Lee's Scapegoat - Gen. J.E.B. Stuart

ccastellani

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Following 5fsh's post, I wanted to see what people's thoughts are on Gen. Lee's criticism of Gen. Stuart on the Gettysburg campaign.

It is well known that Gen. Stuart was not present till the later of the 3 day campaign, but was he on a raid "making a name for himself" or was he following orders?

Reading Col. John S. Mosby's Memoirs really sparked my interest in this. Doing my own research has shown that Stuart was given order, vauge at best, from Gen. Lee days before.

Don't get me wrong, I love Gen. Lee. But I feel that not only he, but many of his staff and supporters, I believe, were trying to make excuses on bad tactics, and a rush to try to end the war.


Thoughts?
 

K Hale

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Additionally, Lee was not among those who made Stuart one of the scapegoats for the disaster at Gettysburg. In his own words, "It's all my fault."
 

diane

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Charles Marshall thought Stuart should have been hung, so he may have led the blame game there! It didn't seem to me that Lee blamed Stuart for anything but being late. There are some dramatic accounts of his reaction when Stuart finally appeared but the realistic one and the one that sounds like Lee was a rather brusque glad you're finally back now help me win this battle. After Pickett's charge, when he came back to his tent very tired and miserable in the wee hours, he seemed to think the charge failed because of a lack of support, whether from Stuart or Longstreet or both isn't clear. But he really didn't seem to believe Stuart was responsible for losing Gettysburg - he knew what orders he had given him and Stuart did leave him cavalry, which he chose not to use much for various reasons. Jeb didn't have a crystal ball - when he left it looked like he'd have time to do this job - who knew the AOP would move like greased lightning since it never had before. He sent couriers to tell Lee of new information but those couriers never appeared, apparently having been intercepted. I'm not sure what the Union cavalry was doing about Stuart but I'm sure they were shadowing him at least in part and generally keeping an eye on him. Meade knew a good deal about where Stuart was. I think a number of people had reason to blame Stuart rather than themselves or Lee himself - who knew he'd messed up in some important places - and it was convenient he didn't survive the war. Dead guys can't defend themselves very well.
 

Bomac

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Many factors add to the defeat at Gettysburg.

How about delayed attacks? Slow to act upon orders?

I agree with Lee, he laid the ultimate blame on himself.
 

ole

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I'm really close to admitting that Stuart kinda stretched his orders, but not convinced.

Stuart was sent out to do a job and, given the fog of war, had to adapt to conditions that existed; i.e., nobody knew he'd have to pass through the entire Union army to accomplish his assigned goal. It all seemed so simple when the order was issued. "Just ride over there and meet up with Ewell." The book, "Plenty of Blame to Go Around," covers that.
 

ole

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I agree with Lee, he laid the ultimate blame on himself.
I do, as well, but Lee did what he thought best. He made bold, almost reckless, moves to keep the AotP on its heels. At the time, he had one chance to win: get the AotP in position at a place of his chosing, and destroy it. Gettysburg was not a place of his choosing.

I'll suppose I'm a wimp, but in his place, I'd have gotten the hell out of Pennsylvania with my plundered stuff. But I'm not a Bobby Lee. He wasn't a subscriber to the belief that "those who fight and run away will live to fight another day." He was, wherever he was, deterimined to fight and win. And that wherever was Gettysburg.

The AoNV was not ever to be the same after that defeat. Rolled the dice and got snake-eyes. "High tide" about sums it up.
 

diane

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Gettysburg has often been called Lee's gamble but I'm not all that sure it was. He had made some shrewd deductions and analyzed his data with good accuracy, the army would thrive over the border and give Virginia a needed rest, there was a chance of foreign favor, and best of all he'd never been whipped. (As opposed to just beat!) He had an army that knew it, too. He thought he was facing Hooker and he'd taken Mr. F J's measure - he knew he could beat him. When he found out it was Meade, he certainly sat up and took notice but it was too late to stop the train then. All told, Lee came quite close to winning. It's just that Meade - maybe by skill, maybe by luck, maybe by both - out-generalled him that day.
 

34 NC Co. H

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One part of the orders that Stuart did not follow was maintaining contact and communication with Ewell's column. But other than that, I definitely agree that the blame must be placed on Lee.
 

