American Civil War Home Chatroom Transcript (10/14/07) "Christian Cavalier: The Spiritual Legacy of JEB Stuart" an online chat with author Michael Aubrecht

Also archived online here: [link here]
Copyright 2007, M.Aubrecht/PinstripePress. Please email for permission to quote.

Introduction: Virginia historian Michael Aubrecht has dedicated his studies to the role of Christianity during the Civil War. He is the author of numerous articles and books on the subject including "Onward Christian Soldier: The Spiritual Journey of Stonewall" and "Christian Cavalier." Please join Michael on Sunday, October 14th at 9pm EST, for an interactive chat entitled "J.E.B. Stuart: Christian Cavalier." Through the use of personal letters, and memoirs that were written by those who knew Stuart best, Michael will present a more intimate portrait of the General. By examining his lineage, upbringing, and pre-war experiences, you will see through the flashy red cloak, and flowing black-feathered hat, at the real man buried beneath that magnificent cinnamon beard. This is the story of J.E.B. Stuart the Christian - more than just the Cavalier.

Section 1: From a Boy to a Man - Section 2: From a Man to a Soldier -
Section 3: From a Soldier to a General - Section 4: From a General to a Legend

10/14/2007 9:08 pm (et) MAubrecht: Good evening friends and THANK YOU very much for coming. Before I begin my presentation, I would like to thank ks, and shotgun, and basecat for inviting me to speak here tonight. I had such a great time when I did my last chat entitled "For God and Country." The wonderful response and feedback that I received exceeded my own expectations, and I could not wait to come back for more. You guys and gals have certainly been a blessing to me and I hope that my material this evening is worthy of your attention. It's almost been a year to the day - so let's get started…

10/14/2007 9:08 pm (et) MAubrecht: As this is my second online discussion here, I am going to use the same format as the last time in order to make things run as smoothly as possible. Please allow me to explain: I have some prepared materials that I would like to share, and I hope that they generate some dialogue. In order to establish a rhythm and not have us all typing away furiously at the same time, I will post a few paragraphs on a particular topic, and when I have completed that topic, I will follow it with this: XXXXXXXX…

10/14/2007 9:09 pm (et) MAubrecht: That will mean that I am done with the section, and that questions or comments can follow. If you would like to ask a question, please type "?" and I'll address you in the order they appear. I'll stay as long as you like too, so stick around after I'm done if you want to chat in more detail about any of this material. I'm trying not to overwhelm anyone and keep it pleasantly readable.

10/14/2007 9:10 pm (et) MAubrecht: Also if I go too fast, please feel free to tell me. Now let us begin…

10/14/2007 9:10 pm (et) MAubrecht: This evening I will be touching on several significant events from J.E.B. Stuart's "Civil War" life, but my goal is to present the man who came BEFORE the myth. Therefore, I'll be focusing more on his "Pre-Civil War Life" and some experiences that led up to his service to the Confederate States of America. In addition, I'll also introduce you to a side of Stuart that you may not be familiar with such as J.E.B. the published poet, and J.E.B. the inventor.

10/14/2007 9:11 pm (et) MAubrecht: There are 4 sections to tonight's presentation: SECTION 1: FROM A BOY TO A MAN - SECTION 2: FROM A MAN TO A SOLDIER - SECTION 3: FROM A SOLDIER TO A GENERAL - SECTION 4: FROM A GENERAL TO A LEGEND

10/14/2007 9:11 pm (et) MAubrecht: OK. Let's get started. The title of this chat is "J.E.B. Stuart: Christian Cavalier". With a group this savvy, I am sure that I will be touching on some familiar topics, BUT my goal is to cover some material that you may not be aware of. I have especially labored to quote as many letters and other correspondence that you may not have read (to date).

10/14/2007 9:12 pm (et) MAubrecht: I will be the first to acknowledge that there are some very good academic historians out there who don't really credit religion as a primary factor in the life of James Ewell Brown Stuart. This is somewhat "understandable" as The Southern Knight was not as outwardly pious as his commanding officer General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was. Still, I have found through my own research that spirituality did play a major role in the backbone of what made Stuart the man that we remember today. (Thus my subtitle for the book "The Spiritual Legacy of J.E.B. Stuart.")

