Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

Chapter VI: The Winter of 1863-4: Death of General Stuart

The Document

In this fight General Stuart fell mortally wounded, and he died the next day in Richmond. The death of our noted cavalry leader was a great blow to our cause--a loss second only to that of Jackson.

Captain W. Gordon McCabe writes me:

"I was sitting on my horse very near to General Lee, who was talking to my colonel, William Johnson Pegram, when a courier galloped up with the despatch announcing that Stuart had been mortally wounded and was dying. General Lee was evidently greatly affected, and said slowly, as he folded up the despatch, 'General Stuart has been mortally wounded: a most valuable and able officer.' Then, after a moment, he added in a voice of deep feeling 'HE NEVER BROUGHT ME A PIECE OF FALSE INFORMATION'--turned and looked away. What praise dearer to a soldier's heart could fall from the lips of the commanding general touching his Chief of Cavalry! These simple words of Lee constitute, I think, the fittest inscription for the monument that is soon to be erected to the memory of the great cavalry leader of the 'Army of Northern Virginia.'"

In a letter from my father to my mother, dated Spottsylvania Court House, May 16th, he says:

"...As I write I am expecting the sound of the guns every moment. I grieve over the loss of our gallant officers and men, and miss their aid and sympathy. A more zealous, ardent, brave, and devoted soldier than Stuart the Confederacy cannot have. Praise be to God for having sustained us so far. I have thought of you very often in these eventful days. God bless and preserve you."

General Lee, in his order announcing the death of Stuart, thus speaks of him:

"...Among the gallant soldiers who have fallen in this war, General Stuart was second to none in valour, in zeal, and in unflinching devotion to his country. His achievements form a conspicuous part of the history of this army, with which his name and services will be forever associated. To military capacity of a high order and to the noble virtues of the soldier he added the brighter graces of a pure life, guided and sustained by the Christian's faith and hope. The mysterious hand of an all-wise God has removed him from the scene of his usefulness and fame. His grateful countrymen will mourn his loss and cherish his memory. To his comrades in arms he has left the proud recollections of his deeds and the inspiring influence of his example."

Speaking of the operations around Spottsylvania Court House, Swinton, the historian of the Army of the Potomac, says:

"Before the lines of Spottsylvania, the Army of the Potomac had for twelve days and nights engaged in a fierce wrestle in which it had done all that valour may do to carry a position by nature and art impregnable. In this contest, unparalleled in its continuous fury, and swelling to the proportions of a campaign, language is inadequate to convey an impression of the labours, fatigues, and sufferings of the troops, who fought by day, only to march by night, from point to point of the long line, and renew the fight on the morrow. Above forty thousand men had already fallen in the bloody encounters of the Wilderness and Spottsylvania, and the exhausted army began to lose its spirits. It was with joy, therefore, that it at length turned its back upon the lines of Spottsylvania."

General Long, in his "Memoirs of General Lee," speaking of our army at this time, says:

"In no previous operations did the Army of Northern Virginia display higher soldierly qualities. Regardless of numbers, every breach was filled, and, with unparalleled stubbornness, its lines were maintained. The soldiers of that army not only gratified their countrymen, but by their gallantry and vigour won the admiration of their enemies. Whenever the men in blue appeared they were met by those in gray, and muzzle to muzzle and point to point they measured their foeman's strength."

Next: General Lee's illness

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How to cite this article

Lee, Robert E. jr., The Recollections & Letters of Robert E. Lee, http://www.historyofwar.org/sources/acw/lee_letters/chapter06g, webpage created by Rickard, J (8 June 2006),

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