Nick Name: Knight of the Golden Spurs
Birthday: February 6, 1833
Died At Age: 31
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Also Known As: James Ewell Brown Stuart
Born Country: United States
Born in: Patrick County, Virginia, United States
Famous as: Military Leader
Spouse/Ex-: Flora Cooke (m. 1855)
father: Archibald Stuart
mother: Elizabeth Letcher Pannill Stuart
siblings: Bethenia Pannill Stuart, Columbia Lafayette Stuart, David Pannill Stuart, John Dabney Stuart, Mary Tucker Stuart, Nancy Anne Dabney, Victoria Augusta Stuart, Virginia Josephine Stuart, William Alexander Stuart
children: James Ewell Brown Stuart, Jr., Virginia Pelham Stuart
Died on: May 12, 1864
place of death: Richmond
Cause of Death: Gunshot Wound
U.S. State: Virginia
education: United States Military Academy at West Point
Who was J. E. B. Stuart?
James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart was an American army officer who served as a Confederate States Army general during the American Civil War. His friends called him “Jeb”, after the initials of his given name. Originally from Virginia, Stuart received his training at West Point and took part in the US Army’s campaigns in Texas and Kansas, fighting in the frontier disputes with American Indians and the conflicts during Bleeding Kansas. After his home state Virginia left the Union, Stuart resigned from the US Army and joined the Confederate Army. A cavalry commander, he garnered a reputation as a reconnaissance expert and was praised for the innovative utilization of the cavalry in support of offensive operations. The image he acquired was of a dashing cavalier, complete with appropriate attire and cologne. His accomplishments made him one of the most trusted subordinates of General Robert E. Lee and a hero to the people to the south. The most prominent campaign of his career was the Gettysburg Campaign, during which his long separation from General Lee resulted in an absolute disaster for the south. Stuart died in May 1864 from the wounds he suffered at the Battle of Yellow Tavern.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on February 6, 1833, at Laurel Hill Farm, a plantation in Patrick County, Virginia, Jeb Stuart was one of the children of Archibald Stuart and Elizabeth Letcher Pannill Stuart.
His father was a veteran of the War of 1812, as well as a slaveholder, attorney, and Democratic politician who was elected to both houses of the Virginia General Assembly from Patrick County. He was also elected for one term to the US House of Representatives. Stuart’s mother managed the family farm.
He was tutored by his mother and teachers at home until he was 12 years old. He then departed from his hometown to be taught by various teachers in Wytheville, Virginia. He was also taught by his paternal aunt Anne and her husband, Judge James Ewell Brown (after whom Stuart was named), at their home in Danville.
Between 1848 and 1850, he attended Emory and Henry College. He subsequently enrolled at the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1854.
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Service in the US Army
Jeb Stuart began his service in the US Army as a brevet second lieutenant with the US Regiment of Mounted Riflemen in Texas. He spent three months there from January 1855 as the head of the scouting missions over the San Antonio to El Paso Road. He was then assigned to the newly-created 1st Cavalry Regiment at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Territory. Later that year, he was made the first lieutenant.
He distinguished himself as a military leader in the frontier disputes with American Indians and the antebellum conflicts of Bleeding Kansas. On July 29, 1857, during a skirmish against the Cheyenne, he suffered a minor bullet injury but soon recovered and went back to Fort Leavenworth.
In 1859, Jeb Stuart obtained a patent for a saber hook he had created. He then took part in Robert E. Lee’s campaign to apprehend abolitionist John Brown at Harpers Ferry.
In April 1861, Virginia declared secession from the Union and joined the Confederacy in early May. Stuart was made a captain on April 22, 1861. He submitted his resignation on 3 May and subsequently listed in the Confederate Army.
Service in the Confederate Army
In July 1861, Jeb Stuart took part in the First Battle of Bull Run (initially called First Manassas by the South), making a name for himself with his personal bravery. In the same year, he was appointed a brigadier general and assigned as the commander of the cavalry brigade of the Army of Northern Virginia.
In the days leading up to the Seven Days Battle (June 1862), Lee dispatched him to find the right flank of the Federal army under General George B. McClellan. He not just completed the mission successfully, but was also able to fully circumvent McClellan’s Union Army of the Potomac to submit his findings to Lee. This made him a popular figure in the south and caused much embarrassment to the north.
In the following campaign, he discovered a staff document during his raid against Federal communications. That document gave Lee crucial information on the strength and position of Federal forces.
Jeb Stuart was then promoted to the position of a major general and commander of the cavalry corps, and he participated in the Second Battle of Bull Run (Second Manassas) in August 1862. He once more managed to circumvent the opposition and came back with 1,200 enemy horses.
In the ensuing Maryland campaign, he demonstrated his tactical acumen by defending one of the passes of South Mountain (Crampton’s Gap). This gave Lee the opportunity to gather his forces right before the army under McClellan struck. By the winter of 1862, the south had come to overwhelmingly view Stuart as an exceptional intelligence officer. Lee hailed him as the “eyes of the army.”
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In December 1862, at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Jeb Stuart’s horse artillery unit intercepted the Federal attack on General T.J. (“Stonewall”) Jackson’s corps. In May 1863, Lee made him the commander of the 2nd Army Corps after Jackson sustained an injury in battle.
Right before the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1863), Stuart and his forces encountered a worthy enemy for the first time in the war at the cavalry Battle of Brandy Station on 9 June. His men guarded various points on the right flank of the Confederate Army during its march towards the Potomac River.
His actions during Gettysburg have garnered him widespread criticism throughout the years. Lee’s original instruction for him was to use his cavalry as a screen and accumulate intelligence for the advancing Confederate army.
However, Stuart took his men on a raid and came to Gettysburg too late to deliver to Lee crucial details on the positions and movements of the Union forces. When Stuart eventually returned to Lee’s camp, the battle had already started, and his men were too tired to be of any help.
Family & Personal Life
In the mid-1850s, Jeb Stuart became acquainted with Flora Cooke, who was the daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Philip St. George Cooke, the commander of the 2nd U.S. Dragoon Regiment. The couple got engaged in September 1855. On November 14, 1855, they exchanged wedding vows.
Flora gave birth to their first child, a girl, in 1856, but the baby passed away later that day. On November 14, 1857, their daughter, also named Flora, was born. The couple had two more children, son James Stuart Jr. (born June 26, 1860) and daughter Virginia (October 9, 1863). Until 1859, the Stuarts were the owners of two slaves.
Death & Legacy
Jeb Stuart spent the winter of 1863-64 by delivering valuable information to the Confederate command. However, during the Overland Campaign, his corps was successfully separated from Lee’s army by Major General Philip Sheridan’s Federal cavalry forces.
On May 11, 1864, the two opposing cavalry units met at the Battle of Yellow Tavern. The outnumbered Confederates were defeated, and Jeb Stuart sustained serious injuries. He passed away on the following day and is interred at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. For the remainder of her life, his widow, Flora, wore black in the memory of her slain husband.
As with any other Confederate political and military leader, Jeb Stuart’s legacy is a subject of a massive debate in US. In recent years, throughout the country, several schools have been renamed in his honor.
J.E.B. Stuart Highway is another name for the U.S. Route 58, in Virginia. Errol Flynn portrayed Stuart in ‘Santa Fe Trail’ (1940). In ‘Gettysburg’ (1993) and ‘Gods and Generals’ (2003), Stuart was played by Joseph Fuqua.