Jeb Stuart: Lootin’, Shootin’, & Kickin’ Up Dust

Its not very often I read through my local newspaper. Aside from my news sources being mainly online, I only access a physical newspaper at work. Nevertheless, I skimmed through the “History” section of The News Star recently and came across a snippet about ole’ Jeb Stuart (or General James Ewell Brown Stuart of the Confederate States Army to be precise).

1862: During the Civil War, Confederate forces led by Gen. J.E.B. Stuart loot the town of Chambersburg, Pa. (Source: (2013, October 11). History. The News Star, p. 5A.)

After doing some followup to see if there was anything else significant about this recorded event, I decided to familiarize myself with Stuart’s story. I just had to, since the only other thing mentioned about this looting incident was that it was during a raid to the north following the Battle of Antietam.

J.E.B. Stuart

Christopher Plummer

Jeb Stuart

Jeb Stuart was a prominent figure in the American Civil War. Regardless of his looking like Christopher Plummer in The Sound of Music when he was younger (assessed upon their bold faces and square jawlines), Stuart proved an excellent reconnaissance cavalry leader who served with the likes of Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, even rocking the gnarliest beard of all three men!

Stuart first reported to Stonewall Jackson to take part in the infamous John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry. Hitting the ground running, Stuart kept his charge up, participating in famous campaigns such as the Shenandoah Valley, First & Second Battle of Bull Run, Gettysburg, etc.

My favorite story of ole’ Jeb is of him fooling the Union at the Battle of Second Manassas into believing that reinforcements had arrived. In actuality, Stuart had his men drag branches along dirt roads to kick up crazy dust clouds that apparently resembled incoming troops.

General Stuart not only served honorably alongside but also became dear friends with Robert E. Lee (and Stonewall Jackson), whom he first met during their years at West Point. Upon hearing about Stuart’s death, a day after the Battle of Yellow Tavern on May 12, 1864, Lee is quoted as saying, “I can scarcely think of him without weeping.” (Source: Gragg, Rod. The Civil War Quiz and Fact Book. Promontory Press, 1993. Print.)

Until next time, keep Riding on…

Photo Credits:

1: civilwaref.blogspot.com

2: allposters.com

3: biography.com

Are You Cussin’ Me!?

I regularly listen to the well-known podcast Stuff You Should Know (Check these guys out if you want a good chuckle).  As I was podcast “shopping” the other day, I stumbled upon another How Stuff Works affiliated podcast called Stuff You Missed In History Class.  I was really looking for a good go to Civil War podcast, which I found, but became interested in a short series SYMHC did on American Civil War spies.

The infamous Belle Boyd, or better known as “Belle Rebelle” and “Cleopatra of the Secession,” began spying at the young age of 17.  As I listened to this episode, I was fascinated by her story and the length she went to in order to gather information and relay it to the Confederacy.

Legend has it that a drunk Union soldier and his posse came into the Boyd house on July 4, 1861 (of all days!) searching for the presence of a suspected Confederate flag to confiscate and demanding that a Union flag be raised instead.  Belle’s mother protested saying, “Men, every member of this household will die before that flag is raised over us.” (Source: civilwarhome.com)  Knocking down Mrs. Boyd and cussin’ at the ladies, this “gentleman” done messed up now!

Belle, responding in fury, “took a Colt 1849 pocket pistol and shot him dead.” (Source: Opinionator)  She simply could no longer tolerate hearing profanities in the presence of ladies such as herself and her mother.  This is precisely what prompted Belle’s involvement in the Civil War as a spy.

Considered to be perhaps her greatest “achievement,” Belle assisted General Stonewall Jackson in the battle of Front Royal, part of Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign, with some timely info on May 23, 1862.  Sunbonnet in hand, Belle ran through Union lines, was then shot at by Union pickets in the battlefield, but finally made it through to the Rebel side.

Her corroborated information that the Union forces were smaller than expected was just the push Jackson and his men needed to swoop in and claim the victory that day.  Having risked her life and limbs, Stonewall was grateful of Belle’s efforts enough to write her personally:

 I thank you, for myself and for the Army, for the immense service that you have rendered your country today.

Hastily, I am your friend,
T.J. Jackson, C.S.A.

(Source: civilwarhome.com)

As I reflect on Belle Boyd’s gumption in using her womanly charm to obtain vital information from Union soldiers and bravery in maintaining open communiqué with the Rebs, I am speechless.  All I can say is, “Wow!  What a lady.  She must have been fierce.”  Please check out the links in this post to learn more about Belle Boyd.

Isabelle (Belle) Boyd

(Photo Credit: House Divided)

Until next time, Spy on…