James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart (February 6, 1833 – May 12, 1864) was an American soldier from Virginia and a Confederate States Army general during the American Civil War. He was known to his friends as "Jeb". Stuart was a cavalry commander known for his mastery of reconnaissance and the use of cavalry in support of offensive operations. While he cultivated a cavalier image (red-lined gray cape, yellow sash, hat cocked to the side with a peacock feather, red flower in his lapel, often sporting cologne), his serious work made him the eyes and ears of Robert E. Lee's army and inspired Southern morale.
Stuart established a reputation as an audacious cavalry commander and on two occasions (during the Peninsula Campaign and the Maryland Campaign) circumnavigated the Union Army of the Potomac, bringing fame to himself and embarrassment to the North. Arguably his most famous campaign, Gettysburg, was marred by his separation from Lee's army for an extended period, leaving Lee unaware of Union troop movements and contributing to Lee's defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg. Historians have failed to agree on whether this was the fault of Stuart or of bad luck and Lee's less than explicit orders. The Gettysburg Campaign was also one in which he fared poorly in two of the most significant cavalry battles of the war—Brandy Station and the third day at Gettysburg.
Also in 1855, Stuart met Flora Cooke, the daughter of the commander of the 2nd U.S. Dragoon regiment, Lt. Col. Philip St. George Cooke. They became engaged in September, less than two months after meeting. Stuart humorously wrote of his rapid courtship in Latin, "Veni, Vidi, Victus sum" (I came, I saw, I was conquered). Although a gala wedding was planned for Fort Riley, Kansas, the death of Stuart's father on September 20 caused a change of plans and the marriage on November 14 was small and limited to family witnesses.
Stuart's leadership ability was soon recognized. He was a veteran of Indian conflicts and Bleeding Kansas. Stuart was wounded in July 1857, while fighting on the frontier against Native Americans. In 1859, Stuart carried the orders for Colonel Robert E. Lee to proceed to Harpers Ferry to crush John Brown's raid on the U.S. Arsenal there. During the siege, Stuart volunteered to be Lee's aide-de-camp, and read the ultimatum to Brown before the final assault.
He was promoted to the rank of captain on April 22, 1861, but resigned from the U.S. Army on May 14, 1861, to join the Confederate States Army, following the secession of Virginia. Upon learning that his father-in-law, Col. Cooke, would remain in the U.S. Army during the coming war, Stuart wrote to his brother-in-law (future Confederate Brig. Gen. John Rogers Cooke), "He will regret it but once, and that will be continuously.
Stuart established a public reputation for conducting daring reconnaissance raids in the enemy's rear. Twice he slipped around Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's army, once in the Peninsula Campaign and once after the Battle of Antietam. While these exploits were not militarily significant, they improved Southern morale.
Early in the Northern Virginia Campaign, Stuart was promoted to major general on July 25, 1862, and his command was upgraded to the Cavalry Division. He was nearly captured and lost his signature plumed hat and cloak to pursuing Federals during a raid in August, but in a raid at Catlett's Station the following day, managed to overrun Union army commander Maj. Gen. John Pope's headquarters and not only captured Pope's full uniform, but also intercepted orders that provided Lee with much valuable intelligence. At the end of 1862, Stuart led a raid north of the Rappahannock River, inflicting some 230 casualties while losing only 27 of his own men.
In December 1862, during the Battle of Fredericksburg, Stuart and his cavalry—most notably his horse artillery under Major John Pelham—protected Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's flank at Hamilton's Crossing. Before the battle, Stuart gave Jackson a fine, well dressed Confederate coat, trimmed with gold lace, which he thought gave Jackson more of a general's appearance.
In May 1863, at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Stuart was appointed by Lee to take command of the Second Corps for a few days after Jackson had been wounded and did as well commanding infantry as he did cavalry. When Stonewall died from complications of pneumonia after his wounding, he was dressed in his old blue army coat, for the gray one Stuart had given him was bloodied and torn during amputation.
