03 April 2007 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 9 comments

Army Magazine is the official publication of the Association of the United States Army. It is a well-respected publication directed toward the military professional. Our book was reviewed in the current issue, and the review is quite flattering indeed. The reviewer is a retired colonel with a Ph.D. who was a history instructor at West Point named Cole C. Kingseed.

Here is the review:

BLAME EXAMINED: STUART’S ROLE AT GETTYSBURG
Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg. Eric J. Wittenberg and J. David Petruzzi. Savas Beatie. 428 pages; maps; photographs; appendices; index; $32.95.
Reviewed by Col. Cole C. Kingseed, U.S. Army retired

When a number of Southern historians and former Confederate generals examined the Gettysburg campaign to determine why the seemingly invincible Army of Northern Virginia commanded by Gen. Robert E. Lee suffered its first significant military defeat, most of the blame centered on Lee’s flamboyant chief of cavalry, Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart. In the opening weeks of the campaign, Stuart allowed himself to be detached from the remainder of the Confederate army and Lee stumbled into the ensuing battle without the benefit of the “eyes and … ears of his army.” In Plenty of Blame to Go Around, Eric J. Wittenberg and J. David Petruzzi thoroughly investigate Stuart’s role and conclude that no single person should be made “to shoulder the blame for the crippling Southern loss at Gettysburg.”

Both Wittenberg and Petruzzi are emerging Civil War cavalry historians, specializing in Eastern Theater cavalry operations. Wittenberg’s first book, Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions, won the prestigious 1998 Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award. Petruzzi is the author of numerous magazine articles on mounted operations and is editor of the popular [Brig. Gen. John] “Buford’s Boys” web site. Both are frequent visitors to the Gettysburg battlefield.

Plenty of Blame to Go Around is actually two books in one. The first section examines Stuart’s controversial ride; the second part addresses the subsequent historical controversy as Stuart’s detractors and his defenders attempted to affix blame for Lee’s failure in the Gettysburg campaign. At the onset of the campaign, Stuart requested permission to leave sufficient cavalry with Lee and then to move the remainder of his force to “attain the enemy’s rear, passing between his main body and Washington … and to join our army north of the Potomac.” Lee unwisely acquiesced and moved his army north with the expectation that if the Union Army moved, Stuart would return to army headquarters to operate in the traditional reconnaissance role.

Contrary to the allegation by Michael Shaara in The Killer Angels that Stuart was “joy-riding” in Maryland and Pennsylvania, Wittenberg and Petruzzi assert that Stuart actually dispatched a courier to Lee, informing him that the federal army was moving north. That report never reached army headquarters, nor did it appear in the official records of the War of the Rebellion. Complicating further communications between Lee and Stuart, however, was the disposition of the Army of the Potomac, which moved north and severed Stuart’s communications with his commander.

Moreover, the Confederate cavalry force became hotly engaged even before it crossed the Potomac River. On more than one occasion Stuart’s mission was compromised and Stuart himself was nearly captured. By the time Stuart joined the Army of Northern Virginia on July 2, 1863, his march had consumed eight days, covered nearly 200 miles and included four sizeable skirmishes and two pitched battles. The Battle of Gettysburg had concluded its second day when Stuart’s cavalry reached Lee and the mounted force was completely exhausted.

The most significant question that the authors explore is what impact, if any, Stuart’s absence from the Army of Northern Virginia had upon the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg. Here, Wittenberg and Petruzzi’s analysis breaks down. Lee certainly was looking for a battle of decision to destroy the Army of the Potomac. Whether that battle occurred at Gettysburg or some other location is irrelevant. Wittenberg and Petruzzi conclude that there is nothing in the historical record to suggest Lee would have acted differently if Stuart’s horsemen had been present. Perhaps, but Lee certainly would have had a clearer picture of the disposition of the enemy’s forces and could have deployed his own army accordingly.

Recriminations against Stuart began as soon as the campaign ended, and it is here that Wittenberg and Petruzzi make their greatest contribution by tracing the evolution of the historiography surrounding Stuart’s controversial role in the Gettysburg campaign. Using contemporary accounts by veterans and correspondents, coupled with a plethora of books written by historians over the next hundred-plus years, the authors argue persuasively that no individual was solely responsible for the Southern defeat at Gettysburg.

As the title suggests, Wittenberg and Petruzzi believe there was plenty of blame to go around for Lee’s failed invasion. None of the senior commanders of the Army of Northern Virginia performed to expectation, including its commanding general, who repeatedly issued discretionary orders to subordinate commanders who required more definitive direction. It is in this context that Stuart’s role must be considered, even though the cavalry leader had performed exemplarily in the army’s previous campaigns. Stuart was certainly operating within the letter of Lee’s order, but he failed to prioritize his tasks properly. Keeping Lee informed was a far more critical mission than the disruption of the Army of the Potomac’s rear area.

