GENERAL J. E. B. STUART IN THE GETTYSBURG
A Reply to Colonel John S. Mosby.
By Randolph Harrison McKim, late First Lieutenant and A.D.C.
Third Brigade, General Edward Johnson's Division,
Army of Northern Virginia.
Col. John S. Mosby, the brave and able commander of a famous partisan corps in Virginia during the Civil War, has published a book in exposition of the part borne by Gen. J. E. B. Stuart's cavalry in the Gettysburg Campaign, and in defense of that heroic officer from the unfavorable criticism passed on his course in that campaign.*(* "Stuart's Cavalry in the Gettysburg Campaign," 1908. He also published in November, 1908, an article on the same subject in the journal of the Military Service Institution.) The splendid services of Jeb Stuart to the Southern Cause are written on the heart of the Southern people; and his superb leadership in that brilliant, though mistaken, raid round the Federal Army between June 27th and July 1st, and, later, his invaluable service on the retreat from Gettysburg, are, I think, universally acknowledged. They were long ago celebrated, among others, by General Fitzhugh Lee in his description of the Gettysburg Campaign contained in his life of Gen. Robert E. Lee, pp. 265-6.*(* It is remarkable that Col. Mosby should include Gen. Fitz. Lee among those who have thrown the blame of the Gettysburg campaign, on Stuart. For Gen. Lee says: "This officer has been unjustly criticized for not being in front of Lee's army at Gettysburg, but Lee and Longstreet must be held responsible for his route." "Life of Gen. Lee," p. 265.) The most brilliant Cavalry officer of the Army of Northern Virginia did not have to wait for Col. Mosby to sing his praises in the year 1908.
But there have been, and are, many of the soldiers of Lee, who, though they yield to none in their admiration of Gen. Stuart, nevertheless are of opinion that he made several serious errors of judgment in the Gettysburg Campaign, and that these contributed not a little to the Confederate failure. Unfortunately, these recent publications of Col. Mosby are of such a character that it is necessary to reopen this painful subject, and to speak as plainly as that writer has done. This is the more necessary because his argument is so plausible, and is stated with so much dialectical skill, that only the very careful reader is likely to detect its fallacies.
Col. Mosby first impeaches the accuracy of both of Gen. Lee's Reports of the Battle of Gettysburg (of July 31st, 1863, and January, 1864), in several important statements made therein, viz.: 1.That Gen. Lee was in ignorance of Hooker's movements until the night of June 28th, 1863, when Gen. Longstreet's, scout reported his army approaching South Mountain; 2. That Gen. Lee then, and therefore, changed his plan and ordered his army to concentrate east of South Mountain; 3. That it had been Lee's intention to concentrate at Harrisburg and that he ordered Hill and Longstreet to that place after reaching Chambersburg; 4. That "the absence of the Cavalry rendered it impossible to obtain accurate information" of the movements and position of the Federal Army.
This serious impeachment of Gen. Lee's accuracy in regard to the particulars of his own campaign, is largely based on a letter taken from Gen. Lee's Official Letter Book, and dated at Chambersburg, June 28th, 7:30 A. M., in which Gen. Lee says to Gen. Ewell:
"I wrote you last night stating that Gen. Hooker was reported to have crossed the Potomac and is advancing by way of Middletown, the head of his column being at that point in Frederick county. I directed you in my letter to move your forces to this point."
Col. Mosby declares that this letter refutes "every word" of the statements of Gen. Longstreet, Col. Marshall, Gen. Long, Col. Walter Taylor, Gen. Fitz Lee and Gen. Lee's own report in regard to the campaign in the particulars above named. He further says that Gen. Ewell's and Gen. Early's reports show that the movement against Harrisburg was arrested on June 27th, and thus agree with the statements of the letter of June 28th, which he quotes.
Now I affirm, on the contrary, that the reports of Ewell and Early are irreconcilable with the accuracy of the date of this famous letter. Nobody can reconcile this letter, as dated (June 28th, 7:30 A. M.), with the indisputable facts of the campaign. The genuineness of the letter is undisputed--it is in the well known handwriting of Col. Venable, of Lee's staff--but the accuracy of the date is called in question. Suppose it to have been written on June 29th, and it is then in complete harmony with Gen. Lee's report, with the statements of his staff on the points at issue, and with the reports of Gen. Longstreet, Gen. Ewell and Gen. Early.
Now this famous letter turns out to have been copied in the letter-book of General Lee from memory, by Col. Charles Venable. It is marked thus: "From memory--sketch of a letter."
It is not the original letter. It was copied afterwards sometime before July 1--the date of the next letter. It cannot therefore have the same authority as the original would have. Especially on the question of date, it is more liable to error. Let us now suppose that there was a mistake in the date, and that it should have been dated "June 29th, 7:30 A. M.," instead of June 28th, 7:30 A. M."*(*Since writing the above I have learned that Col. Stribling has made a similar suggestion, but I have not yet seen his paper.) Then the first order to Ewell to march back from Carlisle written "last night," would be dated June 28th, not June 27th.
