James Ewell Brown aka J.E.B. Stuart was born February 6, 1833 at Laurel Hill Farm in Patrick County, Virginia, into a distinguished lineage that included the distinguished military service of Major Alexander Stuart; Federal Judge and speaker of the house in Missouri, John Alexander; and lawyer, soldier and state representative of Virginia, Archibald Stuart. J.E.B. continued the family tradition of attending college, and then received an appointment to West Point Military Academy, graduating in 1854. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant later that same year and assigned to Fort Davis, Texas, but was soon transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Stuart met and married Flora, daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Philip St. George Cooke, who would become his rival during the Civil War.
Stuart’s initiation into active duty began with operations on the frontier against Native American Indians. In 1859, he invented a new sabre hook which was approved by the United States Army, and, while in Washington to sign a contract with the government, he volunteered as Robert E. Lee’s aide and was instrumental in securing the South’s victory at Harper’s Ferry. When Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, he resigned his commission to join the Confederate Army as a lieutenant colonel in the Virginia Infantry. From there, J.E.B. Stuart became well-known for his successful military campaigns, particularly for reconnaissance missions, until towards the end of the war, when several efforts fell short of success. Stuart was seriously wounded by a bullet to the side during the Battle of Yellow Tavern, just outside of Richmond, on May 11, 1864. He was taken to Richmond for medical help, but died one day later. He was buried in the Hollywood Cemetery.
In spite of his questionable performance towards the end of the war, J.E.B. Stuart was known particularly by his soldiers, as a great leader and a man of good judgment, led by “his confidence in the mercy of heaven unfailing.” A number of memorable J.E.B. Stuart quotes are recorded in historical material, and below are seven that I consider notable.
#7 “I am going fast now, I am resigned. God’s will is done.”
These are Stuart’s final words on his deathbed. His reliance on God was evident, and he clearly accepted his death with peace.
#6 “I would rather be a private in Virginia’s army than a general in any army that was going to coerce her.”
Stuart was fiercely loyal to Virginia and her army. Right or wrong, he was solid in his beliefs and stood by them completely.
#5 “I would not have been worthy of the name Stuart had I arrived here safely and without losing or forgetting something.”
Stuart took his heritage seriously. With that heritage came certain responsibilities, and being prepared was one. This comment also illustrates one way in which Stuart emulated good leadership skills, skills he later carried to the battlefield.
#4 “…it is a great place in every respect—great for the facilities for education—as studying human nature, learning the ways of the world and for straightening the form.”
Stuart was describing West Point here, and he voiced his appreciation not only for the institution itself, but also for education. He absorbed all of it, and viewed his opportunity at West Point as a complete education, academic and otherwise.
#3 “For my part, I have no hesitancy from the first that, right or wrong, alone or otherwise, I go with Virginia.”
Stuart was decisive, and not afraid to go against the popular vote if need be. So committed was he, that he did not hesitate to stand on opposite sides with his father-in-law, a prospect that would have caused some to cower.
#2 “I would like to be with you Dearest this dreary winter’s night. Do think of your old stove these cold nights.”
This could have been a way of wishing his wife well, hoping she stays warm; however, it strikes me more as a gentle reminder of remaining faithful to him. Separation is always hard on a married couple, and the possibilities were the same back then as they are now. Stuart was a very intelligent man, and recognized possible outcomes to situations, on a professional and a personal level.
#1 “You’ve got it kid! Give it to them!”
Stuart shouted this in enthusiasm to a young artillery officer at the Battle of Chancellorsville. He was determined to prevail, and his shouted words of encouragement to the young officer were simple and, I am sure, effective.
J.E.B. Stuart Tribute Video
J.E.B. Stuart was an interesting character of our nation’s past, and I encourage you to read more about him. If you have other quotes to add to this collection, I would love to hear from you. Please share them in the comments.