Maj. General Stuart's concept of command focused on one word - attack. If the enemy was before him, on his flank, or behind him, he had one response - attack. A saber in its scabbard was useless. It must be drawn and used to strike a blow, and Stuart, more than anything else, was a drawn saber.
From the war's beginning Stuart bent all his energy on molding the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia into a fighting force his adversaries would come to fear. His men would not be wasted watching the Army's wagons, providing messenger service, or furnishing bodyguards for pompous generals. He massed his men under a centralized command structure and used them as an offensive force, throwing them against an enemy who did not understand how cavalry could and should be used.
In battler, Stuart had an eye for terrain that would have made him a superb artillerist. His understanding of how artillery should be used led to the organization of the Stuart Horse Artillery. Even here, aggressiveness was the watchword. Stuart expected his artillery to be handled like a saber and men such as Pelham, Beckham, Chew, Breathed, and others, wielded it superbly, but always under the watchful eye of Stuart.
Stuart could also command the infantry. In the almost impenetrable undergrowth of the Wilderness in both 1863 and 1864
Stuart demonstrated his ability to inspire and lead infantry in battle. At Chancellorsville, with Jackson wounded, the Second Corps scattered in the dense thickets, and the army divided, Robert E. Lee looked to Stuart to bring the two wings together. Throughout the night Stuart labored to regroup regroup the regiments and brigades. Come the dawn, the Rebel yell rang across the battleground and Stuart led the men of Jackson forward. Again, there was no thought of the defensive, only of attack. In the forefront of the battle, Stuart, mounted on his horse Chancellor, led the charge. Victory was gained as the enemy's works were breached with Stuart leaping Chancellor over them. The infantry, like the cavalry, would have followed him anywhere he cared to lead them.
Though he proved he could have had success lighting artillery or leading infantry, Stuart's true calling was as a cavalryman. His grasp of cavalry tactics, his aggressive nature, his daring, and his legendary endurance combined to make him, as Federal General John Sedgewick said, "the greatest cavalryman ever foaled to America." John Esten Cooke wrote that Stuart's "great merit as a commander was, that his conception of 'the situation' was as rapid and just as his nerve was steady. His execution was unfaltering, but the brain had devised clearly what was as be done before the arm was raised to strike. It was this,
which distinguished Stuart from others - the promptness and accuracy of his brainwork 'under pressure,' and at moments when delay was destruction. The faculty would have achieved great results in any department of arms; but in cavalry, the most 'sudden and dangerous' branch of the service, where everything is decided in a moment as it were. it made Stuart one of the first soldiers of his epoch."
Robert J. Trout
This sign is a gift of
Mr. and Mrs. Robert J. Trout of Myerstown, Pennsylvania
Dedicated to the officers and men of the cavalry and horse artillery of the Army of Northern Virginia