If this hypothesis harmonizes with the Reports of Ewell and Lee and with the dates when the Divisions of the 3rd Corps began their march to Cashtown then the probability of its correctness becomes very strong.
It seems to me it does thus harmonize.
Consider that such a dispatch was of supreme importance, and would therefore be sent as fast as a courier could carry it. Col. Marshall testifies that it was long after 10 P. M., June 28th, when he found Gen. Lee in conference with the scout who brought the intelligence of Hooker's movements. Even if the dispatch was not sent until midnight, Gen. Ewell might easily have received it by 6 in the morning, for it is, as Col. Mosby reminds us, only 30 miles from Chambersburg to Carlisle.
Now, if it was written on the 27th, and received by Ewell early on the morning of the 28th, why did Gen. Edward Johnson's division not receive orders to march back southward from Carlisle till 9 A. M., on the 29th, as my diary proves? (I was a staff officer in Johnson's division and kept a careful diary of the campaign). But, if it was written on the 28th, dispatched at midnight, and received by Ewell by 6 or 7 A. M., of the 29th, orders to Gen. Edward Johnson and to Gen. Rodes might well have been issued as early as 9 A. M.
Again, if Ewell received the order on the morning of the 29th, it exactly harmonizes with his statement in his report that he "was starting on the 29th" for Harrisburg "when ordered by the General-Commanding to join the main body of the army." He says, "I was starting on the 29th for that place when ordered by the General Commanding to join the main body of the army at Cashtown."
Again, it appears that Johnson's reserve artillery and trains were passing through Chambersburg after midnight of the 29th. Mr. Jacob Hoke, Mosby's authority, says it was between 1 and 2 A. M. From this Col. Mosby infers they "must have started on the evening of the 28th." But why? If they had started at 9 or 10 A. M., on the 29th, could not the head of the train have covered 30 miles and reached Chambersburg by one or two hours after midnight? Thirty miles in sixteen hours is not at all extraordinary, especially in an emergency. Mr. Hoke, whom Mosby cites as a witness, says the trains were moving "hurriedly"-- "at a trot." This shows they were making a forced march.*(* If this was the artillery of Col. Snowden Andrews, that was camped five miles south of Carlisle, so that it had only twenty-five miles to march to Chambersburg.)
Turn now to Early's report. He says that on the evening of the 29th, he received Gen. Ewell's instructions to move back to the west side of South Mountain, together with a copy of Lee's order to him--evidently the first order. Now if my hypothesis is correct, and if Ewell received Lee's letter in the early hours of the 29th, what was to prevent Captain Elliott Johnson from riding from Carlisle to York, a distance of 36 miles, as Col. Mosby points out, between 8 A. M., and 5 P. M.? I myself rode for General Geo. H. Stewart 50 miles by daylight on June 23rd, in Pennsylvania. But on the supposition that Ewell received that famous letter and order on the morning of the 28th, how can we account for the fact that Early did not receive Ewell's order till the evening of the 29th?
I submit that these facts make it beyond contradiction that there is an error in the date of the letter as it was copied from memory. The supposition that General Lee sent that letter to Ewell on the night of June 27th bristles with improbabilities. There is the improbability that Lee would have waited till the 30th to order Hill and Longstreet to march to Cashtown. There is the improbability that an order of such importance would not be dispatched with due military expedition. Its omission from Lee's letter-book is suggestive of haste. It was written at night, and would seem to have been dispatched at once without taking time to copy it in the letter-book. This increases the improbability that it would not be sent post haste to Ewell.
Then there is the improbability that Ewell, having received so supremely important an order should have put off its execution for 24 hours--from the morning of the 28th to the morning of the 29th. Again, there is the improbability that he should have waited 24 hours before he sent his staff officer to transmit General Lee's order to General Early at York. Then finally there is the improbability that General Longstreet and Colonel Taylor and Colonel Marshall and General Long and General Lee himself, should all have believed and stated that the news of the proximity of Hooker should have been brought by a scout on the 28th, if the fact was really known on the 27th.
Colonel Mosby's whole argument on this point hinges on the accuracy of the date of the letter or rather "sketch of a letter" written down from memory. It appears to me immensely more likely that Colonel Venable made a mistake of date in writing that sketch of Lee's letter, than that all the improbabilities I have enumerated should have occurred.
Colonel Mosby says: "Nobody can reconcile this letter with Lee's report." Neither can anybody reconcile this letter, as dated, with the facts of the campaign as reflected in the reports of Ewell and Early. Either Colonel Venable in writing the letter from memory made a mistake in dating it the 28th, or General Lee and General Longstreet, and General Long and Colonel Marshall and Colonel Taylor were all mistaken in the belief that the change in the plans of the campaign was due to the arrival of a scout on the night of the 28th. Which is the more likely supposition? If it was written on the 29th, it is in complete harmony with Gen. Lee's report. But even if it were granted that Lee knew on the 27th of June that Hooker had crossed the Potomac, this fact would not advance one step the contention of Colonel Mosby that Lee had no need of Stuart's cavalry with his army during those critical days from June 27th to July 1st.
