Stuarts death at Yellow Tavern

The controversy over Stuart's performance during the Gettysburg campaign tarnished the cavalryman's previously spotless reputation. But the dashing cavalryman did his best to ignore his critics. Instead, he became even more determined to whip his foes from the North.

In the months following the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg, Stuart and his cavalry continued to strike against Union positions. But by early 1864, Union armies were march ing all across the South. One of these armies was a force of ten thousand cavalrymen under the command of General Philip Sheridan (1831-1888; see entry). Sheridan wanted to stop Stuart once and for all. He immediately advanced on the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, confident that General Lee would send Stuart's cavalry to stop him.

Sheridan's prediction proved to be accurate. As his Union troops made their way toward Richmond, more than forty thousand Confederate cavalry under the command of Stuart tried to halt their advance. The two cavalry corps met in full battle on May 11, 1864, at Yellow Tavern, only six miles north of Richmond. As the battle wore on, a series of charges led by Union general George A. Custer threatened to collapse Stuart's defensive position. Stuart rode over to help hold the position, only to be shot in the stomach by a Union soldier. Stuart's cavalry quickly retreated from Yellow Tavern and carried their commander into Richmond, where he died the next day.

Stuart's stand at Yellow Tavern had stopped Sheridan's advance on Richmond. But his death was a serious blow to the Confederate Army, as Lee himself admitted. "The commanding general announces to the army with heartfelt sorrow the death of Major General J. E. B. Stuart," proclaimed Lee on May 20. "The mysterious hand of an all-wise God has removed him from the scene of his usefulness and fame. To his comrades in arms, he has left the proud recollection of his deeds and the inspiring influence of his example."

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