Cavalryman of the Lost Cause: A Biography of J. E. B. Stuart Paperback – 22 Sep 2009
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"Jeffry D. Wert adds to his considerable reputation as a military historian of the Civil War with this engaging biography of the Confederacy's best and most famous cavalry officer. Jeb Stuart figured prominently in most of the Army of Northern Virginia's storied operations, and Wert does full justice to his striking successes while also exploring with a critical eye his controversial conduct during the Gettysburg Campaign. This book is the obvious place to begin any exploration of Stuart's life and career." -- Gary W. Gallagher, Nau Professor of History, University of Virginia, and author of "Lee and His Army" in Confederate History
"One of the Civil War's most popular historians has tackled one of its most memorable figures. Scrupulously avoiding the pitfalls of either blind worship or reckless iconoclasm, Jeffry Wert recounts the successes and failures of this remarkable soldier in a masterful study that combines diligent research and fresh analysis with the prose of a gripping novel. A must for any bookshelf -- Blue or Gray." -- Joseph Pierro, editor of "The Maryland Campaign of September 1862: Ezra A. Carman's Definitive Study of the Union and Confederate Armies at Antietam"
"One of those rare, too often overlooked figures in the Civil War pantheon, Jeb Stuart was as irresistible as he was colorful, as contentious as he was fascinating. In this endlessly absorbing biography, Jeffry Wert does him justice and then some. This richly detailed study belongs on the bookshelf of every Civil War buff, right next to the dog-eared volumes on Lincoln, Lee, Jackson, and Grant. Bravo!" -- Jay Winik, author of "April 1865: The Month That Saved America" and "The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788-1800"
"This fresh look at the Confederacy's premier cavalryman offers a fast-paced and sure-footed narrative of Stuart's campaigns combined with fascinating information about the man and his family. "Cavalryman of the Lost Cause" is now "the" Jeb Stuart biography." -- George C. Rable, Charles Summersell Chair in Southern History, University of Alabama, and author of "Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!," winner of the Lincoln Prize
About the Author
Jeffry D. Wert is the author of seven previous books on Civil War topics, most recently The Sword of Lincoln. He lives in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania, about an hour from the battlefield at Gettysburg.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
........and JEB Stuart remains one of the war's more fascinating characters. The man had FLASH...he had STYLE...but, he was brave, and he could sure fight. Mr. Wert gives us good descriptions of the man...he was loved by many, respected by most, but he was a darn tough man to work for [I would rather have ridden with Forrest]...a devoutly religious man, he could be more hateful and vindictive than a Christian should be. His lack of respect for Beverly Robertson has a sound basis, but Grumble Jones is a different matter. A shameless self promoter, he was still fearless in battle...his ride around McClellan and raid on Chambersburg are covered in superb detail, and fine operations they were, but part of it was always about JEB.
JEB's most improbable friendship with Stonewall Jackson is well documented, as is his rather cool relationship with Longstreet [Mr. Wert has given us the most postitive bio of him], and his virtual reverence for Robert E. Lee...nothing unusual in that. Wade Hampton accused JEB of already starting his campaign for Governor of Virginia...there was mutual respect between them, but no friendship. JEB probably would have been Governor had he survived the war; Hampton was Governor and Senator, and ran SC for 30 years, but he had the advantage of massive wealth.
That's where all modern appraisals of Stuart eventually lead. Numerous studies have either blamed JEB for the loss of the war, or completely exonerated him. Mr. Wert does neither, and that's probably the proper path. If you're reading this, you already know the story...discretionary orders [that was Lee's fault]...discretion exceeded...125 useless wagons...8 days wasted...battle lost. JEB was trying to show off after his screw up led to Brandy Station. "Where's your mule"? Indeed. We do get a good picture of JEB's partial redemption on the retreat. And, something I've never read before...apparently after Gettysburg consideration was given to firing Stuart [no surprise there], and replacing him with John Bell Hood. I'm pretty sure I've read all the Hood and Stuart bios, plus "RE Lee" and "Lee's Lieutenants"...I've not seen that, and neither has my friend Sam Hood, but he's checking into it. General Hood had been Cavalry prior to the war, but he had been wounded at Gettysburg. He could have done the job [in fact, he was chosen chief Cavalry instructor at West Point in 1859, though, anticipating secession, he turned down the job], and he probably got along with others better than Stuart did.
