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Though hardly as showy as the Yankee General Custer, Confederate Major General "Jeb" Stuart represented much of what was most dashing in the bold cavaliers of the South. His short jacket, buttoned back in the Revolutionary War style to show its buff facings, the ostrich plume in his hat, the gleaming black high-topped boots were all the trademark of the officer that friends called "Beauty." Most elegant of all were his whiskers, and the merry twinkle in his eyes that everyone around him noted. Carrying his heavy dragoon saber and his Le Mat pistol, Stuart could always be found in the middle of the action on any field of battle. Only death from a mortal wound at Yellow Tavern could stop him, and his absence left a permanent gap at the once-merry campfires of the cavalry corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. Even his personal banjo player is said never to have sounded quite the same again.

Stuart's absence during the initial stages of the Battle of Gettysburg has always been controversial. When he should have been acting as Lee's eyes and ears, he was off on a pointless raid that gained nothing and may have helped cost Lee the battle. But that was an aberration in Stuart, who more than once let the glee of taking and returning with captured goods distract him from his primary cavalry mission. He was without doubt unfailingly courageous and selfless, and whatever hardships his men suffered, he shared as well. Thus it was that he was in the thick of the fighting with them at Yellow Tavern, Virginia, on May 11, 1864, when a Federal trooper fired a .44 pistol ball into his right side. Twenty-seven hours later he died in Richmond, having braved every danger to which he had exposed his men.

Battle Yellow Tavern

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