Top 7 General J.E.B. Stuart Quotes

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

Final Thoughts

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.

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5 thoughts on “Top 7 General J.E.B. Stuart Quotes”

  1. I have to agree with Amy that it looks like this general was shortchanged as far as the history books and classes go. It certainly is worth the effort to read more about the generals you quote and the part they have had in the military history of the United States. I’m sure that we can learn not just from their successes but also from their mistakes as he quoted himself. That’s where some of our important learning takes place and certainly better to learn from their mistakes than to repeat them.

  2. As a member of a cavalry unit–even though I’m an infantryman–I am well acquainted with J. E. B. Stuart. He is one of the great cavalry commanders of U.S. military history and led the Confederate forces at Brandy Station, the largest cavalry engagement ever fought within the continental U.S. He drew criticism for his interpretation of admittedly ambiguous orders at Gettysburg, depriving Lee of the reconnaissance that is the cavalry’s foremost function and being defeated once he finally arrived during the second day of the battle by (of all people) Gen. George Custer, but he is still an admired figure.

    1. Daniel, since this article I’ve done some more reading on J.E.B. Stuart, and I think he gets short-changed in a lot of books and articles. He was very successful during the Civil War, in spite of some errors, which every great commander in history had to contend with. I think his errors got more attention and overshadowed his successes. I did not know that the orders at Gettysburg were admitted to being ambiguous–interesting how history gets slanted depending upon the author. He was an incredible motivator, and believed in his men.

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