Page images
PDF
EPUB

A considerable number of prisoners, with mules and horses, were here seized, and a large amount of stores was destroyed at Tunstall's station, near the White House, McClellan's base of supplies.

This daring raid lasted three days, during which Stuart rode entirely around the army of the Potomac, and then crossed the Chickahominy on a ruined bridge and leisurely returned up the James River to Richmond, with McClellan's forces on one side and the Union gunboats on the other. He had lost only one man and brought back highly useful information. This was the first of those spectacular cavalry raids of which there were many later in the war. His brilliant exploit, and his services in the Seven Days' fight that ensued, brought Stuart, though not yet thirty years old, the rank of major-general.

Stuart's second opportunity to distinguish himself came in the northward march of Jackson and Longstreet against General John Pope, and the terrible second Bull Run battle. After a sharp cavalry fight at Brandy Station on August 20, in which he drove Bayard's horsemen across the Rappahannock, he crossed that stream on the 22d, rode round Pope's rear to Cattell Station, and captured there his despatch-book and baggage and several officers of his staff. A portion of the stores there were fired, but the heavy rain saved them from serious damage. Fifteen hundred infantry and five companies of cavalry were guarding these stores and the disgrace of the raid was considered more serious than the damage done by it.

On the 26th he led in a raid with more important results, the expedition comprising a strong force of cavalry and infantry. A midnight attack was made on the post at Manassas Junction, which was taken by surprise, and seven hundred prisoners captured. The spoils included quantities of railroad property and a vast amount of stores, of various kinds. Stonewall Jackson followed him and took possession of Manassas, and on evacuating it shortly afterwards he destroyed all the stores that could not be taken off.

Meanwhile Stuart was busy in other work, guiding Longstreet northward to a junction with Jackson, who for a day had been fighting furiously with Pope. This reinforcement brought complete victory to the Confederates, Pope being driven from the field and forced to fall back on Washington. In this great battle, in which the Union army suffered one of its most serious repulses, Stuart rendered most effective aid and added greatly to his reputation as a skilled and daring cavalry leader. In Lee's subsequent invasion of Maryland he was actively engaged at South Mountain and Antietam, and this was followed in early October by the most adventurous and daring raid in his career, the invasion of Pennsylvania and capture of Chambersburg.

After the battle of Antietam, Lee retreated into Virginia and McClellan lay lingering on the Potomac in his usual deliberate way. Both armies were enjoying a season of rest and recuperation, which no doubt both needed. In the fine days of October the cavalry of Lee's army lay near Charlestown, about ten miles south of Harper's Ferry, Stuart's head-quarters being in a fine old mansion known as “the Bower," whose hospitable proprietor was making life very pleasant to the war-wearied officers of the staff.

But this agreeable ease was not to “ Jeb ” Stuart's taste. He felt that something should be doing to demonstrate that the chevaliers of Virginia had not gone to sleep, and during the 8th of October there was a stir about head-quarters which indicated that active service was in the wind. On the evening of that day the officers enjoyed themselves highly at “the Bower," the entertainment ending with a serenade in which the banjo and fiddle took chief part, while not a note of war broke in on their pleasure.

On the morning of the 9th there was a decided change. The sound of the bugle broke cheerily on the morning air and the roads were soon filled with troopers, eighteen hundred of them, picked men all, the best mounted and most trustworthy in the corps. They had been called out for a work that would demand alertness, activity, and daring, and only the best men in the squadrons were wanted.

A battery of four guns accompanied the expedition, which set out in high spirit, its purpose kept secret, but the men feeling that when“ Jeb ” Stuart led lively times were to be looked for. Darkness had fallen when they reached the Potomac and here they bivouacked for the night, crossing early the next morning. A fog covered the valley as they rode forward, finding no foes, and crossing the narrow width of Maryland and entering Pennsylvania without a shot being fired.

Nothing was disturbed in Maryland, but horses were seized on both sides of the line of march in Pennsylvania, and on the evening of the roth the bold raiders rode into Chambersburg, the goal of the expedition, without an enemy being seen. That night was spent in the town, and the next morning they set out at dawn on the road towards Gettysburg, after gathering what spoil they could easily carry, paroling the sick soldiers in the hospital, and setting fire to the ordnance store

house, well filled with military supplies, the railway buildings, and several trains of loaded cars.

So far all had gone well, but the troopers had a day of imminent peril before them. Rain had succeeded the fair weather and was now falling heavily, threatening to make the Potomac impassable, and though they had met no foes in their advance, they knew that many would await them in their retreat. The alarm had spread far and wide, the telegraph had called the Federal cavalry out in all directions, and the daring eighteen hundred would need to ride fast and furious on their way back to Virginia.

Yet fortune favored them. General Pleasanton was patrolling the roads to cut them off, but was led astray by false information, and when he halted for fresh orders, after a fifty miles' ride, Stuart passed by unseen within four miles. Yet as the raiders approached the Potomac the peril rapidly increased. Midnight brought Pleasanton word of their movements and he was quickly on their trail, while infantry and cavalry came closing in from other quarters. Stuart reached Hyattstown, in the vicinity of the Potomac, at daybreak on the 12th, after marching sixty-five miles in twenty hours.

Turning abruptly to the west, the raiders rode through a large piece of woodland that concealed their movements. The nearest available crossing was White's Ford, and for this they rode at full speed. As they approached they were disconcerted to see a large body of infantry in position on a steep bluff very near the ford. If these could not be driven away all was lost. There was but one thing to do, to put a bold face on the matter. Colonel W. H. F. Lee, who commanded the advance, called on the infantry officer to surrender, saying that Stuart's whole force was before him and that resistance was useless. After a short wait for a reply, he opened on them with his guns and to his surprise and relief the infantry abandoned their position and retreated.

A loud Confederate cheer followed them. No shot was fired to hinder their march. On to the ford rode the weary troopers and passed over without opposition, though their foes were closing in upon them from all sides, and in a few minutes more their rear guard would have been cut off. Within twenty-seven hours Stuart had ridden eighty miles, from Chambersburg to White's Ford, and crossed with his artillery and captured horses, his only loss being one man wounded and two stragglers captured. The value of the property destroyed was estimated at two hundred and fifty thousand dollars and twelve hundred horses were carried off, though many of their own had to be abandoned. Thus ended Stuart's most famous raid.

Stuart was kept busy in the subsequent movements of the army and rendered good service at Chancellorsville, his cavalry covering Stonewall Jackson's flank movement. When Jackson fell wounded the command of his corps fell for the time upon Stuart, who extricated it from the critical position it had reached in the darkness and renewed the attack the next day.

During the succeeding Gettysburg campaign he had an opportunity to invade Pennsylvania again, this time under very different auspices. During the northward march he guarded the flanks of Lee's columns and had several sharp brushes with the Federal cavalry. On the passage of the Potomac he obtained Lee's permission to repeat his favorite movement of riding round the enemy's rear, and accordingly crossed the

« PreviousContinue »