Year of Desperate Struggle: Jeb Stuart and His Cavalry, from Gettysburg to Yellow Tavern, 1863-1864, Monte Akers


Year of Desperate Struggle: Jeb Stuart and His Cavalry, from Gettysburg to Yellow Tavern, 1863-1864, Monte Akers

This book follows on from Year of Glory, which looked at Jeb Stuart's most successful year, a period in which he achieved great success as a cavalry leader, most famously riding around McClellan's army, and was hugely popular across the Confederacy.

This year falls into three uneven segments. The first covers the Gettysburg campaign in the summer of 1863, perhaps the point at which Stuart's reputation began to suffer after his ride around the Union army left Lee without his most able cavalry commander during the key parts of the campaign. Second came the long period of stalemate and failed campaigns that followed Gettysburg (including the Bristoe and Mine Run campaigns, failed Union offensives). The third and final was also the shortest, and covers the first two weeks of Grant's overland campaign. Although this campaign went on across the summer of 1864, Stuart was mortally wounded at Yellow Tavern on 11 May 1864, and died two days later.

The Gettysburg period is the most controversial in Stuart's career. Akers looks at a number of key questions here – did Stuart have Lee's permission for his ride around the rear of the Union armies, how well did he perform during the raid itself, and what impact did it have on the Gettysburg campaign.

One of Akers' arguments is that Stuart was less content than in the earlier period. He was denied a promotion he believed he deserved, some of his military endeavours were less successful than in the past, and critical voices were raised against him in the Confederacy. The 'military family' that he had built up in the previous year slowly broke apart, and the war was clearly turning against the Confederacy.

Between them these two books form a satisfying military biography of Stuart. Any discussion of the rights or wrongs of the Confederate cause is limited to the introduction (the author's view is essentially that Stuart is an impressive figure despite serving such a bad cause).


1 - Out of the Frying Pan and Into Hell, Morning, June 24, 1863
2 - The Wayward Road to Gettysburg, June 24 to July 1, 1863
3 - East Cavalry Field and the Retreat to Virginia, July 2-14, 1863
4 - Return to the Bower, July 15-August 25, 1863
5 - Season of Sparring, August 27-October 9, 1863
6 - The Bristoe Campaign and the Buckland Races, October 9-22, 1863
7 - Camp Wigwam and the Mine Run Campaign, October 23-November 30, 1863
8 - The Hard Winter of 1863-64, December 1, 1863 to February 21, 1864
9 - The Dahlgren Affair and the Federal Army Coils, February 22 to April 30, 1864
10 - Grant Launches Total War, from the Wilderness to Yellow Tavern, May 1-11, 1864
11 - And God's Will Was Done, May 11-13, 1864
12 - The World Without Heb Stuart, After May 13, 1864

Author: Monte Akers
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 2015
Publisher: Casemate

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