10/14/2007 9:12 pm (et) MAubrecht: Through the use of personal letters, and memoirs that were written by those who knew Stuart best, I tried to present a more intimate portrait of the General. I wanted to present the J.E.B. Stuart that his mother and his wife knew - and the J.E.B. Stuart that his close friends and subordinates knew. You see, more than just some outlandish cavalier, Stuart was first and foremost, a man of faith, a man of duty, and a man of devotion: devotion to his family, devotion to his country, and devotion to his men. This was the "brick and mortar" of his character and in my opinion, these admirable traits are what enabled him to rise to such legendary heights both on the battlefield and off.

10/14/2007 9:13 pm (et) MAubrecht: Stuart was not without faults though - none of us are. He was also a prideful man, a stubborn man, and even conceited at times. By examining his lineage, upbringing, and pre-war experiences, you will see through the flashy red cloak, and flowing black-feathered hat, at the real man buried beneath that magnificent cinnamon beard. This is the story of J.E.B. Stuart the Christian - more than just the Cavalier.

10/14/2007 9:14 pm (et) MAubrecht: Several secular historians have stated that the lack of 'outward religious tenor' may mean that Stuart's piety has been somewhat exaggerated. According to Stuart biographer Emory Thomas, "During his first year at Emory & Henry a campus religious revival swept James into the Methodist Church. At home at Laurel Hill, James's mother had been an Episcopalian, his father was probably Presbyterian; but apart from Elizabeth Stuart's moral strictures, James had not had much religious education or background. And even after his revival experience at Emory & Henry, his letters to family and friends contain few, if any, religious references."

10/14/2007 9:14 pm (et) MAubrecht: Thomas later contradicts this insinuation when he mentions that many of Stuart's military orders did indeed contain religious references to "Divine Providence." In my opinion, Stuart (like most believers) grew stronger in his faith as time went on. As JEB matured, he most certainly became more dependent on his spiritual strength, as the crisis and carnage that surrounded him grew worse as the war dragged on. I also believe that his tendency for "showmanship" may have overshadowed a more serious-side.

10/14/2007 9:15 pm (et) MAubrecht: Teej and I have shared some wonderful discussions on the subject of Stuart's piety and the letters that Teej has obtained from his loving wife Flora paint a portrait of a man who did (at times) choose his duty to country over his family. This however was a dilemma that must have been repeated throughout the ranks of both armies. In the end, I think that JEB Stuart was an exemplary example of a soldier, husband, and father given the circumstances of his time.

10/14/2007 9:16 pm (et) MAubrecht: But to understand the complexities of this man we must of course start from the beginning…


10/14/2007 9:16 pm (et) MAubrecht: SECTION 1: FROM A BOY TO A MAN

10/14/2007 9:16 pm (et) MAubrecht: James Ewell Brown Stuart was born in Patrick County, Virginia, on February 6, 1833. His lineage was that of a Scotch Presbyterian, his forebears having immigrated to the Americas seeking refuge from religious persecution. Thanks to a distinguished ancestry, it's not surprising that Stuart men were widely known as gentleman of great virtue. Both their Christian roots and their sincere appreciation for their religious freedoms inspired them to give back to the community whenever possible. Their undying commitment to serve God provided a foundation of values and morality that benefited their family for generations to come. Decades later (in a tribute to the late General Stuart), Major H. B. McClellan quoted an associate of J.E.B.'s father Archibald Stuart in reference to the positive influence that he had on his son's upbringing.

10/14/2007 9:17 pm (et) MAubrecht: He stated: "Archibald Stuart was known far and wide, both for his splendid talents and his wonderful versatility. A powerful orator and advocate, he charmed the multitude on the hustings, and convinced juries and courts. In addition to these gifts, he was one of the most charming social companions the state ever produced. Possessing wonderful wit and humor, combined with rare gift for song, he at once became the center of attraction at every social gathering. Among the people of the counties where he practiced, his name is held in great respect, and his memory is cherished with an affection rarely equaled in the history of any public man."

