During the first year of the Civil War, Stuart became known to friend and enemy alike as one of the South's top cavalry commanders. Most of the cavalrymen under his command had grown up in rural areas, where they had learned to ride horses and shoot rifles at an early age. But few of them had any military training or background, so Stuart spent a great deal of time training them to operate together as a unit. "I regard it as a foregone [unavoidable] conclusion that we should ultimately whip the Yankees," Stuart stated around this time. "We are bound to believe that anyhow, but the war is going to be a long and terrible one first. We've only just begun it and very few of us will see the end. All I ask of fate is that I may be killed leading a cavalry charge."
By the summer of 1861, Stuart's cavalry was ready for war. In mid-July, large Union and Confederate armies confronted each other outside Manassas, Virginia, in the First Battle of Bull Run. Following the orders of Confederate general P. G. T. Beauregard (1818-1893; see entry), Stuart fooled one Union army into staying away from the battlefield. He then rushed his cavalry into the thick of the battle, where they helped push the Union Army into panicked retreat. Stuart's cavalry thus proved vital in delivering a big Confederate victory in the first significant battle of the Civil War.
Over the next several months, the reputation of Stuart and his cavalry continued to grow. They showed that they had a talent for conducting raids on Union railroads and sup
ply centers. In addition, Stuart's cavalrymen proved to be very good spies. They tracked Union Army movements with such great skill that rebel (Confederate) military leaders were able to avoid many surprise attacks from the North. Stuart's reports also helped Confederate leaders plan effective attacks on Union military positions.
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