A Life of Robert E Lee Part 2 Ch 05


Manage episode 309754237 series 3039479
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A LIFE OF GEN. ROBERT E. LEE.BY JOHN ESTEN COOKE. ''Duty is the sublimest word in our language.'' ''Human virtue should be equal to human calamity.'' LEE. 1876 PART II.IN FRONT OF RICHMOND.V. Stuart's ''Ride around McClellan'' General James E.B. Stuart, who now made his first prominent appearance upon the theatre of the war, was a Virginian by birth, and not yet thirty years of age. Resigning his commission of lieutenant in the United States Cavalry at the beginning of the war, he had joined Johnston in the Valley, and impressed that officer with a high opinion of his abilities as a cavalry officer proceeded thence to Manassas, where he charged and broke a company of ''Zouave'' infantry protected the rear of the army when Johnston retired to the Rappahannock, and bore an active part in the conflict on the Peninsula. In person he was of medium height his frame was broad and powerful he wore a heavy brown beard flowing upon his breast, a huge mustache of the same color, the ends curling upward and the blue eyes, flashing beneath a ''piled-up'' forehead, had at times the dazzling brilliancy attributed to the eyes of the eagle. Fond of movement, adventure, bright colors, and all the pomp and pageantry of war, Stuart had entered on the struggle with ardor, and enjoyed it as the huntsman enjoys the chase. Young, ardent, ambitious, as brave as steel, ready with jest or laughter, with his banjo-player following him, going into the hottest battles humming a song, this young Virginian was, in truth, an original character, and impressed powerfully all who approached him. One who knew him well wrote: ''Every thing striking, brilliant, and picturesque, seemed to centre in him. The war seemed to be to Stuart a splendid and exciting game, in which his blood coursed joyously, and his immensely strong physical organization found an arena for the display of all its faculties. The affluent life of the man craved those perils and hardships which flush the pulses and make the heart beat fast. He swung himself into the saddle at the sound of the bugle as the hunter springs on horseback and at such moments his cheeks glowed and his huge mustache curled with enjoyment. The romance and poetry of the hard trade of arms seemed first to be inaugurated when this joyous cavalier, with his floating plume and splendid laughter, appeared upon the great arena of the war in Virginia.'' Precise people shook their heads, and called him frivolous, undervaluing his great ability. Those best capable of judging him were of a different opinion. Johnston wrote to him from the west: ''How can I eat or sleep in peace without _you_ upon the outpost?'' Jackson said, when he fell at Chancellorsville: ''Go back to General Stuart, and tell him to act upon his own judgment, and do what he thinks best, I have implicit confidence in him.'' Lee said, when he was killed at Yellow Tavern: ''I can scarcely think of him without weeping.'' And the brave General Sedgwick, of the United States Army, said: ''Stuart is the best cavalry officer ever _foaled_ in North America!''