May 11, 1864: Jeb Stuart Mortally Wounded at Yellow Tavern

Sunday, May 11, AD 2014

The Civil War got quite a bit grimmer in 1864 and perhaps a symbol of this was the mortal wounding of General Jeb Stuart at the battle of Yellow Tavern on May 11, 1864.  Stuart and the cavalry he commanded had interjected a dash of romance and glamor into the War with their daring raids and the way they completely dominated Union cavalry in the early days of the War.  Stuart personified the cheerful cavalier.  He was friends with Stonewall Jackson, it was said of him that he was the only man in the Army who could get Stonewall to laugh, and his camps were always filled with music and good spirits.  He was a knight sans reproach in that he didn’t drink, use tobacco or curse and he was deeply devoted to his wife Flora and their children, although Flora was annoyed by the number of fan letters Stuart received during the War from ladies of the South.

Behind his dashing image however, Stuart had a good mind.  He netted $5,000.00 from the United States government during 1850’s for a new mechanism to hook cavalry sabers to belts, which equaled almost 4 years of his salary as a junior officer.  During the War he showed himself to be a skilled cavalry commander and at Chancellorsville he capably led Jackson’s corps after Jackson’s fatal wounding.

The battle of Yellow Tavern occurred as a result of Grant sending Sheridan and the Union cavalry off to raid South towards Richmond.  The lengthening odds against the South are demonstrated by the fact that Stuart could only bring 5,000 cavalry to the field against 12,000 commanded by Sheridan, most of them armed with repeaters.  Stuart maintained the unequal contest for three hours before the Confederates retreated.  Stuart was mortally wounded while he was rallying his troops.

Stuart died the next day, bearing with stoicism the dreadful pain of his wound.  He requested that the hymn Rock of Ages be sung.  He died soon after the hymn was completed, age 31.  His wife Flora arrived after his death.  She would wear widow’s black for the remaining 59 years of her life, turning down numerous requests for her hand in marriage, saying that being Mrs. Jeb Stuart was more than enough honor for one lifetime. She had a distinguished career as a teacher and principal of the Virginia Female Institute.  In 1907 it was renamed in her honor Stuart Hall School.


Here is an account of the mortal wounding of Jeb Stuart:

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4 Responses to May 11, 1864: Jeb Stuart Mortally Wounded at Yellow Tavern

The Cavalier’s Glee

Saturday, January 28, AD 2012

Something for the weekend.  The Cavalier’s Glee, a song which captures well the daring spirit of the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia under General Jeb Stuart. The song was written by Captain William W. Blackford, an engineer on the staff of General Stuart.  It is sung by Bobby Horton, a man who every American is indebted to for his constant efforts to bring Civil War songs to modern audiences.

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5 Responses to The Cavalier’s Glee

  • For those interested in Civil War cavalry and General Custer, I recommend Gregory J. W. Urwin’s book, Custer Victorious.

    The taunt among Union infantry as cavalry passed was, “I never saw a dead cavalryman.”

    That changed at Gettysburg. Custer’ Michigan Cav beat Stuart’s cavalry behind the Union center or things could have been different for Pickett.

    The Army still has Cavalry regiments, evolved out of WWII tank destroyer units. The battalions are called squadrons. The companies are called troops. The officers and NCO’s have black stetsons that may be worn with dress uniform and they have “stable calls.” In addition to the CIB, offers are awarded (unofficial) spurs (made from ammo casings) after cav combat.

    The cav platoon has four up-armored (IED survivable) HumVee two with .50 cal. MG; one an auto grenade launcher; and one TOW missile, which requires an act of Congress to fire.

    Infantry officers may serve in Cav units. My airborne ranger son won his spurs as a PL in Afghanistan.

  • Custer was a general at 23 in 1863, one of three young Union cavalry captains jumped from that rank to brigadier general in a desperate attempt to put some life in the weak Union cavalry of the Army of the Potomac. The experiment was a rousing success. His troopers idolized him and appreciated his brash, hard hitting attitude. By the middle of 1864, the Union had achieved cavalry dominance against the Army of Northern Virginia. Stuart’s death at the battle of Yellow Tavern signaled that the dominance that he and his cavaliers had so long maintained over their Union counterparts was at an end.

    T.Shaw my brother led a cav platoon in the early eighties in Germany. If you have to go to war, there are far worse ways to do it than with the armored cav!

  • Greet them ever with grateful hearts.

  • Don

    A rousing song to remind us that the role of the Cavalry is to mark enemy positions with burning cavalry vehicles and lend a touch of class to what would otherwise be an unsightly brawl.

    P.S. I spent much of my time in Cavalry units.

  • Or as my brother put it circa 1982: our function is to be pursued by the Soviet Army and to run behind the main force units, screaming as we do: “It’s your baby now!!!”. 🙂