J.E.B. Stuart: The Soldier and the Man

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Edward G. Longacre
Pub Date:
February 2024
Illus., notes, biblio., index. HC, d.j. 504pp.


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About the book

Fifteen years have passed since the publication of the last full-length biography of Jeb Stuart. Several have appeared during the last century, each lauding his contributions to Confederate fortunes in the Eastern Theater. These studies follow a familiar postwar tradition established by hero-worshipping subordinates portraying its subject as a model of chivalric conduct with a romantic’s outlook on life and a sense of fair dealing and goodwill, even toward his enemy. J. E. B. Stuart: The Soldier and the Man, by award-winning author Edward Longacre, is the first balanced, fully detailed, and thoroughly scrutinized life of the Civil War’s most famous cavalryman.

Major General James Ewell Brown Stuart of Virginia, long known to scholars and history buffs alike as “The Beau Sabreur of the Confederacy,” was possessed of many gifts, personally and professionally, and led the Army of Northern Virginia’s cavalry arm to the all-but-complete satisfaction of his superiors. Stuart, insisted Gen. Robert E. Lee, “never brought me a piece of false information.” Being human, however, Stuart also underperformed. On more than a few occasions he underestimated his opponents, took unnecessary risks with his habitually understrength command, failed to properly discipline and motivate his troopers, and was prone to errors both strategic and tactical.

These flaws were especially evident during the Gettysburg Campaign (June-July 1863), when his wayward path to the battlefield deprived Lee of the ability to negotiate safely his path toward a climactic confrontation with the Union Army of the Potomac. Because of the cavalryman’s outsized reputation gained during the war—one embellished in the century and a half since—most of these errors have gone virtually unnoticed or, when addressed, have been excused in some fashion.

Longacre’s study—based on hundreds of published works, archival sources, and newspapers—probes not only Stuart’s military career but elements of his character and personality that invite investigation. Even the man’s fiercest partisans admitted that he was vain and inordinately sensitive to criticism, with a curious streak of immaturity—at times the hard-edged veteran, at other times a devotee of the pageantry of war, given to affectations such as ostrich-plumed hats, golden spurs, and the headquarters musicians who accompanied him on the march. Ever motivated by appeals to vanity, he curried the patronage of powerful men and responded readily to the attentions of attractive women even though by 1861 a long-married man.

Personal flaws and limitations aside, he was ever popular with his officers and men, beloved by members of his staff, and considered by the people of his state and region the beau ideal of Confederate soldiery. The distinction endures today. Longacre’s J.E.B. Stuart is an attempt to determine its validity.


"...a solid work of meticulous scholarship based on impressively extensive research. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented..." - Midwest Book Review

Edward G. Longacre is a retired historian for the Department of Defense. He is the recipient of a Ph.D. from Temple University and taught military history at the University of Nebraska and the College of William and Mary. Ed is the author of thirty books, all but one of which cover the Civil War. The Cavalry at Gettysburg won the Fletcher Pratt Award, his biography of Wade Hampton III, Gentleman and Soldier, received the Douglas Southall Freeman Award, and his study of First Bull Run, The Early Morning of War, was the recipient of the Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr., Literary Prize. He lives with his wife, two dogs, three cats, and a Sulcada tortoise in Newport News, Virginia, on ground maneuvered over during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign.