'Rode the Six Hundred'
MAD, ANTHONY WAYNE. Lighthorse Harry Lee. Stonewall Jackson, Jeb Stuart here are American names any one of which will conjure up a personality and a scene worth reading about.
WRITTEN with gusto, Jeb Stuart, by Captain John W . Thomason, Jr. (Scribners, $5.00), gives a fascinating picture of the man who, a major general at twenty-eight, seized those unparalleled opportunities for vigorous cavalry action which the apparently less agile North so continually and conveniently offered. He was accompanied every whereby his personal troubadour, Sweeney, of the banjo, late of a minstrel show, for song and laughter were essential to Jeb. Not that his discipline was ever less strict or his principles relaxed. Loving husband and father, total abstainer, essentially religious, there was nothing loose or promiscuous in his character.
With his ostrich feather and his white buckskin gloves, his gold lace and his red-silk-lined cloak, he was to the girls of Richmond the beau sabreur; to the Federal North he meant broken nights and a trail of smoking dumps. It is said of him that he never made a tactical error. Lee said he never sent back any misinformation.
Such praise may be more than human, but it seems to skirt the truth. Stuart’s sins were venial and of omission rather than commission. He failed to maintain touch with Jackson during the first phase of the Seven Days’ Battle and he repeated the offense at Gettysburg. In each case he failed in the duty of a cavalry commander. Tactically, he made an error in encircling McClellan’s army and putting that cautious commander on his guard. One might quarrel, too, with the policy of raiding behind the army lines. Unless there is some very definite object in view, unless numbers are in favor of the raider, it can but be over-wearing to men, and, more important, to horses. But one cannot quarrel with Stuart’s grasp of shock tactics. When he charged, he did so in depth on a narrow front, and with a brilliance and spirit which shook the North.
The author is admittedly partisan and his heart is with Jeb Stuart, gayly leading the elegant, sporting young gentlemen of the South. We are not, however, allowed to miss the full tragedy of the situation, for tragedy it undoubtedly was. Jeb himself was good enough soldier to know the extremity of the South even in the resounding successes of the early days. It is well that he was spared the last act, the bitter months of the siege of Richmond and the terrible days culminating at Appomattox. He was fortunate as always. Jeb was killed leading his men in a charge in the May of 1864, when in men’s minds there was still the hope ot victory.
Dashingly, as cavalrymen should, they ride through the pages: Jeb Stuart, huge Von Brocke, with his terrible sabre, expert arranger of parties, and gallant John Pelham of the Morse Artillery, unfortunately killed taking a busman’s holiday at Kelly’s Ford. There is a glamour in l’arme blanche, an exhilaration in a charge of cavalry known only to those who have experienced it; but, as Lee said to Longstreet at Fredericksburg, ‘It is well that war is terrible — if it were not, we should grow too fond of it.'
A. W. SMITH