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 Posted: Sat Nov 4th, 2006 01:28 pm
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MAubrecht
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PLENTY OF BLAME TO GO AROUND: JEB STUART'S CONTROVERSIAL RIDE TO GETTYSBURG
by Eric Wittenberg and J. David Petruzzi
Review by Michael Aubrecht, FLS Town&Country, 11/4/07 Civil War

Perhaps no other event recorded in the biography of America is as highly contested as the Civil War. Even today, military historians, enthusiasts and preservationists continue to disagree over the causes and effects of the conflict. This has inevitably left many of the united divided, for generation after generation. In some ways, you could say that the "war of public opinion" never ended, and it continues to rage on to this very day.

One of the more inexhaustible arguments stemming from the War Between the States involves Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and his untimely arrival at the Battle of Gettysburg in the summer of 1863. The quarrel, both then and now, revolves around the absence of his cavalry on the first day of fighting and the devastating results that followed.

In the days preceding the battle, Gen. Robert E. Lee and Stuart were not aware of each other's locations. The enemy blocked the horseman's direct route to the Confederate army, which was blindly advancing into Pennsylvania without the benefit of his service. For a 19th-century cavalryman, there was perhaps no greater sin.

For decades, military historians have speculated that Stuart's presence might have helped to prevent the fight in Adams County altogether. Some experts have proposed that the Confederate cavalry's invaluable reconnaissance, if done properly, would have enabled the Army of Northern Virginia to meet the Union army on ground of its own choosing. This might, or might not, have dramatically changed the outcome of the battle. Hindsight remains 20-20.

The dilemma over judging Stuart's performance provided the foundation for cavalry historians Eric Wittenberg and J.D. Petruzzi's latest offering, "Plenty of Blame to go Around: Jeb Stuart's Controversial Ride to Gettysburg." Noted individually for their expertise in the study and interpretation of both Union and Confederate cavalries, Wittenberg and Petruzzi have joined forces for one of the most detailed and comprehensive narratives ever written about Stuart's ride to Pennsylvania in June and July of 1863.

As an attorney in Ohio, Wittenberg is renowned for his meticulous research and unbiased analysis. His first book, "Gettysburg's Forgotten Cavalry Actions," won the prestigious 1998 Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award. Since then, he has published a library of work, specializing in the history of horse soldiers.

J. David Petruzzi is an insurance broker from Pennsylvania, who is also a noted American Civil War cavalry historian and author. His studies have appeared in the pages of Blue & Gray Magazine and The Gettysburg Magazine.

Both men are currently working on a three-volume study of the Union and Confederate cavalries in the Gettysburg Campaign that is slated to be published by Savas Beatie LLC.

As expected with historians of this caliber, "Plenty of Blame to go Around" is a monumental piece of writing and one of the most complete studies that this reviewer has ever had the pleasure of reading. Taking into account all of the previous works that have been published on this subject, it is immediately apparent that these authors have truly labored to present what I like to refer to as a "total package."

In fact, this is one of those rare instances when a book is able to satisfy even the most inquisitive reader. It is a delicate balance of education and entertainment that makes any history book worthwhile, and I doubt that anyone will be left feeling anything but fulfilled.

Beginning with a well-written foreword by historian and author Mark Grimsley, the story of the "Southern Knight" opens with a comprehensive hourly account of the events encompassing Stuart's mission. These include sporadic and unplanned engagements, which are complemented by multiple firsthand accounts from soldiers and civilians on both sides.

Immediately, readers are reminded of the misery and hardship that were unavoidable while on campaign and the overwhelming adversity that was faced by the Southern horsemen. Equal emphasis is devoted to the Federal cavalry and its own challenges while dealing with an invading army.

"Plenty of Blame" goes on to present a very fair and balanced account of the whirlwind of controversy that started just days after the defeat of the Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg. Included in this seemingly infinite paper trail are myriad action reports, field orders and multiple dissertations by Stuart's critics and defenders, as well as the cavalier's own explanation of the event.

Various interpretations from other books published on the subject are quoted throughout, and the authors offer their own conclusions as well, without forcing their theories on the reader.

One of the most interesting and original sections of this book is included in Appendix D, which features "A Driving Tour of Jeb Stuart's Ride to Gettysburg," complete with tour stops, directions and photographs. The authors actually went so far as to retrace Stuart's steps, and have shared their findings with readers who are inclined to do the same. It is a wonderful addition to any historical study, and I wish that more historians would follow this example.

In addition, both men are to be applauded for their conscious decision to embrace the participants often forgotten in studies of cavalry operations: the horses. It is easy to forget sometimes that for every trooper there was a mount that suffered along with its rider and required just as much care and attention along the way. This inclusion helps to put Stuart's ride in perspective and gives the reader a thorough understanding of what was required during the day-to-day operations of a Confederate cavalryman and his horse.

Above all, the supreme narrative of this work can be found in the extensive battle accounts leading up to Stuart's arrival in Gettysburg. In an interview conducted by Savas Beatie, Petruzzi was asked what it took to assemble such a detailed study. He said: "We collected many of the sources together and separately over the past 15 years or so. We employ a full-time researcher, and much of our own research is conducted at libraries, repositories, the National Archives and Library of Congress, and also the private collections of descendants and individuals."

His co-author added: "Like J.D., I was surprised by a lot of the material that surfaced during our research. Period newspapers proved to be an absolute treasure trove of great material, and we were both surprised that nobody had ever made effective use of these sources before we did."

When they had completed the book, both authors admitted, they had gained a stronger appreciation for the tribulations of Stuart's ride, its prominence in the battle and the available body of literature regarding the entire episode. They concluded: "If we cause just one person to reconsider his or her opinion in light of what we've done here, then we will have accomplished what we set out to do. Ultimately, we set out to challenge the reader, and we can only hope that we have managed to do so."

I believe that both Wittenberg and Petruzzi have accomplished their goal and left this one-time Stuart biographer with a newfound perspective on both the man and his mission. Anything but biased, "Plenty of Blame to go Around" presents a wealth of information and allows readers to judge for themselves. For more on this book, Eric Wittenberg and J. David Petruzzi, visit stuartsride.com.

MICHAEL AUBRECHT is a Civil War author and historian who lives in Spotsylvania County. For more information, visit his Web site at pinstripepress.net. Send e-mail to his attention to gwoolf@freelance star.com



 Posted: Sun Nov 5th, 2006 07:01 am
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Basecat
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Michael,

Excellent review.  I just finished the book last week, and highly concur with what you wrote.  Will just add that the maps included with the text add to the story, and helps the reader follow along in their ride to the battlefield at Gettysburg.

Hope all is well.

Regards from the Garden State,

Steve Basic



 Posted: Mon Nov 6th, 2006 03:45 pm
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David White
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I've got to get this book.

I noticed where David is going to be a guess in the next few weeks on the Civil War Talk Radio on the web.  Looking forward to that.



 Posted: Mon Nov 6th, 2006 07:41 pm
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Doc C
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David

I feel your pain.  Couldn't pick up the game on the east coast.  However, my tigers pulled it off at the end.

Doc C

 

 



 Posted: Mon Nov 6th, 2006 07:47 pm
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David White
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The sad thing is we should have won, the execution on the terrible play calling did us in.  Also losing 60 yards after recovering two fumbles that could have tied or put us ahead in the game was inexcusible.

We'll just have to take it out on the Cornhuskers this weekend. 



 Posted: Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 03:00 pm
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Johnny Huma
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Have Just finished this book.. I must say that it is enlightning and gives a great amount of detail as to what Stuart was doing and where he went with some logical reasoning for it all...The maps were great and a few more in there would have helped but I am not complaining. Well written and I would say this book was written as an informational tool as to what was going on and not to present what some like to class as a Lost Cause Theory book..One can read it and make up his own mind with the information the authors put forth which gets pretty detailed. The one thing in the whole book that brought a question to mind was that Stuart had sent information to Lee and to Richmond that the AOP was infact moveing..Richmond had the information but Lee never recieved it..I would have to think if the courrior who had the message for Lee never returned to Stuart and infact informed him  the message had been delivered that Stuart would have to assume the courrior never made it through and therefore had to know Lee never recieved the dispatch. Not sure he could have done anything at that point about it anyway as he would have been well on his trek northward. A good read and 5 star book...

Huma

 



 Posted: Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 11:31 pm
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Eric Wittenberg
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Johnny,

I won't speak for JD, but I am personally quite pleased to hear that you enjoyed the book, and I am likewise grateful for the kind words.

The question of what happened to that dispatch--why it didn't reach Lee--is one of the great mysteries of this situation, and one we will never know the answer to.  The logical conclusion is that the courier was captured, but there is no way to know for sure.  It makes one wonder wy the authorities in Richmond didn't take steps to insure that Lee had such critical intelligence, doesn't it?