In order to confirm his denial that General Lee intended to concentrate his army at Harrisburg, Colonel Mosby points to the fact that A. P. Hill's corps was turned eastward on its arrival at Chambersburg and camped near Fayetteville. This, he thinks, conclusive against any such intention. But General Hill in his report says: (Rebellion Records, Vol. XXVII, Pt.2, p. 606.)
"On the morning of June 29th, the Third corps ------ was encamped on the road from Chambersburg to Gettysburg, near the village of Fayetteville. I was directed to move on this road in the direction of York, and to cross the Susquehanna, menacing the communications of Harrisburg with Philadelphia, and to cooperate with General Ewell." These doubtless were the orders written by Colonel Marshall the night of the 28th of June.
General Early also in his report says it had been his intention to cross the Susquehanna by the bridge at Wrightsville and move up the left bank of that river against Harrisburg.
Thus General Early, General Hill and General Ewell all testify that they had been ordered to move against Harrisburg; yet Colonel Mosby asserts that Lee had no such plan, though it is stated in both his Reports, as well as by his staff officers.
It may be granted that there are certain inaccuracies in the Reports of the battle signed by General Lee, but it is asking too much of our credulity to have us suppose that General Lee did not know when and why he changed his plan of campaign at Chambersburg. There are also inaccuracies in General Stuart's report, as when he says that General Lee informed him it was likely one column of the army would move through Gettysburg, the other through Carlisle. What General Lee wrote was that one column would move through Emmittsburg, the other through Chambersburg.
* * * * * * * * * * *
And now as to the second, and main, point of Colonel Mosby's contention that General J. E. B. Stuart acted in strict accordance with General Lee's instructions between the 23rd of June and the 2nd of July. What were General Lee's instructions to General Stuart? He wrote to Ewell that he had instructed General Stuart "to march with three brigades across the Potomac and place himself on your right and in communication with you, keep you advised of the movements of the enemy, and assist in collecting supplies for the army." To General Stuart himself Lee wrote on June 22nd, "You can move with the other three (Brigades) into Maryland and take position on General Ewell's right, place yourself in communication with him, guard his flank, keep him informed of the enemy's movements and collect all the supplies you can for the use of the army. One column of Ewell's army will probably move towards the Susquehanna by the Emmittsburg route, another by Chambersburg."
[Observe that when General Lee gave General Stuart this order to take position on General Ewell's right, that officer was just leaving Hagerstown. In his report (Rebellion Records, Vol. XXVII, part 2, p. 443,) he says that on June 22nd, he "received orders from the Commanding General to take Harrisburg, and next morning Rodes and Johnson commenced their march into Pennsylvania."]
This order was repeated in a letter to General Stuart dated June 23, a part of which I will quote:
"Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia,
June 23, 1863, 3:30 P. M.
"Major-General J. E. B. Stuart, Commanding Cavalry:
"General, * * *
"If General Hooker's army remains inactive you can leave two brigades to watch him, and withdraw with the three others, but should he not appear to be moving northward, I think you had better withdraw this side of the mountain to-morrow night, cross at Shepherdstown next day, and move over to Fredericktown.
You will, however, be able to judge whether you can pass around their army without hindrance, doing them all the damage you can, and cross the river east of the mountains. In either case, after crossing the river, you must move on and feel the right of Ewell's troops, collecting information, provisions, etc.
"Give instructions to the commander of the brigades left behind to watch the flank and rear of the army, and. (in the event of the enemy leaving their front) retire from the mountains west of the Shenandoah, leaving sufficient pickets to guard the passes, and bringing everything clean along the Valley, closing upon the rear of the army.
"I am very respectfully and truly yours,
"R.E. Lee, General." (Signed)
Thus, in the very last communication received by General Stuart from General Lee, the order was emphatically given that as soon as he crossed the river, he should place his command on Ewell's right and march with him towards the Susquehanna.
The Commanding General indicated Frederick as Stuart's first objective, and he thought he had better cross the river at Shepherdstown, but gave him the option of crossing east of the Blue Ridge if he could do so without hindrance. General Stuart found Hooker's army in the way--a big "hindrance" surely--but yet chose to cross east of the Ridge, thus cutting himself off from both Ewell and Lee.
Now, the first question is, did General Stuart carry out the above instruction and do these things? The history of the campaign shows that he did none of these things. He was not on Ewell's right in the march towards the Susquehanna; he did not guard his flank; he did not keep him advised of the movements of the enemy. The second question is, did General Lee give Stuart discretion to take such a route as, in the event, prevented his carrying out these instructions? Was he allowed to cross the Potomac east of the Blue Ridge, and "pass by the enemy's rear," and so find himself in such a position that he could not carry out those instructions?
Now Colonel Mosby here puts a gloss on the record, and represents that General Lee instructed General Stuart to "move to Pennsylvania and join Ewell an the Susquehanna," (p. 88.) Throughout the whole discussion he again and again represents General Lee's order in this way, as an order to proceed to the Susquehanna and join General Ewell. (Pp. 89, 91, 154, 180.)
