Scapegoat or Scandal? J.E.B. Stuart and the Battle of Gettysburg

Scapegoat or Scandal?  J.E.B. Stuart and the Battle of Gettysburg

The June 12th, 1863 edition of the Richmond Examiner seethed.  Just days before, Confederate cavalry had been caught completely by surprise in a daring strike by their Union counterparts at Brandy Station Virginia, and only after a hard fight with the help of Southern infantry was the enemy repulsed.  “But this puffed up cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia,” the Examiner crowed, “has been twice, if not three times, surprised since the battles of December, and such repeated accidents can be regarded as nothing but the necessary consequences of negligence and bad management.”  Such humiliations were unacceptable, and the Examiner concluded by charging that better organization, more discipline, and greater earnestness among “vain and weak-headed officers” was needed.  Other Southern papers offered more of the same.  The Richmond Sentinel called for greater “vigilance…from the Major General down to the picket.”  The Charleston Mercury thought the affair an “ugly surprise,” while the Savannah Republican thought it all “very discreditable to somebody.”  The commander of Confederate cavalry, James Ewell Brown (Jeb) Stuart, had to be wondering if the Brandy Station fight wasn’t “discreditable” to him...

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“To See What Freedom Meant:” April 9, 1865 (Sesquicentennial Spotlight)

“To See What Freedom Meant:” April 9, 1865 (Sesquicentennial Spotlight)

Much has been made of the surrender at Appomattox Court House, Virginia on April 9, 1865. Historians note that myth surrounds those final bedraggled days of the Army of Northern Virginia, the magnanimity with which Union soldiers welcomed their fellow Americans back into a nation at peace, and the causes won and lost in the subsequent years. Though it took months for the rest of the remaining Confederate forces to surrender their arms, no moment stands more clearly in historical memory as marking the end of the United States’ most costly war than the meeting in which Robert E. Lee surrendered his forces to Ulysses Grant. While myth may obscure some of the more concrete realities of that day – what was with Wilmer McClean anyway? – the peace wrought by those two great generals was nothing short of remarkable both for what it ended and what it began.

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Sesquicentennial Spotlight: Destruction at Sailor's Creek

Sesquicentennial Spotlight: Destruction at Sailor's Creek

The Battle of Sailor’s Creek, many will argue, was a final death knell for Lee’s army.  In the day’s engagements Lee lost about a quarter to one-third of his army (depending on which casualty report you look at), 8,800 men out of the roughly 30,000 effectives he had that morning.  Of these casualties, around 7,700 were captured or surrendered—one of the largest surrenders without terms during the war.  Among this number was almost the entire corps of Richard Ewell—3,400 of his 3,600 men were among the dead and captured.  Ewell himself was taken prisoner, along with seven other Confederate generals: Joseph B. Kershaw, Montgomery Corse, Eppa Hunton, Dudley M. DuBose, James P. Smith, Seth Barton, and Robert E. Lee’s son, George Washington Custis Lee.  Anderson’s corps lost around 2,600 out of 6,300 and Gordon’s casualties numbered at 2,000.

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