10/14/2007 9:18 pm (et) MAubrecht: Sound familiar? This is what I mean by legacy.

10/14/2007 9:18 pm (et) MAubrecht: You could have just as easily used that same description when recalling J.E.B. Obviously being raised in a charitable Christian household had a tremendous influence on his character and convictions. After turning fourteen, J.E.B. enrolled in school at Wytheville and was accepted into Emory and Henry College in Washington County in 1848. Named for Bishop John Emory of the Methodist Church and Patrick Henry, E.H.C. is still one of the few colleges in the South to have operated for more than 160 years under the same name and with the same affiliation, the United Methodist Church.

10/14/2007 9:19 pm (et) MAubrecht: During his time there, Stuart participated in a revival of religion among the students. Although his mother was a member of the Episcopal Church and his father a Presbyterian, J.E.B. enthusiastically professed a conversion to the Methodist faith. Ten years later, in 1859, he returned to his mother's church and was confirmed as an Episcopalian by Bishop Hawks of St. Louis. Regardless of his denomination, Stuart remained a committed and devout Christian for the rest of his life. It was also during this period that he composed a series of thirty-four poems, later entitled "Poems and Prayers of Love and Friendship."

10/14/2007 9:20 pm (et) MAubrecht: It has since been written that J.E.B.'s dashing demeanor was an inherited gift from above. Many credit his joyous temperament and magnetic personality to his father. Others credit his sense of duty and gallantry to a grandfather who was reported to have yielded his sword at Guilford Courthouse "only after being disabled by wounds and deserted by his men." As the product of such a principled and purpose driven legacy, Stuart routinely excelled in both social and academic circles. In layman's terms, he was a fun guy who was adored by most who met him.

10/14/2007 9:20 pm (et) MAubrecht: In June of 1850, Stuart was accepted as a candidate for West Point. Both a good student and a skilled horseman, J.E.B. applied himself diligently and rose successively through the ranks. Despite his obvious success in the classroom, there was one negative experience during J.E.B.'s pursuit of higher education. It is seldom discussed, rarely documented, and, in retrospect, a bit difficult to believe. Due to the lack of pictorial references during Stuart's formative years, we only have the accounts of those who knew him personally. Unlike the handsome cavalier we have seen in photographic portraits, J.E.B. was rumored to have suffered from a facial deformity.

10/14/2007 9:21 pm (et) MAubrecht: One photo does exist on record that was taken in Washington shortly after Stuart's graduation that somewhat supports this theory. In it, J.E.B. appears as a sullen 21-year-old without his trademark beard. Although his chin is partially covered in shadow, the lack of a strong jaw is evident. Major H. B. McClellan later recalled the malformation as well as the resulting heartache caused by the malicious upperclassmen that teased Stuart:

10/14/2007 9:22 pm (et) MAubrecht: He wrote: "His face was marked by one feature, which would have misled a physiognomist in predicting his character and future. A prominent chin, and firmly set lips, are generally considered indicative of firmness and tenacity of purpose. But Stuart's chin was so short and retiring as positively to disfigure his otherwise fine countenance; and among the cadets at West Point he bore the nickname of "Beauty Stuart," a lucus a non lucendo. This disfigurement was, in maturer years, entirely concealed by a wealth of flowing brown beard, above which appeared a wellshaped nose and a broad and high forehead."

10/14/2007 9:22 pm (et) MAubrecht: As a result, J.E.B. was often involved in multiple physical altercations that dramatically contrasted with his academic performance. Although his grades (in classes he enjoyed) were impressive, the list of yearly disciplinary actions marred his record significantly. By the time of his graduation, Stuart's conduct rating stood at one hundred and three out of two hundred and six with 129 total demerits.

10/14/2007 9:23 pm (et) MAubrecht: (Note: Some of the best parenting that I've seen is contained in the letters received from J.E.B.'s father. I quote several of them in my book, but time does not permit it here. Basically, we can see his father's patience wearing thin as the incidents and subsequent letters progress. He scolds his son, but does it with such eloquence and class, that guilt [for disappointing someone who believes in you] becomes the prime motivator.)

