Author: Thomas Cutrer

a professor of humanities, arts, and cultural studies at Arizona State University at the West campus in Glendale, Arizona

J. E. B. Stuart (1833–1864)

J. E. B. Stuart, popularly known by his nickname “Jeb,” was the chief of cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War (1861–1865). A Regular Army veteran who participated in the capture of John Brown at Harpers Ferry in 1859, Stuart fought well at the First Battle of Manassas (1861) but became a Confederate hero the following summer when he led 1,200 troopers in a famous ride around Union general George B. McClellan‘s Army of the Potomac. In particular, he was praised for his ability to gather intelligence and act as Robert E. Lee‘s “eyes and ears,” leading a second long ride later that year. At Chancellorsville (1863), Stuart temporarily led Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson‘s corps when both Jackson and A. P. Hill were wounded, and helped to push Joseph Hooker‘s forces back across the Rappahannock River. Stuart cultivated himself as the epitome of Virginia’s mythical Cavalier, sporting a long beard and a plumed hat. He enjoyed staging elaborate reviews like the two near Brandy Station, Virginia, in June 1863, which attracted many local women. The day after the second review, Stuart’s troopers fended off a surprise attack in the largest cavalry battle of the war, but soon after, another long ride around the Union army failed, hampering Lee’s intelligence at the Battle of Gettysburg (1863). Stuart was wounded at the Battle of Yellow Tavern and died one day later on May 12, 1864.


Popular Literature during the Civil War

With the formation of the Confederacy at the beginning of the American Civil War (1861–1865), the Southern literary establishment foresaw the dawning of a new literature. Southern audiences would no longer, in the words of the editor of the Richmond-based Southern Illustrated News, be compelled to read “the trashy productions of itinerant Yankees.” Instead, he predicted, the region would enjoy “Southern books, written by Southern gentlemen, printed on Southern type, and sold by Southern publishing houses.” And, indeed, by the end of 1862 that newspaper made the claim that the Richmond firm of West & Johnson had published more books from original manuscripts during the past year “than any firm in Yankee land.” Nevertheless, the output of belles letters in the Confederacy was what historian Elisabeth Muhlenfeld has characterized as “the perennial poor relation of Southern literature.”


Military Executions during the Civil War

More soldiers were executed during the American Civil War (1861–1865) than in all other American wars combined. Approximately 500 men, representing both North and South, were shot or hanged during the four-year conflict, two-thirds of them for desertion. The Confederate Articles of War (1861) specified that “all officers and soldiers who have received pay, or have been duly enlisted in the services of the Confederate States, and shall be convicted of having deserted the same, shall suffer death, or such other punishment as, by sentence of a court-martial, shall be inflicted.” The General Orders of the War Department (1861, 1862, 1863) directed that those men convicted of desertion were “to be shot to death with musketry, at such time and place as the commanding General may direct.”