BillO

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As much as it pains me we need to give a lot of the credit to Plesanton and the union calvary who were difinetly coming into their own and making their presence felt. Stuart underestimated their ability to either keep him away or fight him openly.
 

judi

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As Longstreet said to Lee in the movie it wasn't that close.

I believe there was enough of blame to go around. I don't believe it can all be blamed on one person. People didn't follow up, some never moved up. On day 3 I believe Lee really believed that they were weak in the middle and that Picketts charge would work.

As for Stuart, he left Lee with cavalry, maybe not the best they had, but it was Lee's decision not to use them. Stuart would have been there earlier but there was no way to know he would have to fight a battle in Hanover and that that access to Gettysburg would be blocked for him.
 

K Hale

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One part of the orders that Stuart did not follow was maintaining contact and communication with Ewell's column.
Looks like we need to review the orders. I am just gonna copy-pasta right out of my post in the thread I linked above.

Below are Stuart's orders for the Gettysburg Campaign. Note that he is ordered to pass in the rear of the Army of the Potomac, thus putting himself on the other side of it from the Army of Northern Virginia. He also sent at least one courier to inform Lee of Hooker's movements; we know this because although the courier never reached Lee, a copy appeared at the war department in Richmond and was subsequently published in A Rebel War Clerk's Diary by John R. Jones.

HEADQUARTERS, 22d June 1863.
MAJOR-GENERAL J. E. B. STUART, Commanding Cavalry.
GENERAL: I have just received your note of 7:45 this morning to General Longstreet. I judge the efforts of the enemy yesterday were to arrest progress and ascertain our whereabouts. Perhaps he is satisfied. Do you know where he is and what he is doing? I fear he will steal a march on us, and get across the Potomac before we are aware. If you find that he is moving northward, and that two brigades can guard the Blue Ridge and take care of your rear, you can move with the other three 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 General Ewell's army will probably move toward the Susquehanna by the Emmitsburg route; another by Chambersburg. Accounts from him last night state that there was no enemy west of Frederick. A cavalry force (about 100) guarded the Monocacy Bridge, which was barricaded. You will, of course, take charge of Jenkins' brigade, and give him necessary instructions. All supplies taken in Maryland must be by authorized staff officers for their respective departments-by no one else. They will be paid for, or receipts for the same given to the owners. I will send you a general order on this subject, which I wish you to see is strictly complied with. I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
General.

The communication went through Longstreet, who told Lee that he was passing the message on to Stuart. Longstreet wrote to Stuart himself at 7 p.m. on the 22nd:

HEADQUARTERS, MILLWOOD,
June 22d, 1863, 7 P. M.
MAJOR-GENERAL J. E. B. STUART, Commanding Cavalry,
GENERAL: General Lee has inclosed to me this letter for you, to be forwarded to you, provided you can be spared from my front, and provided I think that you can move across the Potomac without disclosing our plans. He speaks of your leaving, via Hopewell Gap, and passing by the rear of the enemy. If you can get through by that route, I think that you will be less likely to indicate what our plans are than if you should cross by passing to our rear. I forward the letter of instructions with these suggestions.

Please advise me of the condition of affairs before you leave, and order General Hampton—whom I suppose you will leave here in command—to report to me at Millwood, either by letter or in person, as may be most agreeable to him.

Most respectfully,
JAMES LONGSTREET,
Lieutenant-General.

N. B. I think that your passage of the Potomac by our rear at the present moment will, in a measure, disclose our plans. You had better not leave us, therefore, unless you can take the proposed route in rear of the enemy.


HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
June 23d, 1863, 5 P. M.
MAJOR- GENERAL J. E. B. STUART, Commanding Cavalry.
GENERAL: Your notes of 9 and 10.30 a.m. today have just been received. As regards the purchase of tobacco for your men, supposing that Confederate money will not be taken, I am willing for your commissaries or quartermasters to purchase this tobacco and let the men get it from them, but I can have nothing seized by the men.

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 hinderance, 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, &c.

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.

As regards the movements of the two brigades of the enemy moving toward Warrenton, the commander of the brigades to be left in the mountains must do what he can to counteract them, but I think the sooner you cross into Maryland, after to-morrow, the better.

The movements of Ewell's corps are as stated in my former letter. Hill's first division will reach the Potomac to-day, and Longstreet will follow to-morrow. Be watchful and circumspect in all your movements.

