Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ride Around McClellan

J. E. B. Stuart
On June 10th Lee called JEB Stuart, his cavalry commander, to meet with him at his headquarters. Stuart was a brilliant young officer who had served in Virginia since the beginning of the war. He was known for his bravery and dash in brilliant engagements against the Federals. Now Lee was looking for a way to defeat the army of George B. McClellan, who was facing him just outside Richmond. McClellan's army was divided by the Chickahominy River, and Lee wanted his cavalry to examine the Federal right to get more information about its situation. Stuart asked if he could ride completely around McClellan, and Lee did not forbid it at once. The next day he sent these orders:
You are desired to make a secret movement to the rear of the enemy, now posted on Chickahominy, with a view of gaining intelligence of his operations, communications, &c.; of driving his foraging parties, and securing such grain, cattle, &c., for yourselves as you can make arrangements to have driven in. Another object is to destroy his wagon trains, said to be daily passing.... The utmost vigilance on your part will be necessary to prevent any surprise to yourself, and the greatest caution must be practiced in keeping well in your front and flanks reliable scouts to give you information. You will return as soon as the object of your expedition is accomplished, and you must bear constantly in mind, while endeavoring to execute the general purpose of your mission, not to hazard unnecessarily your command or attempt what your judgment may not approve; but be content to accomplish all the good you can without feeling it necessary to obtain all that might be desired.
Stuart picked his best units, 1,200 men in all. He awakened his staff at 2 am on June 12th, the next day. “Gentlemen,” he said, “in ten minutes, every man must be in the saddle.” The cavalry was soon moving. They rode 22 miles north, camping along the South Anna River. The raid would truly begin the next day.


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