It's one of the great "what if's" of the story.

Eric



 Posted: Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 11:34 pm
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susansweet
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Johnny  I have got to read this book.  thanks for your review  to add to the one that Michael had written earlier that was so informative. 

So many books so little time. 



 Posted: Thu Jan 4th, 2007 01:01 am
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Regina
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I just bought this book on Amazon and shipped it to my sister (she doesn't know yet).  She'll be coming to visit me in April so I'll make sure she reads it beforehand and brings it with her so I can read it too.  We both will definitely want to re-trace Stuart's ride when we're in Gettysburg this summer !  I can't wait !!  When I first heard the story that Stuart was riding around somewhere and it was very strange that Lee hadn't heard from him, my curiosity was piqued, to say the least.  I'm glad someone wrote about it.  Thanks.  (I also plan to trace John Brown's trail this summer--from the Kennedy Farm, to the armory in Harper's Ferry, to the spot in WV where he was hung, but that's another story although JEB Stuart was part of that, too).



 Posted: Thu Jan 4th, 2007 01:32 am
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Eric Wittenberg
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Regina,

I hope you find the book useful.

We had originally considered including the entire ride, from its beginning in Virginia, and ending in Gettysburg. The problem is that much of the route is lost to modern development, and there is no way to locate some events with precision. Nobody seems to have any idea where the skirmish between Stuart and the men of Scott's 900 occurred near Fairfax, as just one example, and it's quite likely that the actual spot is probably a a parking lot of some suburban sprawl shopping center. Nobody knows precisely where Stuart captured the wagon train at Rockville, either, and Rockville is now nothing but suburban sprawl. We also can't get across the Potomac at Rowser's Ford, and it was just too hard to try to map out a route to drive.

Consequently we start and end in Gettysburg, with a trip to Westminster and then on to Hanover, York, Carlisle, and finally Hunterstown before arriving in Gettysburg.

Fear not--even with the abbreviated tour, there's still plenty to see. :D

Enjoy.

Eric



 Posted: Thu Jan 4th, 2007 11:04 pm
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Regina
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I was just reading another Civil War blog that I linked to from CWI homepage called "Hoofbeats and Steel".  Under a post called something about the "elephant in the room", under the comments posted to that topic, someone mentioned that the battlefield in Hunterstown, PA is slated for new-home construction !!  Anyone know anything about this ??



 Posted: Fri Jan 5th, 2007 12:49 am
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Eric Wittenberg
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Regina,

That blog belongs to my co-author, JD Petruzzi.

For more on the threat to Hunterstown, see:

http://www.eveningsun.com/fastsearchresults/ci_4918971

This article comes from the Hanover Sun newspaper.

Eric



 Posted: Fri Jan 5th, 2007 03:42 am
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Mr Wittenburg,

I just finished reading your book "The Battle of Monroe's Crossroads and the Civil War's Final Campaign" today.  I couldn't put it down. I was reading it in the doctor's office and during TV ads and in the car.  Kilpatrick was such a character, but I really enjoyed learning about some of the other less well know officers in the book and even comments by enlisted men and local civilains.

Your description of the early morning raid on sleeping Federals and Lil Kil's mad half-dressed skedaddle for the safety of the swamp  made the action so vivid.

Some new favorites I "met" through your book are Colonel Charles Crews, Capt Alexander Shannon, Lt Colonel William Stough, Colonel Alfred Rhett and even "Alice." 

I have your "Rush's Lancers" which I look forward to reading.

 



 Posted: Fri Jan 5th, 2007 12:07 pm
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Eric Wittenberg
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Thank you so much for your kind words, Cleburne Fan. I'm very pleased to hear you enjoyed the book. That Monroe's story is a great one, isn't it? What amazes me is that it really hadn't been told previously.

Enjoy the Lancers. That was a great labor of love.

Eric



 Posted: Sat Jan 6th, 2007 11:16 pm
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Eric Wittenberg wrote: Thank you so much for your kind words, Cleburne Fan. I'm very pleased to hear you enjoyed the book. That Monroe's story is a great one, isn't it? What amazes me is that it really hadn't been told previously.

Enjoy the Lancers. That was a great labor of love.

Eric

I am mortified that I misspelled your name, an inexcusable slight. But I could learn from Kilpatrick and act as if it were a great victory with no casualties.:D



 Posted: Sun Jan 7th, 2007 04:04 am
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Eric Wittenberg
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No biggie, Cleburne Fan. I got used to having my name misspelled many, many years ago. :P

I'm just glad to hear you're enjoying my work.