One thing will disturb some, especially Stuart's descendents...everybody knows that though JEB was devoted to his wife and family, he enjoyed the attention of pretty girls...no crime there. So do I. Mr. Wert implies that there was a lot more than harmless dancing, and innocent flirtation, going on, and names names...Laura Ratcliffe. Are the facts straight? Beats me, but, with as good a historian as Mr. Wert, probably.
A couple of minor errors...Fitz Lee wasn't injured in a fall after Second Manassas, it was Robert E. JEB attended St. James Episcopal in Richmond, not St. Paul's...I admit he could he could have visited St. Paul's. St. Paul's is still on East Grace Street, right where it was then. St. James [which is correctly given as the site of JEB's funeral] moved to its present location on West Franklin Street in the early 20th. century. It's within a block of JEB's statue on Monument Avenue, and has a beautiful memorial window picturing JEB as a Teutonic Knight. JEB IV is a Vestryman. Both St. Paul's and St. James are great Churches. I digress...frequently...everybody says so....
This book, like the subject of it, has both positive and negative aspects. In both cases, the good far exceeds the bad. Was Stuart the greatest Cavalry Officer ever? Maybe, but there was Forrest [and Joe Wheeler and William Clarke Quantrill]. Is this the greatest Stuart bio? I don't think so, but the margin is awful thin, and the competition very tough. Is Mr. Wert a great historian, and writer? Darn right he is...well recommended.
James Earl Brown Stuart is one of these larger than life figures. Commander of Lee's cavalry, Stuart trained and motive these men into a dominate force. He personally led them into numerous fights both large and small. At Antietam, his placement of guns on the army's left helped breakup Union attacks. At Chancellorsville, he shielded Jacksons march and on Jackson's being wounded, Stuart took command. His attack reunited the wings of the army giving Lee a unified line and contributing to Hooker's withdrawal. Stuart's decisions during the Gettysburg Campaign are debated to this day and contributed to Lee's army being defeated. During his life, the press lionized and vilified Stuart, depending on his latest action. He was a man of great contradictions. A very competent officer but ambitious to a fault. Considered fair, he was known to be a good hater. His ambitions and personal feelings about people overruled his good judgment at times. A religious man with strong family ties and a good marriage, he sought the company of young women and flirted with them. This caused limited problems in his marriage. JEB Stuart is a fascinating subject with an interesting complex life.
Jeffery Wert is one of our better authors. He combines a very easy to read style with an in-depth knowledge of the subject. His biography of James Longstreet is consider one of the best on the man. Wert captures the complexities and contradictions that make up Stuart's personality. He has the background to understand and explain Stuart's contribution to the war. Wert is neither enamored with nor critical of Stuart. He presents both the good and bad points in a fair manner allowing the reader to judge. On questions of judgment, Wert presents the facts and shows us why Stuart may have done as he did. The results of Stuart's actions are presented fairly without excuses or accusations.
This is an excellent book! It finds the balance between readability and scholarship. The result is an informative read that is fun too. In addition to a biography of Stuart, the reader gets a view of cavalry operations during the war. I am not a great reader of biographies. However, this is a military and personal history of a major player in the Army of Northern Virginia.
Mr. Wert also goes beyond the usual primary references which makes the book read as something fresh and new. If you wanted only one book about JEB Stuart, this would be it.
Wert has produced a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining biography, weaving into one story, occasional humor and amusing tidbits with the tragic stories of brother fighting brother, father-in-law fighting son-in-law, a deep faith in God and at the same time bitter hatred produced by differing loyalties. Some books make me impatient to get on with the story when the author chases a rabbit, but Wert has gently taken this reader by the hand while he examines short descriptions of other important leaders and seemingly unrelated details, and provides insightful observations into military life and the nature of men and war.
Wert is an entirely sympathetic biographer for Stuart, and yet he does not hesitate to point out errors in judgment, or lapses in attentiveness to his job, such as just prior to and at Antietam, and Gettysburg, thereby gaining credibility as a historian. He also reveals and explores the irony of a man with deep faith in God and traditional morality who could be so unforgiving to those, even of his family, who thought otherwise than he did or who opposed his plans in the field. Stuart was a man who loved the "society" of beautiful women as is pointed out often, but without implying that he was unfaithful to his wife, or denying the possibility that he might have been. At the same time, he was revealed to be a man devoted to his wife and children. He was also a man with a very strong and assertive ego, eager for and needing recognition, revealing frustration and disappointment when he did not get it. Yet, after all, for all his high ideals, he was still a man and one whom Wert neither glorifies nor overly scorns.