10/14/2007 9:24 pm (et) MAubrecht: Fortunately, J.E.B.'s suffering over his appearance would soon come to an end. After graduating thirteenth in a class of forty-six, he was immediately commissioned as a second lieutenant in the prestigious regiment of Mounted Rifles and assigned to duties in the mid-western territories. Several months later, Stuart began to cultivate his famous cinnamon beard and mustache. To a friend he proudly wrote: "My beard (which by the way is in a flourishing condition) has so much altered my physique that you could not recognize me. Davant says that I am the only man he ever saw that a beard improved."

10/14/2007 9:25 pm (et) MAubrecht: Before we move on… Are there any questions or comments that anyone has in regards to Stuart's upbringing or education? XXXXXXXX

10/14/2007 9:25 pm (et) bluelady: I saw that picture you referred to.

10/14/2007 9:25 pm (et) Basecat: ?

10/14/2007 9:25 pm (et) MAubrecht: Yes base.

10/14/2007 9:26 pm (et) Basecat: Been awhile since I have read about his childhood... Was wondering how he got along with siblings and other family members his age?

10/14/2007 9:28 pm (et) MAubrecht: From what I can tell. Stuart had a very fine upbringing and his family was not only well respected in the community, but well liked. Unlike the childhood of Jackson, Stuart's was not fraught with despair. The happy guy that we see in paintings was true to him. Although there was tensions to come later with his in-laws. I'll be touching on that shortly.

10/14/2007 9:28 pm (et) Basecat: Thanks Michael.

10/14/2007 9:28 pm (et) amhistoryguy: ?

10/14/2007 9:29 pm (et) MAubrecht: Yes .am.

10/14/2007 9:29 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Who gave Stuart the appointment to West Point?

10/14/2007 9:30 pm (et) MAubrecht: Actually I don't recall the name off-hand. I believe it was an associate of his father.

10/14/2007 9:31 pm (et) bluelady: comment?

10/14/2007 9:31 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Thanks, I thought there was some family connection.

10/14/2007 9:31 pm (et) MAubrecht: I can say that he was not comfortable with going - and even wrote to a friend en-route about how immature and green he was for such an honor. He lacked confidence.

10/14/2007 9:32 pm (et) MAubrecht: Yes bluelady... please share your comment.

10/14/2007 9:32 pm (et) bluelady: ?

10/14/2007 9:32 pm (et) MAubrecht: Yes blue.

10/14/2007 9:33 pm (et) bluelady: ok we a couple actually. first that picture you really can see he had "no chin" as to the appointment. the family was well liked so it is no surprise there since they did have connections

10/14/2007 9:34 pm (et) bluelady: but I am also surprised he lacked confidence. do you think the humor hid it?

10/14/2007 9:34 pm (et) MAubrecht: He called himself "as green as a vine" and was not the cocky horseman we know today. He only became 'that' Stuart after achieving things. In other words, his ego was not falsely fed. IMO he 'earned it' if that makes sense.

10/14/2007 9:34 pm (et) MAubrecht: Great posts guys/gals. Thanks. If it's OK, let's move on to our next section…


10/14/2007 9:34 pm (et) MAubrecht: SECTION 2: FROM A MAN TO A SOLDIER

10/14/2007 9:35 pm (et) MAubrecht: It was during this period that J.E.B. became more intimate in his relationship with God. Although he was by no means a "Bible Thumper," often he would participate in scripture study with his fellow Christian troopers, and his dedication to the reading of the written Word grew more each day. In retrospect, perhaps both the desolate location of his post and the lack of distractions may have played a big part in Stuart's salvation. If an idle mind really is "the Devil's Workshop," J.E.B. certainly kept his busy.

10/14/2007 9:35 pm (et) MAubrecht: His maturing demeanor and strict code of ethics also helped maintain an obedient lifestyle, free from disruption. As a young boy, J.E.B. had pledged to his mother that he would avoid the "ills of man," including alcohol, tobacco, and gambling. Amazingly, Stuart maintained this vow for the entire course of his life and only drank whiskey (a medicinal pain-killer) on his last day at the insistence of his physician. This commitment and willpower signified his loyalty to the Lord and the spiritual strength that guided him.