But this is not what General Lee ordered him to do, but to place himself on Ewell's right in the latter's movement "towards the Susquehanna," to guard his flank and keep him informed of the enemy's movement. Colonel Mosby eliminates all this and represents the order received by General Stuart to be to "join Ewell on the Susquehanna" and then "act as Ewell's Chief of Cavalry."(P. 89.) Again, "Lee had informed Stuart that he would find Ewell on the Susquehanna." (P. 180.)
Lee had done nothing of the kind. I submit that this is a complete misreading, or misstatement, of General Lee's instructions. Though General Lee and General Longstreet both suggested that Stuart should cross east of the Blue Ridge and pass in rear of Hooker's army, it was evidently the intention that he should, as soon as possible, connect with General Ewell in his northward march "towards the Susquehanna," General Stuart himself says in his report that he was directed "to proceed with all dispatch to join the right of the army in Pennsylvania."
In his zeal to justify General Stuart, Colonel Mosby has mis read and so mis-stated the records. Such carelessness in a crucial point like this is inexcusable.
Here, let it be noted that, in order to interpret correctly the meaning and intent of General Lee's
communications to General Stuart in those critical days, June 22-24, it is essential to place before
the mind's eye the situation of the two armies at the time. General Stuart in his report says:
"I submitted to the Commanding General the plan of leaving a brigade or so in my present front,
and passing through Hopewell or some other gap in the Bull Run Mountains attain the enemy's
rear, passing between his main body and Washington, and cross into Maryland, joining our army
north of the Potomac. The Commanding General wrote me authorizing this move if I deemed it
Now, at the time of this correspondence, Ewell's corps, whose right flank Stuart was "to guard," was just beginning its march northward from Hagerstown, and General Hooker's army was in Virginia. General Stuart's plan, then, contemplated passing round General Hooker's rear, while his army was still south of the Potomac; and General Lee's authorization contemplated that, and that only. It did not authorize Stuart to carry out his plan of passing round the enemy's rear after the enemy had transferred his army to the north side of the Potomac. Colonel Mosby confirms this view, for he says: (p. 212), "The orders contemplated Stuart's crossing the Potomac in advance of both armies."
And General Stuart's plan, proposed to General Lee, and to which he understood General Lee agreed, was, to use the words of his report, "to cross into Maryland, joining our army north of the Potomac." He gives no intimation that he understood that he was to join Ewell "on the Susquehanna," as Colonel Mosby states the case. General Stuart also tells us that General Lee "directed me, after crossing, to proceed with all dispatch to join the right of the army in Pennsylvania."
Colonel Mosby himself says: "The object was to go the most direct route to Ewell." (P. 212.)
Precisely here was the error of judgment committed by the gallant Stuart--he did not keep in view the main object of his expedition, which was to co-operate with Ewell in his march from the Maryland line to Harrisburg. This, the first and principal duty imposed upon the Chief of Cavalry by the Commanding General, was subordinated to the secondary and incidental object of damaging General Hooker's communications and making a raid around his army.
When General Stuart discovered that the Federal army was moving to cross the Potomac, which it did three days before he crossed at Seneca Ford, two things should have been considered by him, first, that the reason given by General Longstreet for the suggestion that he should pass in rear of the Federal army (viz., that his passage of the Potomac by Shepherdstown "would disclose our plans") no longer existed, for evidently the enemy had discovered Lee's northern movement and were following him; and, second, that General Lee's permission to pass around the rear of the Federal army did not apply to the situation now developed when the Federal army had left Virginia. He had permission to make that movement only if there was no "hindrance" in the way. To take that course now (after June 25th), would completely prevent the main object of his expedition, which was to "join the right of the army in Pennsylvania" on its march "towards the Susquehanna."
These observations receive support from the comment of an able and accomplished military critic,
Captain Cecil Battine. In his "Crisis of the Confederacy," (1905), he says, referring to General
"By the light of what happened, it may now be said that the raid was a mistake, and especially when Stuart found the Federal army to be moving northward did he commit an error of judgment in attempting to traverse its lines of communication, thus severing his connection with Lee at the crisis of the campaign." P. 156.
"Balancing what might be gained against what was certain to be lost for the invading army by the absence of the best half of the Cavalry with its distinguished Chief, the same judgment must be made as Jackson pronounced on Stoneman's raid six weeks earlier." P. 158.
"Having acquired this knowledge (that the Federal army, was marching north), Stuart would
certainly have done well to have marched up the right bank of the Potomac and so made sure of
rejoining the army, but his character was not one to lightly abandon an enterprise which he had
once undertaken." P. 160.
Col. Henderson, the distinguished author of the Life of Stonewall Jackson, is of the same opinion. He says: "Stuart forgot for once that to cover the march of the army and to send in timely information are services of far greater importance than cutting the enemy's communications and harassing his rear" "The Science of War." P. 303.
