Jun 13, 2012

Jeb Stuart’s Wild Ride

(NYTimes) “Gentlemen, in ten minutes everyone must be in the saddle.” It was 2 a.m. on June 12, 1862, and a 29-year-old Confederate brigadier general named James Ewell Brown Stuart — Jeb to his intimates and posterity — was about to write history with his famous “Ride Around McClellan.”
Throughout the spring, Gen. George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac had been edging its way up the Virginia Peninsula between the York and James Rivers. Its destination: Richmond, the Confederate capital. McClellan, a very tentative, deliberate fighter, was perfectly matched in his adversary, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, whose slow, careful retreat finally brought both armies to the gates of Richmond at the end of May.
But on May 31 Johnston was seriously wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines, and the next day he was replaced by Gen. Robert E. Lee. The patrician Virginian was Johnson’s polar opposite, extremely aggressive and unafraid of risks. In the aftermath of the inconclusive battle, Lee suspected that the right flank of McClellan’s army was “in the air” — not anchored to any natural formation, and thus vulnerable to attack. To be certain, he decided to send Stuart to reconnoiter. Continued