In June 1863 Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia moved north in another campaign to invade Pennsylvania. How did Jeb Stuart help Lee to lose this campaign?

1 Answer
Sep 13, 2016

J.E.B Stuart's disregard of his orders led to Lee not knowing the location and numbers of Union forces, leading to him committing to the battle.


However there is much to this blunder, why and how did J.E.B leave Lee blind. For this you need to know and understand what happened just prior and during the campaign, but also abit about Stuart himself.

In 1863, Lee with the Army of Northern Virginia invaded the North in order to threaten D.C, damage Union's ability to wage war(destruction of camp at Harrisburg) and to capture supplies for the army. While preparing to this invasion, Lee had Stuart screen the army to stop Union forces from gaining knowledge of where Lee was heading. Stuart was set up around 6 miles outside of Brandy station and on 8 June 1863 was ordered by Lee to cross the Rappahannock river and raid Union forward positions. But before this could happen Maj. Gen. Pleasonton of the Cavalry Corps initiated a surprise attack, know as the battle of Brandy Station. While this wasn't a defeat, the fact that Stuart was surprised by Union cavalry stained a bit of his reputation.

Stuart was a war hero, skilled cavalryman but also one who hung onto the style of old stereotype of a cavalryman one, where reputation can become entwined with decision making.
The battle of Brandy Station harmed his reputation and is likely that caused him to not fulfill his duties during the advance to Harrisburg and battle of Gettysburg.

After a few days and skirmishes, Stuart received word that he was to screen the advance of Ewell's 2nd Corps. This is where he makes a few mistakes:

  1. Heads north towards Rockville(see map for route), getting caught up in Union troops and is forced to head east away from Lee.
  2. Captures over 100 wagons, which slowed down the advance, although it does feed his horses.
  3. Sabotages union lines of communication - usually tactically sound but it further slowed down a force already in deep disregard of their orders.

These mistakes meant that Stuart ran into Kilpatrick's cavalry in Hanover Junction on 30th June, even further slowing him down. All the while this was happening, Lee had not received any valuable information and did not have a clue where Stuart was, likewise Stuart also didn't know where Lee was so he sent out messengers.
By midnight 2nd July, Stuart received a message detailing that Lee was at Gettysburg. The exhausted cavalry arrived later that day, finally engaging on the 3rd.

The fact that Stuart did not keep contact with Lee meant that the Army of Northern Virginia was blind. Lee had no information on the size and location of the Union forces due to it and likely lead to Lee gambling when he shouldn't have. Leading to the loss at Gettysburg and the failure of the campaign.
However we should pin all the blame on J.E.B. Stuart, other generals such as Lee and Heth also share part of the blame, but that is out of the scope of this answer.


Lee's Cumbersome Cavalry

J. E. B. Stuart

J.E.B. Stuart and His Performance in Gettysburg, or Lack of it