10/14/2007 9:36 pm (et) MAubrecht: (Note: This has been debated - some accounts have him participating in toasts.)

10/14/2007 9:36 pm (et) MAubrecht: He also remained thoughtful of his family and church back home. At one point, he wrote to his mother with regard to financially supporting the development of a house of worship on the family's property. He wrote: "I wish to devote one hundred dollars to the purchase of a comfortable log church near your place, because in all my observation I believe one is more needed in that neighborhood than any other that I know of; and besides, "charity begins at home." Seventy-five of this one hundred dollars I have in trust for that purpose, and the remainder is my own contribution. If you will join me with twenty-five dollars, a contribution of a like amount from two or three others interested will build a very respectable free church. What will you take for the south half of your plantation? I want to buy it."

10/14/2007 9:37 pm (et) MAubrecht: During his time on the plains, Stuart and the U.S. Cavalry were involved in pre-emptive actions against what were referred to as potential hostiles. In an effort to preserve peace and safety between the new settlers in Kansas Territory and the occupying Native American tribes, the mounted army filled the position of a disciplinary body, maintaining order over both settlers and Indians. At the time, whether Kansas would be considered a free or slave state was still undetermined. This uncertainty eventually led to political stress and social disorder.

10/14/2007 9:38 pm (et) MAubrecht: While serving in Kansas, J.E.B. discovered the woman who would become the love of his life. After returning from extended maneuvers to Fort Leavenworth, Stuart moved on to Fort Riley, where he met and courted Miss Flora Cooke, the daughter of Colonel Philip St. George Cooke, commandant of that post. Both were kindred spirits, and their similar backgrounds, each coming from a prosperous military family, enabled them to bond closely. They were married on November 14th, 1855, and, one month later, J.E.B. was promoted to first lieutenant in his regiment.

10/14/2007 9:39 pm (et) MAubrecht: Now getting back to basecat's question on family relations: (Ironically, it would be Flora's father who later, after signing with the Union, would be ordered to help hunt down his rebel son-in-law, who was conducting raids on the Yankee surplus.)

10/14/2007 9:40 pm (et) MAubrecht: Talk about marital stress!

10/14/2007 9:40 pm (et) MAubrecht: One particular campaign during Stuart's deployment involved a battle fought at the North Fork of the Solomon River and resulted in J.E.B. sustaining a serious wound. On July 29, 1857, his superior, Colonel Sumner, led six companies of mounted rifleman against nearly three hundred Cheyenne warriors. After initially attacking, the Indian forces fell back, forcing a relentless pursuit by the troopers. Stuart initially led the chase for over five miles, but eventually his horse became exhausted, requiring him to pull back. After allowing the animal to catch its breath, J.E.B. forged ahead and attempted to exchange his winded steed with one of his subordinates'. In doing so, he came upon a group of men engaged in hand-to-hand combat.

10/14/2007 9:41 pm (et) MAubrecht: This is where the legend of the 'Knight' begins...

10/14/2007 9:41 pm (et) MAubrecht: He later recalled the incident: "When I overtook the rear of the enemy I found Lomax in imminent peril from an Indian, who was on foot, and in the act of shooting him. I rushed to the rescue, and succeeded in wounding the Indian in his thigh. He fired at me in return with an Allen's revolver, but missed. I now observed Stanley and McIntyre close by. The former said, 'Wait! I'll fetch him.' He dismounted from his horse to aim deliberately, but in dismounting accidentally discharged his last load. Upon him the Indian now advanced with his revolver pointed. I could not stand that, but drawing my saber rushed on the monster and inflicted a severe wound across his head; but at the same moment he fired his last barrel within a foot of me, the ball taking effect in the center of the breast, but, by the mercy of God, glancing to the left, lodging near my nipple and so far inside that it cannot be felt."

10/14/2007 9:42 pm (et) MAubrecht: Amazing he survived such a point-blank shot.

