General J.E.B. Stuart - Knight of the Golden Spurs

James Ewell Brown Stuart was born on a plantation in Patrick County, Virginia on February 6th 1833. He was the eighth of eleven children born to Archibald Stuart who was a war veteran of the war of 1812. Stuarts's grandfather was a military man as well who commanded a regiment at the Battle of Guilford Court House during the American Revolutionary War.

Stuart was home schooled initially and then attended Emory & Henry College from 1848-1850. Considering his family military history it came as no surprise when he was accepted into West Point Military Academy in 1850.

Jeb Stuart at West Point
It was during his education at West Point that Stuart became friends with Robert E. Lee in 1852 when Lee was appointed superintendent of the Academy. He graduated from West Point in 1854 where he studied cavalry tactics, civil engineering, and excelled at horsemanship and received an honorary designation as a cavalry officer due to his above average skills.

U.S. Military Career
He was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant and assigned to the U.S. Mounted Rifles in Texas. Stuart served in the 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment in Leavenworth, Kansas in 1855 where he met his future wife. Over the next several years he was involved in trying to stem the violence referred to as “Bleeding Kansas” which were a series of bloody confrontations between pro and anti slavery elements.

In the year 1857 while serving under Col. Edwin Sumner and fighting at Solomon River, Kansas, Stuart was wounded while battling Cheyenne Indians who were uprising against the U.S. Government. He survived his wounds and was later transferred to Fort Riley where he and his family remained for three years.

In 1859 Stuart patented a new piece of cavalry equipment, an improved saber hook. The U.S. Government paid for the right to use it and Stuart contracted a manufacturing company out of Philadelphia to build the hook.

In his last notable service to the U.S. Government he took part in Col. Robert E. Lee’s submission of the rebel “John Brown” after Brown’s raid on the U.S. Arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Stuart recognized Brown from his service in Kansas, Brown had been using the alias Isaac Smith.

The U.S. Civil War:
Stuart was commissioned as a lieutenant Colonel in 1861 when he joined the Virginia Infantry. He served under Maj. Gen. Robert E. Lee and saw action at the “First Battle of Bull Run.“ He was promoted to Colonel in July and by September 1861 held the rank of Brigadier General.

In 1862 Stuart led his cavalry brigade at the ‘Battle of Williamsburg” and later performed reconnaissance for Lee’s larger force and through his brilliant cavalry tactics and outmaneuvering of Union forces became a folk hero to the Confederacy and helped earn him his nickname “Knight of the Golden Spurs.”

Stuart fought in most of the famous battles of the war including, the “Battle of Fredericksburg“, the “Battle of Chancellorsville“, and fought with General Lee during his devastating loss at the “Battle of Gettysburg.” Stuart distinguished himself in every battle, defensive action, and reconnaissance mission.

The Confederacy viewed Stuart as their chivalrous Knight-errant with his plumed hat and cape and fellow West Point classmate, Union Maj. General John Sedgwick called Stuart “the greatest cavalry officer ever foaled in America.”

On May 11th at the “Battle of Yellow Tavern” near Richmond, Virginia, General Jeb Stuart was mortally wounded by a dismounted Union private and shot through the side with a .44-caliber pistol. Stuart died the following evening in Richmond surrounded by friends and family. He was only thirty-one years old but had become one of the Confederacy’s most celebrated leaders.