It must also be acknowledged, I think, that Stuart erred in judgment again in the course he took after he had brought his five thousand horsemen across the Potomac during the night of June 27th. Instead of proceeding, "with all dispatch" to join Ewell, he stopped to break up the canal, to intercept and capture boats (at least a dozen of them), and burn them. He also captured a great wagon train and "took it along." Some of the teamsters were chased into the suburbs of Washington. That was on the morning of the 28th. These proceedings consumed valuable time that should have been devoted to marching to Ewell. By that time Lee was at Chambersburg and Ewell had already been one day at Carlisle. Was it not Stuart's duty to make all speed to overtake Ewell, as three precious days had been lost? And could he do this encumbered by captured wagon trains? It is about 75 or 80 miles from Seneca ford to York, which could readily have been covered by Stuart's horsemen in two marches if that was his objective. He knew that Hooker had crossed the Potomac and was marching northward. Then would it not seem that his supreme purpose should have been to march day and night and to place himself in communication with Ewell, and be at hand for whatever service his cavalry could render? He does not seem to have been of that opinion, for he had only gone as far as Westminster by the evening of the 29th. Now Westminster is about 50 miles or less from Seneca ford, where he had crossed. Had he pressed on the morning of the 28th, he could easily have reported to General Early at York (30 miles farther), before nightfall of the 29th, not long after that officer received orders to march to Cashtown, or certainly before day break of the 30th. In either case he would not have made the fruitless march to Carlisle on July the 1st, but would have marched with Early on the 30th, and would almost certainly have been interposed between the enemy and the infantry of Early and Hill, and would thus probably have prevented the battle from being precipitated by Hill on the morning of July 1st. Since writing the above, I find that Col. Henderson reached the same conclusion. See his "Science of War," p. 289.
There can be no doubt that the march of Stuart's horsemen was seriously impeded by the captured
wagon train which he "took along."*(*This is also the judgment of Gen. E. P. Alexander, who
says, page 375, "In saving a large number of wagons instead of burning them, and in delaying
twelve hours to parole his prisoners instead of bringing along the officers and letting the men go,
Stuart committed fatal blunders." And he adds, "The delay caused to subsequent marches by the
long wagon train and the embarrassment of protecting it, was responsible for the loss of time,
which made, on the whole, a sad failure of the expedition.") Col. Mosby admits (p. 191), that he
might have reached York on the 30th instead of July the 1st, if he had burned the wagons. He
crossed the river the night of the 27th, and York is about 80 miles from the ford. More important
is the statement of General Stuart himself in his report in more than one place. Thus, on p. 695,
Rebellion Records, Vol. XVII, he says, speaking of the engagement at Hanover:
"If my command had been well closed now, this Cavalry column would have been at our mercy;
but, owing to the great elongation of the column, by reason of the 200 wagons and hilly roads,
Hampton was a long way behind, and Lee was not yet heard from on the left."
Again on page 696, he says:
"Our wagon train was now a subject of serious embarrassment, but I thought by making a detour
of the right by Jefferson, I could save it."
Two possibilities were eliminated by the drag put on General Stuart's column by the captured wagon train: 1. But for the delay thus occasioned he might have marched from Westminster to Gettysburg by Littletown, as apparently he hoped to do, for he could have reached Westminster certainly by the morning of the 29th, instead of at sundown (for that place is only 45 or 50 miles from Seneca ford), and at that earlier hour he probably would not have found the Federal Cavalry on that road.*(* [italicized by compiler due to length of footnote] In his report Gen. Stuart says he reached Westminster at 5 P. M. and camped at Union Mills, midway between Westminster and Littletown, on the Gettysburg road (p. 695). Scouts reported that the Federal cavalry had reached Littletown during the night. But for this it would appear Stuart would have marched to Gettysburg. Instead he marched to Hanover. Gen. Kilpatrick in his report says "Stuart was making for Littletown."
Gen. E. P. Alexander, in his important work, p. 375, says that had Gen. Stuart's column "here followed the direct road via Littletown to Gettysburg, only about sixteen miles away, it could have occupied Gettysburg before 11 A. M. on the 30th, when it would have found itself in good position in front of Lee's army, then concentrated at Cashtown." And he adds that in that case "Lee's army would have occupied some strong position between Cashtown and Gettysburg, and the onus of attack would have been on the Federals, as had been the plan of the campaign."
It would have been natural for Gen. Stuart to make Gettysburg his objective, for in his report he says he had been instructed that one column of our army would move "by Gettysburg." His language is not conclusive as to whether he had meant to march by Littletown and Gettysburg, but it is a natural inference from what he says that but for the news that during the night of the 29th the Federal cavalry had reached I.ittletown, he would have marched to that place and so on to Gettysburg. But for that unnecessary and fatal delay he would have been at Littletown before the Federals, and could have reached Gettysburg by the early morning of the 30th.) That cavalry reached Littletown during the night of 29th. And 2d. Had he decided instead to press on through Hanover to York he would have been able to effect a junction with General Early at York by the evening of the 29th, or the early morning of the 30th, and his superb leadership would then have been available in the march from York to Cashtown on the 30th, and in the operations on the fateful 1st of July.
Certainly it is not strange that General Lee should have been surprised that he had no intelligence from General Stuart between the 23rd of June and the 2nd of July; and the question is whether that long delay was unavoidable under the circumstances in which General Stuart found himself after he parted with General Lee. Col. Mosby says Gen. Lee had studied astronomy and knew the nature of an eclipse. Yes, but General Lee was not surprised at the eclipse, but at the length of its duration. He sent couriers in every direction to gain, if possible, news of Gen. Stuart. Col. Mosby insists it was no part of Gen. Stuart's duty to report to Gen. Lee the movements of Hooker's army. Yet Stuart himself writes in his report, "It was important for me to reach our column with as little delay as possible, to acquaint the Commanding General with the nature of the enemy's movements, as well as to place with his column my cavalry force," p. 695.