10/14/2007 9:43 pm (et) MAubrecht: After the battle ended Stuart and his comrades were in dire shape. Upon assessing the loss and burying his casualties, Colonel Sumner continued the pursuit of the retreating Indians southward. Falling further behind by the hour, he finally decided to leave his wounded (including Lieutenant Stuart) in a temporary fortification built near the battlefield and garrisoned by one company of infantry. Despite suffering great pain, J.E.B. acknowledged his Savior and repeatedly offered prayers of gratitude for his survival. (This would become a recurring theme as Stuart escaped more than his share of deadly and desperate situations in the years to come.)

10/14/2007 9:44 pm (et) MAubrecht: Keep in mind - the man suffered a 'deep-cavity' chest shot...

10/14/2007 9:44 pm (et) MAubrecht: After several days of waiting for help that never arrived, it was actually Stuart who was able to "miraculously" find a route back to an Army post and obtain aid for those left behind. He later credited God alone for guiding him through the desert. Turning his thoughts to his Savior, he wrote his dear wife, assuring her of his recovery. Under the care of Dr. Charles Brewer, the regimental surgeon, Stuart was moved to a safer location that allowed him an opportunity to meditate on his good fortune. Still, his restlessness was apparent.

10/14/2007 9:45 pm (et) MAubrecht: Sidebar: He rode for miles and miles through the desert and somehow came upon an old trail that led back to one of the U.S. Army's fortifications. 'Blind luck'? Maybe. Maybe not.

10/14/2007 9:45 pm (et) MAubrecht: In his letter, he stated: "I rejoice to inform you that the wound is not regarded as dangerous, though I may be confined to my bed for weeks. I am now enjoying excellent health in every other aspect. We have a pretty view up the creek for about two miles. I can sit up a little with props, and seize a moment now and then to jot a daily token to my wife. The day drags heavily. My Prayer Book-which I must say has not been neglected-and my Army Regulations are my only books. A few sheets of Harper's Weekly are treasures indeed."

10/14/2007 9:46 pm (et) MAubrecht: Stuart later made a full recovery and returned to his wife with a renewed sense of faith, and humility. Clearly God had spared him. Perhaps He even had a plan for him - a purpose yet unfulfilled - and one that would come during one of the darkest times in our nation's history.

10/14/2007 9:47 pm (et) MAubrecht: I've read many reports on this and really have no logical medical reason why he lived. Before we move on… Are there any questions or comments that anyone has in regards to Stuart's service on the frontier? XXXXXXXX

10/14/2007 9:47 pm (et) Basecat: Comment... Jeb's Dad ran for Congress in 1848 but lost the election to Democrat Thomas Hamlet Averett. Averett's first official act of his term was to give JEB his appt. to West Point. This from Thomas' bio on Stuart.

10/14/2007 9:47 pm (et) MAubrecht: Thanks for adding that base. Well done.!

10/14/2007 9:48 pm (et) bluelady: ?

10/14/2007 9:48 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Thanks

10/14/2007 9:48 pm (et) MAubrecht: Yes bluelady.

10/14/2007 9:49 pm (et) bluelady: is a deep cavity wound like one that was just lucky not to hit anything vital..that is if we want to consider luck being part of it?

10/14/2007 9:50 pm (et) mobile_96: ?

10/14/2007 9:50 pm (et) MAubrecht: From what I understand, balls were often left in the body if they posed no threat to internal organs or arteries. Even today sometimes bullets are more dangerous if they are removed as opposed to leaving them in there.

10/14/2007 9:51 pm (et) bluelady: ok I guess even today that is true

10/14/2007 9:51 pm (et) MAubrecht: Stuart had many close calls during the Civil War, but to be hit at close range and then not receive medical attention for days - in the dirty desert - he's very lucky indeed. Infection, and loss of blood was a real possibility. Yes mobile.

10/14/2007 9:52 pm (et) mobile_96: was going to ask if the ball had been removed, but guess your comment answers that

10/14/2007 9:52 pm (et) MAubrecht: No records indicate that any additional surgery was performed.

10/14/2007 9:52 pm (et) MAubrecht: At least none that I am aware of.

10/14/2007 9:52 pm (et) MAubrecht: Great posts guys/gals. Thanks. Let's move on to our next section…

10/14/2007 9:53 pm (et) MAubrecht: This is where J.E.B. starts to resemble the man we know today...