Eric



 Posted: Sun Jan 7th, 2007 03:21 pm
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Regina
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Just wondering about something--the Union had cavalry under Buford, under Kilpatrick, and under Custer (at Gettysburg)--but the Confederates only had cavalry under Stuart??



 Posted: Sun Jan 7th, 2007 05:07 pm
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Eric Wittenberg
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Regina,

Let's be quite precise about this:

The Army of the Potomac had a Cavalry Corps under command of Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton, consisting of three divisions commanded by John Buford (1st Division), David M. Gregg (2nd Division) and Judson Kilpatrick (3rd Division--Custer commanded a brigade in Kilpatrick's division).

The Army of Northern Virginia had a single division of cavalry consisting of three brigades. The Cavalry Division was commanded by Maj. Gen. J. E. B. Stuart.

In addition, four more brigades of cavalry, which normally did not serve with the Army of Northern Virginia, accompanied Robert E. Lee's army into Pennsylvania. They were the brigades of William E. "Grumble" Jones, Beverly H. Robertson, John D. Imboden, and Albert G. Jenkins. These commands served under Stuart's command, but were not formally part of his division.

In September 1863, Lee ordered the formation of a formal Cavalry Corps structure for the Army of Northern Virginia. The Corps was organized into three divisions, all under Stuart's command. All seven of these brigades were incorporated into the corps. The three divisions were commanded by Maj. Gens. Wade Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee. The third division was temporarily commanded by a brigadier general. In early 1864, when he was exchanged for Brig. Gen. Neal Dow, newly-promoted and newly-returned former POW Maj. Gen. W. H. F. "Rooney" Lee, General Lee's second son, assumed command of the third division.

I hope that helps to clarify the situation for you.

Eric

Last edited on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 05:08 pm by Eric Wittenberg



 Posted: Sun Jan 7th, 2007 10:22 pm
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Regina
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Eric,  Hi, and yes, that gives me a frame of reference that I didn't have about the structure of the cavalry.  After reading about the battle at Gettysburg and touring areas of the battlefield I learned about the role of Buford's cavalry on 6/30 and 7/1.  I also had a park ranger-directed tour south of Round Top where Elan Farnsworth was killed in Kilpatrick's charge. (I particularly liked the statue of Wells from Vermont in that area).  I also drove around East Cavalry Battlefield where Custer fought Stuart.  What I'm saying is "have I missed something?"  I mean, was Confederate cavalry involved anywhere on the battlefield at Gettysburg?  Seems I've only been hearing of Union Cavalry involvement.



 Posted: Sun Jan 7th, 2007 11:00 pm
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Eric Wittenberg
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Regina,

Let me begin by correcting something you said: the fighting on East Cavalry Field was between Stuart and Gregg. Custer happened to be under David Gregg's command, but make no mistake about it: that was David McMurtry Gregg's fight, much more so than it was Custer's.

Having said that, you have to keep in mind that Stuart and three brigades didn't arrive at Gettysburg until very late in the afternoon on July 2. These three brigades, along with a portion of Jenkins' brigade, fought on East Cavalry Field on July 3.

Jenkins' brigade came to Gettysburg with Ewell's infantry on July 1, and it's quite likely that the first shots of the battle were actually exchanged between videttes of the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry and some of Jenkins' men leading Ewell's advance in the very early morning hours of July 1. However, Jenkins pretty much disappears at that point, and then gets pretty seriously wounded by a fragment of an artillery shell on July 2.

There were also about 100 men of the 1st South Carolina Cavalry that were with Longstreet's infantry on July 3rd, and fought against Merritt's dismounted cavalry on the South Cavalry Field that day.

That leaves three other brigades of Confederate cavalry unaccounted for. The blame for that lies in one place and one place only: Robert E. Lee. Lee did not call for Jones, Robertson, or Imboden to come to the battlefield until the morning of July 3, and none of them arrived in time to make a difference in the day's fighting. Jones (with some elements of Robertson) fought the 6th US Cavalry at Fairfield on the afternoon of July 3, and Imboden had the unenviable task of escorting the 17-mile-long wagon train of wounded Confederates to the Potomac River fords at Williamsport beginning on July 4.

In short, the Confederate cavalry really only played a role at East Cavalry Field. Lee made very poor use of his available horse soldiers, while Meade made very good use of his.

Eric



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