantity of stores. The main body of Hooker’s army has gone towards Leesburg, except the garrison of Alexandria and Washington which has retreated within the fortifications.
Your ob’t serv’t,
J. E. B. Stuart,
So, the dispatch obviously was published in the newspaper verbatim, meaning it was published in two common, well-known sources. I acknowledge that I didn’t know about its being published in the newspaper before yesterday, and J. D. didn’t either. Nevertheless, the Richmond Dispatch has long been fertile ground for Civil War researchers, and that fact is no secret. Indeed, anyone working on the Eastern Theater of the Civil War proceeds with their projects at their own peril if they don’t at least check the Dispatch, the Richmond Times, and the other handful of daily newspapers that were published in Richmond during the Civil War.
What I really don’t understand is how, with this dispatch having been published in two prominent, conspicuous places, all of the researchers who have looked at Stuart’s Ride in the past, including the likes of Douglas Southall Freeman, could have missed it. It’s truly a mystery to me. And it makes me wonder if it was a deliberate choice to miss it.
As Alice said to the Cheshire Cat, “It gets curiouser and curiouser.”Scridb filter