Colonel Mosby tells us of Stuart's energetic action in Hooker's rear between the 27th of June and the 1st of July; but General Lee did not instruct him to destroy Hooker's trains, or to damage the canal, or to break Hooker's communication with Washington, or to burn the railroad bridge at Skyesville, but "after crossing the river (at Shepherdstown, or Seneca), you must move on and feel the right of Ewell's troops, collecting information, provisions, etc." It was a brilliant raid, executed with great skill and with marvelous endurance and intrepidity--but it was not ordered by General Lee, and the results were very unsatisfactory.
Does it not appear reasonable that General Stuart, having been, even if without fault of his own, delayed two days in crossing the Potomac, would then have felt if he was to perform the service entrusted to him by General Lee on the 23rd of June, he must march with all possible haste, by the shortest practicable route, to place himself in touch with General Ewell?
Did he do this? Or, did not his eager and aggressive nature lead him to undertake enterprises which greatly delayed his march? The infantry of the Fifth Corps of the Federal army was only one day behind Stuart's column at Westminster, though when he began his movement that corps was in Virginia.
But there is a previous question. When Longstreet and Hill had crossed the Potomac, and Hooker, learning the fact, had followed, the plans of the Confederate Commander, were, as I have stated, revealed to General Hooker, and the reason given for Stuart's march being made in rear of Federal army, no longer existed. Should not that officer then have reverted to the other route and crossed at Shepherdstown so as to be able to carry out his instructions as promptly as possible? Was not this course also the more important when he found that he could not cross the Potomac on the 25th, because the Federal columns were moving north? His cavalry had been assigned a definite part in the campaign then opened--that is, to guard Ewell's flank, keep him informed of the enemy's movements, and collect supplies for the army. Everything should have been subordinated to the accomplishment of this end. Had it been, General Stuart would have resisted the temptation to break the Federal communications with Washington, and to capture and carry off the enemy's wagon train, and would have joined Ewell several days before he did. However brilliant and daring his operations in Hooker's rear, and however beneficial their results, it is not pertinent to the question at issue, which is simply this: Did General Stuart exert himself with whole-hearted energy to carry out the instructions he received, and in the most expeditious manner? In so critical and fateful a movement as the invasion of Pennsylvania, it was supremely important that every officer should carry out the orders of the Commander-in-Chief with the strictest fidelity and exactness. As a matter of fact, Ewell made his march to the Susquehanna (starting on June 23rd from Hagerstown) without receiving any aid from General Stuart. That officer was not able to accomplish any of the things he was charged to do in connection with Ewell's advance. And he was not able to accomplish them because, first, he took the course behind the Federal army when the reason for that line of march no longer existed and when the circumstances under which he had received permission to do so, had completely changed; and, second, because having crossed the Potomac on the 27th, he did not then march as directed, and as expeditiously as possible, to effect a junction with General Ewell. It cannot be supposed that when Lee gave Stuart his instructions on June 22nd, he had any idea that that officer would not report to General Ewell until the 1st of July--the 9th day after.
Colonel Mosby says that Stuart's cavalry could not have been of any material service to Lee even had they been present at Gettysburg from the beginning of the battle, and yet he says (page 189), that "the withdrawal of Buford's cavalry left Sickles' flank in the peach orchard uncovered-- 'in the air'," "and that Longstreet took advantage of it and struck him a stunning blow." These two statements are inconsistent. Col. Henderson is of opinion that the skillful handling of the Federal cavalry "practically decided the issue of the conflict." "Science of War," p. 278.
Colonel Mosby makes much of the alleged inconsistency of the statement in General Lee's Report of Jan., 1864, that Stuart was instructed "to lose no time in placing his command on the right of our column as soon as he perceived the enemy moving northward," with the orders he actually received to accompany the column of General Ewell. But is there any inconsistency? In using this language, Lee was thinking of his army as a unit, and could not have meant that he expected Stuart to be with Longstreet when he had ordered him to be with Ewell, as is stated in the report which Mosby criticizes. This is explicitly stated in the same report a sentence or two before the allusion to "the right of our column." "Our column," in the connection in which it stands, can only mean Gen. Ewell's column. Such criticism is captious and unfair.
