JEB Stuart in Maryland

22 August 2007

It is well that Antietam on the Web does not depend entirely on one person for new material, as I am again overwhelmed with my vocation and necessarily neglecting this avocation. Thankfully, AotW is also served by a large group of people who each contribute in many ways, large and small. We’re at 85 enrolled Members now, with hundreds more contributing less ‘officially’ over the years.

Stuart rides around the AoP, June 1862click to see larger image

One of our newest members, Larry Freiheit, has done some fine research on the War, and has offered a capsule analysis of JEB Stuart’s performance on the Maryland Campaign of 1862 to be our latest Featured Exhibit. It’s been a while since we put up a new exhibit, so I’m very glad to have Larry’s help.

I’m slowly working through Larry’s paper, formatting paragraphs and his abundant footnotes for the web, but I wanted to get some of the highlights out: teasers, I guess, for the complete work due in a few days. I hope he won’t mind my taking a few nibbles out of the whole to whet the appetite …

  • … Stuart's actions during this campaign were part of and controlled by Lee's late 1862 strategy and must be evaluated in light of his tactical moves implementing that strategy …
  • There was no reason for Lee to believe that the slow-moving Federal army was going to be such a threat that unusual expediency or detailed instructions on his part were needed. Stuart, as the cavalry division commander reporting directly to Lee, could not help but be influenced by this relaxed control of his army commander, but the danger with Stuart was that the “Gay Cavalier” needed tighter control and guidance than any of Lee's other top commanders…
  • … during the Maryland Campaign, Stuart's penchant for frivolity came into play arguably detrimentally affecting his performance … Stuart's mood of jollity and lack of serious concern about the enemy [early in the campaign] prevailed and infected his staff. It is likely, however, that this mood was at least partially influenced by Lee's relative calm state of mind believing that the Union advance was typical of what he saw of the events during the Peninsular Campaign …
  • Lee relied on Stuart for intelligence of the enemy's moves but also used other available means … but given the results of his actions during this campaign based on what he knew, Lee's intelligence gathering was inadequate. … [h]owever, it is also true that McClellan's intelligence in this generally friendly country was little better than Lee's. Stuart and Pleasonton maintained fairly effective cavalry screens thwarting both Union and Confederate efforts to gauge the other's movements.
  • Stuart's ride from Harper's Ferry to Sharpsburg to personally bring the good news about its fall to Lee (about which Lee had already received news) can be viewed as another of his unnecessary grandstanding exploits despite his statement that Jackson asked him to do so. Here, as later at Gettysburg, Lee had no time to coddle Stuart and met his report with a brusque reply.
  • His screening efforts prior to and including the Frederick sojourn were at least good; rearguard actions from Frederick to South Mountain and his noteworthy defensive actions in Sharpsburg especially at Nicodemus Hill with his artillery are generally viewed as very good; his miscues at the South Mountain gaps and Harper's Ferry are recognized as failures…

Of course posting bullets this way is not entirely fair to Mr Freiheit — being out of context and unsupported by his notes, so I’ll get his complete piece up on AotW as soon as I can. I’ve been enjoying his perspectives, and wanted to share; and it’s taking me way too long to prepare for publication.

Update Monday 8/27

Larry’s complete article is now up on AotW. Very fine.


The illustration above is of General Stuart at the head of his column on the famous ride around the Federal Army of the Potomac in June 1862 (click for larger view). The original lithograph by Henry Alexander Ogden was published in about 1900, and is at the US Library of Congress.

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