J.E.B. Stuart’s June 1863 Raid into the North

From Observation Tower at Oak Ridge, Gettysburg Battlefield

Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart left Salem Depot with three brigades on June 25, 1863, at 1 a.m. Brig. General Fitzhugh Lee, Brig. General Wade Hampton, and Colonel John R. Chambliss led the brigades.

Captain John Esten Cooke, Stuart’s chief of ordnance, wrote of his experiences on the raid. Stuart shouted orders to “Ho! for the Valley!” while in the villagers’ hearing. Once out of sight, he changed course to head eastward. They bivouacked under pine trees that night. The following evening, they skirted around Union General Hooker’s rear force in Manassas.

The cavalry passed abandoned cabins and debris near Fairfax Station where they must have found supplies because Captain Cooke laughed to recall that every Southerner wore a white straw hat and snowy cotton gloves. A bale of smoking tobacco or drum of figs rested on the pommel of every soldier’s saddle. They held ginger cakes.

Each cavalry man held aloft a case, shell, or solid shot with fixed cartridge when crossing the Potomac River on June 28th at 3 a.m. to keep the ammunition dry.

As Stuart’s cavalry approached Rockville, Maryland, from the south, a Federal wagon train of nearly 200 wagons entered from the east. The new and freshly painted wagons, each drawn by six sleek mules, stretched out for miles. Stuart’s men chased the fleeing wagons and captured them within sight of Washington D.C. Cooke believed he saw the dome of the Capitol.

Stuart captured Union prisoners, set fire to some of the wagons, and seized the rest of them.

The Southerners reached Brookville that night, where beautiful girls fed them from baskets filled with cakes, meat, and bread. They offered huge pitchers of iced water. Stuart paroled hundreds of the wagon train prisoners at Brookville before riding on.

On June 29th, Stuart’s men arrived at Westminster. They clashed with Union cavalry and chased them along the Baltimore road, causing Baltimore citizens to panic.

They left Westminster and bivouacked in the rain. They reached Pennsylvania the next day.

Stuart’s cavalry scattered Union Brig. General Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry near Hanover. Kilpatrick rallied and drove the Southerners out of town.

Still traveling with a long wagon train they confiscated, Cooke writes that they “rode, rode, rode” perhaps all night because he does not mention them camping. They paroled more prisoners at Dover, which they reached around sunrise.

On the evening of July 1st, Stuart’s cavalry arrived at the Federal army post of Carlisle. A short assault ended when General Lee ordered Stuart to Gettysburg. He arrived there on the afternoon of July 2nd, the second day of the famous battle.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

Gragg, Rod. The Illustrated Gettysburg Reader: An Eyewitness History of The Civil War’s Greatest Battle, Regnery History, 2013.

“J.E.B. Stuart,” A&E Television Networks, LLC, 2017/05/03 http://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/j-e-b-stuart.

“J.E.B. Stuart,” Wikipedia, 2017/05/03 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._E._B._Stuart.

 

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