In analyzing Colonel Mosby's defense of General Stuart, and pointing out what I consider his mistakes, I have had no desire to associate myself with those who seek to cast the whole responsibility for the failure of the Gettysburg Campaign on the shoulders of the Commander-in-Chief of the Cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia. General A. P. Hill, General Ewell, General Longstreet--especially the last--must all share it with him. I think it must be acknowledged that the battle was precipitated by the unauthorized advance of General Hill on July 1st. I think also that Col. Mosby is right in the opinion that Lee had no intention of fighting a general battle at Gettysburg: he was dragged into it by his Lieutenant. But on the other hand, I think that if General Stuart had been with Early, as he might and ought to have been, on the night of the 29th, or the morning of the 30th,*(*Col. Mosby says, p. 191, if Stuart had arrived on the 30th at York "he could not have communicated with Lee." No, but he would have received the orders Lee had issued for concentration at Cashtown, and he would have marched that day with Early towards Cashtown.) his cavalry would in all probability have prevented the rash advance of General Hill. Marching from York to Cashtown on the 30th, by way of Heidlersburg, he would have felt the enemy, ascertained his position and his strength and left no excuse for that reconnaisance which prematurely brought on the battle on a field Lee had not selected.* * * * Colonel Mosby's book involves very serious strictures on General Lee, which his soldiers are loath to accept save on the most incontrovertible evidence. He asks us to believe, as I have said, that the Report of the Gettysburg Campaign which General Lee signed in January, 1864, not only reflects gross injustice on General Stuart, but bristles with inconsistencies and grievous mistakes on points of capital importance. It is incredible that these two reports of the battle were signed by General Lee without reading them. It is inconsistent with his habit in other cases. We know that he took time to read Gen. Pickett's report of the battle. Why not then read his own report? And if General Lee read them, then certainly their salient statements, to say the least, have the stamp of his authority. But Col. Mosby asserts that it was not Lee's purpose on the 28th of June to advance against Harrisburg, though he says so in his report, and though Col. Marshall says he himself sent orders to that effect to Hill and Longstreet on the night of the 28th. He insists also that the change of plan and the orders to concentrate at Cashtown were not the consequence of the intelligence brought by a scout on June 28th, although General Lee affirms it in his report. No matter: Col. Mosby knows better: He is sure that Lee had ordered Ewell back from Carlisle on the 27th, and he is satisfied by this by the letter in Lee's letter-book, not copied, but written from memory afterwards by Colonel Venable. His whole argument on this point rests, as I have said, on the accuracy of the date of that letter. I have shown that on the hypothesis of an error in date, the 28th instead of the 29th, the inconsistencies Col. Mosby alleges disappear.*(*[footnote italicized by compiler due to length] Col. Mosby is of opinion that the scout who came in at Chambersburg late on June 28th was as unreal as Caesar's ghost at Philippi. "No spy came in at Chambersburg," he says. Yet General Longstreet positively affirmed it. General Lee's report states it as a fact and Colonel Marshall says that he was sent for to General Lee's tent after 10 P. M., June 28th and found him in conference with a man in citizen's dress, who proved to be General Longstreet's scout. This is a threefold cord of testimony not to be easily rent asunder by the ipse dixit of Colonel Mosby. What appears conclusive proof to Colonel Mosby that the story of the scout is a myth is the statement, in after years coupled with it, that the said scout also brought intelligence of the appointment of General Meade that very day to the command of the Army of the Potomac; but there is no mention of this in General Lee's report. It may be a later edition to the original story. But whether true or false, it does not concern the defenders of the accuracy of General Lee's statement in his report. It is not alluded to either in that report or in the report of General Longstreet. However, the fact is that General Hooker telegraphed his resignation on the evening of June 27th. Meade was at once appointed in his place, and the news of his appointment reached Frederick in the forenoon of June 28th. Colonel Mosby thinks it impossible that the alleged scout could have carried this news so soon from Frederick to Longstreet at Chambersburg. But if by some chance the said scout learned the news in the forenoon of the 28th, is it certain he could not have traveled 55 miles before 11 P. M.? President Roosevelt could have done it; perhaps he could. I do not think his quotation from Colonel Freemantle proves that the news of Hooker's being suspended was not received by Longstreet until the 30th of June. But, as I have said, the question is of no importance in the argument on behalf of the accuracy of General Lee's statement in his report.
Gen. E. P. Alexander is another witness in both these points. He says, p. 379, that on June 28th, General Lee still believed Hooker had not crossed the Potomac; that he issued orders for an advance of his whole army next day upon Harrisburg; but that his plan was changed by the arrival of General Longstreet's scout about midnight of the 28th, with news that Hooker had crossed into Maryland, and that he had been superseded.)
Now General Lee's Report does reflect on General Stuart, so far as to intimate surprise that he did not report to Ewell or to Lee before the 2nd of July, and it reflects the feeling of the Commander-in-Chief that he was greatly embarrassed by this absence. But it leaves it an open question whether that absence was unavoidable. Now, if there was one feature in Lee's character that was conspicuous and undeniable, it was his magnanimity. He showed it in a remarkable degree at Gettysburg, and when he states in his report the fact of Stuart's absence, and the embarrassment it caused him, his soldiers feel that the statement is to be accepted as absolutely true. Military critics at once recognize that the absence of the Cavalry was the most serious drawback to the success of the campaign. We think Lee was a better judge than Colonel Mosby whether the cavalry of Stuart, under such a superb leader as he was, would have contributed to the success of the campaign, or would have, at least, prevented the precipitation of the battle when and where it occurred.