Wert also is convincing in presenting Stuart as probably the best cavalry officer the world ever knew. He was duly acclaimed as such both during his service, and especially after his death in May, 1864. And, as all strong-willed leaders will be from time to time, he was reviled by subordinates who didn't like his leadership methods or orders, and by a handful of other generals, some because of their own egos and some because of conflicting leadership styles. In the end, only one of James Ewell Brown Stuart's detractors, Thomas Rosser, did not seem devastated by his death. Wert captured his final days and hours well. I knew what was coming, yet I found myself in tears when it arrived. He (Wert) played my sympathies well. Stuart was a great man and a strong patriot on the losing side of history. He could not win, but neither did I want him to lose. I like the summary Wert used:
"Stuart had been the Confederacy's knight-errant, the bold and dashing cavalier, attired in a resplendent uniform, plumed hat and cape. Amid a slaughterhouse, he had embodied chivalry, clinging to the pageantry of a long-gone warrior. He crafted the image carefully, and the image befitted him. He saw himself as the Southern people envisaged him. They needed a knight; he needed to be that knight."
I was also entertained on a purely personal level by what I refer to as my spell checker mind and the occasional glitches that show up in today's electronic products because of the quirks of "Spell Check". The following sentence was at first confusing then laughable: "With only a few hours left before down, Lee and Jackson lay dawn to sleep amid a grove of pine trees." (page 221, 2nd paragraph) What some people find annoying, I often find entertaining. It was the only glitch of any sort that I found in this wonderful book. I highly recommend it.
Five Stars for excellence of story telling and balance.
Jeffrey Wert is one of the better Civil War historians around these days. When he first wrote books on the Civil War, he was (if memory serves correctly) teaching high school in Pennsylvania. He's become very prominent for his accounts of various battles and campaigns, mostly in the Eastern theater. He's also written the occasional biography, and this current book is one of those. It adds considerably to our understanding of Stuart and his relationships with those under his command.
Stuart was, as I said above, a very good light cavalry officer, one who understood the art of gleaning information from scouting reports and interpreting partial information into clear conclusions. He was the first senior officer of cavalry in the Confederate army defending Richmond (Johnston called it the Army of the Potomac; Robert E. Lee preferred the name Army of Northern Virginia) and he served in that capacity, with one short temporary interruption, until his death in the spring of 1864. For most of that period he served intelligently and very competently. The two exceptions are his temporary service as head of the 2nd Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, which occurred after Stonewall Jackson's death, and A.P. Hill's wounding, at the battle of Chancellorsville. Stuart competently and skilfully deployed his regiments, and led them in battle very well. It's often been speculated what would have happened at Gettysburg if Jackson had survived his wound at Chancellorsville; another interesting alternative would be Stuart getting command of Jackson's Corps, and leading it at Gettysburg. Would Stuart have balked at attacking Cemetery Hill on the night of July 1? We'll never know...
This book has a great many interesting information in it, and does a good job of recounting the various battles and campaigns that Stuart's cavalry were involved in. The author spends a great deal of time discussing various issues involving the Army of Northern Virginia's cavalry. Command disputes tended to center on Stuart's favoritism towards various soldiers from Virginia, and especially towards Lee's family. Wert says that while most thought the general's son Rooney was a decent cavalry general, there was considerable negative opinion regarding Fitz Lee, the general's nephew. Wert also outlines the disputes between Stuart and Wade Hampton, W.E. "Grumble" Jones, and Thomas Rosser, with Rosser coming out by far the worst of the three men.
The author also devotes considerable attention to his subject's private life; you learn a lot about the general's wife, and something about their children (mostly in the last chapter, which takes you beyond Stuart's death). There's a lengthy discussion of Stuart's father-in-law (who stayed loyal to the Union, in spite of being from Virginia, and served in the Union army during much of the war), and of the family relations during the war and after.
This is quite a good book, full of new information, well-written and informative. I would recommend it to most any Civil War buff, or historian.