To their credit Wittenberg and Petruzzi examine the performance of Union cavalry in impeding Stuart’s advance into Pennsylvania. Vigorous opposition by little known cavalry leaders repeatedly cost Stuart valuable hours and kept him far behind schedule in his efforts to join Lee’s army at Gettysburg. According to the authors, “the plucky Federal cavalry deserve much of the credit for the delays that befell Stuart’s expedition.”

Another interesting feature of Plenty of Blame to Go Around is the book’s appendices. Collectively, they contain a detailed order of battle for each of Stuart’s cavalry engagements, as well as Stuart’s self-serving official report of the Gettysburg campaign. Many readers will also enjoy the final appendix, in which Wittenberg and Petruzzi outline a driving tour of Jeb Stuart’s ride to Gettysburg. In addition, current photographs and excellent maps greatly enhance the text.

In the final analysis, Wittenberg and Petruzzi have written the most comprehensive account of Stuart’s controversial ride. Readers may question the authors’ conclusions, but no study of Lee’s second invasion of the North will be complete without assessing their findings. Plenty of Blame to Go Around is investigative history at its best.

Coming from the likes of Colonel Kingseed, this is quite a compliment, and I couldn’t be more pleased with this review.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Christ Liebegott
    Wed 04th Apr 2007 at 1:13 am

    Well deserved praise Eric and JD.

  2. Wed 04th Apr 2007 at 7:54 am

    Thanks, Christ. Much obliged.

    Eric

  3. Wed 04th Apr 2007 at 9:28 am

    Eric:

    That is one great review.

    Chris

  4. Steve
    Wed 04th Apr 2007 at 10:12 am

    Getting mopliments from Col Kingseed is great kudo’s for you guys, considering that most of the books he reviews are recommended to commanders and staff for their professional education. Well done.

  5. Wed 04th Apr 2007 at 10:54 am

    Very impressive, Steve – and we were simply honored when our publisher Ted Savas notified us of the review. It’s a huge compliment, and Eric and I have truly been overwhelmed by the praise for the book. Collectively Eric and I have about 30 years of research and just plain “thinkin'” invested in the book, and we’re flattered beyond words.

    J.D.

  6. Wed 04th Apr 2007 at 12:41 pm

    Congratulations gentlemen. Well deserved.

  7. Steve Ward
    Wed 04th Apr 2007 at 5:28 pm

    Eric: Congratulations. Cole and his brother are very close friends, from a great Ohio family. Cole has the added advantage of being a UD man. I highly recommend his books about Joe Dawson and Dick Winters as well as his book Old Glory Stories. They are great WWII books. He does not give praise lightly. You are to be commended. Steve Ward.

  8. Gary Emling
    Fri 06th Apr 2007 at 10:29 am

    I just bought your book last weekend from a CW bookseller at the Kankakee(Illinois) Valley Civil War Roundtable spring symposium. After reading about it in this blog, and from the glowing blurbs on the jacket, I am really looking forward to getting into it. This review adds fuel to the fire. By the way, like a man selling watches from inside his overcoat, the book man offered me an autographed copy for a mere $17.00 more. I’ll take my chances on seeing you speak somewhere in Illinois sometime down the road.

  9. Dave Kelly
    Thu 19th Apr 2007 at 9:35 am

    Eric and JD:

    Probably won’t see this as a it’s a late comment (a flu/bronchitis episode knoked me out cold and bed ridden for 10 days – next year a flu shot.)

    Read and enjoyed your Plenty of Blame. Lots of great stuff as operational narrative, current tours et al.

    However I’m not going to agree with your conclusions.

    “Those who love us don’t always serve us best” (Who said that? Beats me, read it somewhere. If uncertain blame the Greeks; they seemed to have coined everything first.

    Lee in his immense accumulation of awe and respect from his devoted lieutenants tended to get syncophanitic efforts from those who would serve. Stuart, AP Hill, and Pendleton were particularly suseptible to not questioning what Lee proposed.

    The Gay Cavalier Stuart never stepped up to being the chief of cavalry needed to provide oversight and guidance to his senior and sometimes vague boss.

    For the life of me I cannot understand how Lee/Stuart could so grossly lose sight of critical objective (The Army of the Potomac) and devise a scheme that allowed Boy General Stuart to trot after Ewell and dump the screen mission most vital to the ANV on B Johnson??? As Chief of Cav with an expanded force Stuart needed to stay relatively close to Lee to coordinate all the assets of the Cavalry: not take his housekarls off a’raidin.

    Blame Lee and Marshall for sloppy staff work. But BLAME Stuart for immaturity in his command actions during this crucial period.

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