I do not think Colonel Mosby has shown that Stuart was without blame, and I therefore feel that part of the responsibility (I do not say the larger part), for the failure of the campaign must rest on him. And when I say this, I nevertheless yield to none in my admiration of that superb soldier whose military genius and magnificent intrepidity place him so high among the great leaders of the Confederate army.
It is greatly to be regretted that Colonel Mosby should have deemed it proper, in defending General Stuart against what he considers unjust criticism, to indulge in these strictures upon the conduct and the military judgment of General Lee. He declares, as we have seen, that General Lee was absolutely in error in several of the salient and most important points of his reports. Or, if we wish to save General Lee's reputation in these respects, he suggests an alternative, inconsistent with Lee's whole character and record, and dishonorable to him as a responsible officer, viz.: that he signed his reports without reading them. Was Lee than an automaton to do the bidding of Colonel Marshall, his military secretary?
Again, in referring to General Lee's suggestion before he embarked on the Pennsylvania campaign, June 23rd, that General Beauregard should be sent to Culpepper Courthouse with an army, however small, to threaten Washington, Colonel Mosby dismisses the subject lightly with the remark that "if it had been practicable to raise such an army, as the campaign closed the next week at Gettysburg, it could not have been assembled in time to render any assistance to General Lee in the Pennsylvania campaign," p. 84. Yet there were five brigades at Petersburg, Richmond and Guinea Station, besides three brigades in North Carolina, and if General Beauregard and even two of these brigades had been at once sent forward to Culpepper, they could have reached there by rail in a few days, and the moral effect would have been such as probably to turn back some of Hooker's army for the defense of Washington--greatly to Lee's advantage in the approaching battle. Capt. Battine, a military critic of ability, remarks that it would have been "worth incurring great risks" to have drawn four of these brigades-- "to comply with this suggestion about Beauregard," p. 166.
Again, Colonel Mosby challenges General Lee's statement that he was embarrassed by the absence
of General Stuart with the larger part of the cavalry. Col. Mosby knows better--Lee had all the
cavalry that he needed. It does not appear to be necessary to ascribe infallibility to General Lee,
in order to justify the conclusion that that great soldier probably knew better than the gallant
partisan Colonel whether or not the presence of Stuart and his horsemen would have been of
great service to him in the campaign. General Lee doubtless was not infallible, but his judgment
in military matters was, if we may say so without offence, much less fallible than that of Colonel
The same able writer already referred to says, p. 195:
"Probably it was the want of information due to the lack of co-operating cavalry which lay at the
root of the halting tactics of the Confederate leaders. Thus every move of the enemy took them
by surprise and inspired them with unnecessary caution at the very moment when boldness would
have gained so much." (See p. 219 and 220.)
But the most painful thrust which Colonel Mosby makes at the reputation of General Lee, is
contained in the following paragraph:
"There is a floating legend that General Lee assumed all the blame of his defeat. He did not: his
reports put all the blame on Stuart."
That General Lee said to his soldiers after the repulse of Pickett's charge that he was responsible for the failure is not a "floating legend" but a well attested fact. That he refrained from reproaching his three Lieutenants, Hill and Ewell and Longstreet, with their share in the defeat is another well known fact. That he wrote to Jefferson Davis that touching and pathetic letter asking that a younger and better man be placed in command of the army, because of his lack of success is yet another proof that he assumed the responsibility of the failure. And to say that in his report he "put all the blame on Stuart" is a grave inaccuracy. The first report states the simple fact, without any animadversion that "the absence of the cavalry rendered it impossible to obtain accurate information." The second rehearsed the orders given General Stuart, and added that it was expected that officer would "give notice of the movements" of the Federal army, but as "nothing had been heard from him," it was inferred that the enemy had not yet left Virginia."*(* I have quoted on a previous page a passage from Gen. Stuart's report of his operations, in which he states that it was "important" for him "to acquaint the Commanding General with the movements of the enemy.") The report leaves it an open question ,whether Stuart was, or was not, to blame for his absence and for the lack of information. General Fitz Lee in his life of General Lee, with these reports before him, states that General Lee and General Longstreet were responsible for Stuart's absence, a statement with which I cannot agree.
The untoward conclusion of the Pennsylvania Campaign--in a drawn battle which compelled him to retreat, instead of in the decisive victory he had a right to expect--must have been a crushing blow to the spirit of General Lee; and it must forever remain a splendid illustration of the magnanimity of that great soldier that he made no attempt to shield his military reputation behind the shortcomings of his Lieutenants. To state the consequence of the absence of General Stuart was a part of the story--the res gestae --of the campaign, and could not have been omitted in any intelligent account of the same. But to refrain, as he did, from stating that the absence of that officer and his command was due to a failure to strictly observe the orders he had received--was a generous and magnanimous act which has few parallels in military history. It is to be deeply regretted that any officer who ever drew sword in Lee's army should seek to tarnish the splendor of such noble self restraint.
On the whole I fear the careful critic will be constrained to pass on Col Mosby's book the criticism
that writer has passed on Col. Marshall's work in Lee's report: "It is a fine example of special
pleading, and the composition shows that the author possessed far more of the qualities of an
advocate than of a judge."
(Source: Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. 37, pages 210-231)