I am, very respectfully and truly, yours,
R. E. LEE,
General.
As you see, Stuart is instructed on June 22 to "...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..." Then, on June 23, the orders reiterate, "after crossing the river, you must move on and feel the right of Ewell's troops." Ewell was well into Pennsylvania by the time Stuart started. Due to exigencies unforeseen by anyone who contributed to this unrealistic plan, Stuart did not reach Ewell's right until the afternoon of July 2. He did, however, reach it, and he reached it as quickly as he could.

Did he not move on after crossing the river? Did he not feel for the right of Ewell's troops? Did he not place himself in communication with Ewell? Read the orders. Carried out to the letter.
 

K Hale

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Stuart would have been there earlier but there was no way to know he would have to fight a battle in Hanover and that that access to Gettysburg would be blocked for him.
It should be noted that Stuart was not told to come to Gettysburg until about 1:00 AM on July 2, at which point he rode all night (except for an hour or so of sleep) from Carlisle to reach Gettysburg that afternoon.
 

diane

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I think it ought to also be noted that Stuart more than redeemed himself once he got back. His defense of Lee's retreat is the stuff of great movies!
 

Hergt

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What was it that occurred on or after June 22 that prevented Stuart’s cavalry from catching up with Ewell’s infantry and taking a position on his right? I thought the section of the order which debatably provided Stuart cover for his tardiness was the language "You will, however, be able to judge whether you can pass around their army without hindrance, doing them all the damage you can…" Wasn’t Hanover too late to be the reason by itself?
 

K Hale

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What was it that occurred on or after June 22 that prevented Stuart’s cavalry from catching up with Ewell’s infantry and taking a position on his right? I thought the section of the order which debatably provided Stuart cover for his tardiness was the language "You will, however, be able to judge whether you can pass around their army without hindrance, doing them all the damage you can…" Wasn’t Hanover too late to be the reason by itself?
Hanover was only one of the things that delayed him. Understand that he is attempting to get from the rear of the army to the front of it, and the most direct roads are in use by infantry, artillery, wagon trains, and cattle herds. He is extremely limited in the ways that he can do this. Mosby scouted him a route. When he attempted to take it, he found his way was now blocked by Hancock's corps. This threw him off schedule immediately and the schedule was never regained. He had two choices: Try and plow through the entire Army of Northern Virginia, or go due south and then west and then north. He chose the latter. Choosing the former would not have saved any time. Possibly a day.

Once on the way, a series of unfortunate events continued to delay him: There were several skirmishes with Union cavalry; he had to stop and graze his horses; he captured 125 wagons full of grain to feed his horses, which enabled him to cut out the grazing time but caused delays of its own; prisoners had to be paroled; etc. A good book to read is Plenty of Blame to Go Around. Obviously, it goes into far more detail.
 

prroh

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What was it that occurred on or after June 22 that prevented Stuart’s cavalry from catching up with Ewell’s infantry and taking a position on his right? I thought the section of the order which debatably provided Stuart cover for his tardiness was the language "You will, however, be able to judge whether you can pass around their army without hindrance, doing them all the damage you can…" Wasn’t Hanover too late to be the reason by itself?

He lost a day and a half getting to a Potomac ford, due to bum information Mosby fed him. Add this to the time lost at Westminster and he would have passed through Hanover unhindered and met up with Ewell at Carlyle.

The big mystery in this story was way Early ignored Ewell's orders to contact Stuart and tell him about the concentration order in Gettysburg/Cashtown, especially if the stories about Early hearing the gunfire from Hanover are to be believed.
 

K Hale

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Early said he heard Stuart's guns at Hanover but could not tell from which direction the sound was coming.

He also claimed no one told him to watch out for Stuart.
 

ole

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Fog of war. Did Stuart ever find Ewell? Or was Ewell gone when Stuart got to where Ewell ought to have been?

I find it difficult to fault Stuart for anything on that ride. Everything he was asked to do, he did. Blaming him for not being on point sounds like more of Early's "Lost Cause" bent.

Compare Stuart's ride with Grierson's. Stuart, like Grierson, was in enemy territory and had to play with the hand he was dealt. It's a useless argument to declare what he ought to have done.
 
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