There have been a number of past books on J.E.B. Stuart, the vaunted Confederate cavalry commander who made such an impact on the Civil War in Virginia and Maryland, and whose exploits in Pennsylvania during the Gettysburg Campaign terrorized a generation of Keystoners.
Stuart and his cavaliers in many ways have become larger than life, a reputation which began during the war with Southern media coverage. Newspapers, magazines, poets, and even songwriters extolled Stuart’s virtues. His death in 1864 following a mortal wound at Yellow Tavern was widely lamented throughout the South.
Now comes a new book from Casemate Publishers from Texas author and attorney Monte Akers, Year of Glory: The Life and Battles of Jeb Stuart and His Cavalry, June 1862-June 1863.
Akers covers the period from the late spring of 1862 through the opening movements of the Gettysburg Campaign, a period in which the author claims that “Stuart’s reputation was made.”He covers, almost on a daily basis, Stuart’s movements, his battles, his relationships with his subordinates and men, his letters to his wife Flora, and his perception from his soldiers and the press.
Among the most worthwhile parts of this book is a short, but interesting section of color photographs of relics and artifacts from Stuart’s life, many of which have not commonly appeared in previous biographies and treatises on the general.
Monte Akers ends the book a couple weeks after the Battle of Brandy Station, just as Stuart embarks on his controversial ride around the Union army, a trek which saw the Virginia cavalier meandering with his men through rural York County, Pa. for two days while the opposing armies collided at Gettysburg. Akers does not cover the ride itself or Stuart’s performance at Gettysburg or in the subsequent retreat, remarking that “historians, Civil War students, novelists, poets, and lyricists would analyze, debate, defend, castigate, and try to explain Stuart’s actions between June 24 and July 2, 1863.”
To his credit, Akers does not rehash or try to reinterpret any of those actions. Instead he writes, “…Jeb Stuart’s year of greatest glory ended on June 24, 1863, and that what afterward began has forever linked his name less with glory than with a significant reason the South lost the war. He would win more victories and would occupy a position in the hearts of Southerners nearly equal to that of Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee, but his reputation would forever bear a dark, lusterless stain.”
Akers’ writing style is crisp, and his narrative flows well. The book certainly could use many more maps, but it’s an easy read. The new book is available on Tower Books and amazon.com.
- Hardcover: 392 pages, annotated and illustrated
- Publisher: Casemate (September 2012)
- ISBN-13: 978-1612001302