Stuart is best known for his dramatic cavalry raids, including the two 'rides around McClellan', first on the Peninsula and then again just before McClellan was removed from command for the first time, but he was also commander of Lee's cavalry during the major battles in Virginia, and found at Bull Run, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. At that last battle he took over command of 'Stonewall' Jackson's entire corps after Jackson was mortally wounded, and performed impressively in that unfamiliar role.
It must be said slavery is rather invisible here, although there are a lot of black 'servants'. There are a few direct mentions, including the case of a former slave who was captured by Stuart's men and forced to reveal a key location. Here at least the contemporary suggestion that he willingly cooperated is dismissed. The world of elegant houses, parties and balls that occupied much of Stuart's time between battles was largely built on the back of the slaves, so there perhaps should have been more acknowledgement of their existence and role.
I must admit this book grew on me as I got further into it. At first I suspected that it was going to be rather over-celebratory, and indeed there is no attempt to analyse the Confederate cause. However as I read on the tone slowly changes - the flawless Stuart of the earlier chapters turns into a more nuanced character as he suffers the loss of his young daughter and an increasing number of the members of his 'military family' - the band of comrades who took part in his early triumphs, and the celebrations and balls that marked his progress. His military reputation also began to falter, at least in part because by 1863 the Union cavalry began to improve (and would eventually be at least the equal of their Confederate opponents).
The result of this is a portrait of the changing mood in the Confederacy, from the overly optimist days of 1862, caused by Lee's victories and Union failings in Virginia (and a general belief that the South had the superior soldiers), to the increasingly grim days of 1863, where victories came at an increasing cost (the loss of 'Stonewall' Jackson being a good example). The glittering surface of the upper reaches of Southern society begins to be pushed back to reveal an increasingly desperate struggle.
1 - Stuart's Military Family Assembles
2 - The First Ride Around McClellan, June 1-15 1862
3 - The Seven Days and the James, June 15-July 3, 1862
4 - Verdiersville to Second Manassas, July 4-August 31, 1862
5 - To Sharpsburg and Beyond, September 1, 1862-September 27, 1862
6 - The Second Ride Around McClellan, September 28-October 12, 1862
7 - The Bower and Bereavement, October 13-November 16, 1862
8 - Fredericksburg and the Dumfries Raid, November 17, 1862-January 1, 1863
9 -The Long Cold Winter, January 2, 1863-February 28, 1863
10 - Irreparable, March 1, 1863-April 16, 1863
11 - Chancellorsville and The Second Corps, April 17, 1863-
12 - Fleetwood and Year's End, June 1-June 23, 1863
Epilogue - And So the South Lost the War
Author: Monte Akers