As Lee and Union Maj. Gen. George G. Meade marched toward each other at Gettysburg, Lee ordered Stuart to screen the Confederate army as it moved down the Shenandoah Valley and to maintain contact with the lead element, Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell's Second Corps, as it advanced in the direction of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Stuart once again attempted to circle the Union army and eventually found himself well to the east of Ewell, out of contact with the Union army, and out of communications with Lee. Lee's orders gave Stuart much latitude, and both generals share the blame for the long absence of Stuart's cavalry, as well as for the failure to assign a more active role to the cavalry left with the army. Stuart and his three best brigades were absent from the army during the crucial phase of the approach to Gettysburg and the first two days of battle. Lee's army was left blinded in enemy territory without detailed knowledge of the terrain, roads, or their opponent's strength and positions. This lack of knowledge was a significant reason that the Battle of Gettysburg started on July 1, 1863, before Lee could fully concentrate his army as planned.
Stuart arrived at Gettysburg late on the second day of the battle—bringing with him a caravan of captured Union supply wagons—and received a rare rebuke from Lee. (No one witnessed the private meeting between Lee and Stuart, but reports circulated at headquarters that Lee's greeting was "abrupt and frosty." Colonel Edward Porter Alexander wrote, "Although Lee said only, 'Well, General, you are here at last,' his manner implied rebuke, and it was so understood by Stuart.) On the final day of the battle, Stuart was ordered to get into the enemy's rear and disrupt their line of communications at the same time Pickett's Charge was being conducted against Cemetery Ridge, but his attack on East Cavalry Field was repulsed by Union cavalry under Brig. Gens. David McM. Gregg and George Armstrong Custer.
Although Stuart was not reprimanded or disciplined in any official way for his role in the Gettysburg campaign, it is noteworthy that his appointment to corps command on September 9, 1863, did not carry with it a promotion to lieutenant general. Historian Edward Bonekemper notes that since all other corps commanders in the Army of Northern Virginia carried this rank, Lee's decision to keep Stuart at major general rank, while at the same time promoting his subordinates Wade Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee to major generals, could be considered an implied rebuke.
A statue of General J.E.B. Stuart by sculptor Frederick Moynihan was dedicated on Richmond's famed Monument Avenue at Stuart Circle in 1907. Like General Stonewall Jackson, his equestrian statue faces north, indicating that he died in the War. In 1884 the town of Taylorsville, Virginia, was renamed Stuart. The U.S. Army named two models of World War II tanks, the M3 and M5, the Stuart tank in its old adversary's honor. High schools in Falls Church, Virginia (J.E.B. Stuart High School) and Jacksonville, Florida, are named for him.
In December 2006, a personal Confederate battle flag, sewn by Flora Stuart, was sold at auction for a world-record price for any Confederate flag, for $956,000 (including buyer's premium). The 34-inch by 34-inch flag was hand-sewn for Stuart by Flora in 1862 and Stuart carried it into some of his most famous battles. However, in December of that year it fell from a tent front into a campfire and was damaged. Stuart returned it to his wife with a letter describing the accident and telling of his despondency over the banner's damage. The flag remained with the Stuart family until 1969 when it was given to Stuart Hall, Staunton, Virginia, by a granddaughter of the Confederate general. Flora Cooke Stuart was headmistress of the Virginia Female Institute in Staunton, which was renamed "Stuart Hall" in her honor in 1907. The school quietly sold the flag and letter to a private collector in 2000. In 2006, the flag and letter, which had been displayed in a single frame in the Stuart Hall front parlor, sold separately at auction.
Stuart's birthplace, Laurel Hill, located in Patrick County, Virginia, was purchased by the J.E.B. Stuart Birthplace Preservation Trust, Inc., in 1992 to preserve and interpret it.
In the long running comic book G.I. Combat, featuring "The Haunted Tank", published by DC Comics from the 1960s through the late 1980s, the ghost of General Stuart guided a tank crew (first a Stuart, later a Sherman) commanded by his namesake "Lt. Jeb Stuart".
Errol Flynn played Stuart during the pre-Civil Wars years confronting John Brown in Kansas and Harper's Ferry in the movie Santa Fe Trail. This movie has become infamous for its many historical inaccuracies, one of which was that Stuart, George Armstrong Custer, and Philip Sheridan were firm friends and all attended West Point together in 1854.
Several alternate histories, describing scenarios where the Confederacy won the Civil War, gave extensive roles to Jeb Stuart's alternative lives. He is a prominent character in Robert Skimin's Gray Victory and Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191 series.
An experimental band, The Jeb Stuart Tribute Band, uses the general's name. Their songs include topics that relate to the Southern culture of which J.E.B. Stuart was a part.