Sunday, October 20, 2013

October 19, 1863 (Wednesday): Lee Congratulates Stuart

General J. E. B. Stuart

October 19, 1863.
Major General J. E. B. STUART,
Commanding Cavalry Corps:
    GENERAL: Your note announcing your victory over General Kilpatrick, by your combined divisions, has been received. I congratulate you and your officers and men on this handsome success. The plan was well conceived and skillfully executed. It is not my design for you to advance or to cross the Potomac, but to withdraw on the line formerly designated, when you think it advantageous to do so. I have ordered the iron from the railroad for some miles north of the Rappahannock to be hauled to the river. I desire you, while this operation continues, to have a brigadier near the railroad, with pickets at Catlett's, in order to give the working parties and wagons notice of any advance of the enemy's cavalry, and to cover their movements as much as possible. Be sure, also, to send back, at once, any stragglers from the infantry whom you may find in the country north of the Rappahannock.
    I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 29, Part 2, Page 725.

Lee's notes congratulating Stuart are a staple of the Official Records.  Stuart's independence as cavalry commander afforded him and his troops ample opportunity for recognition.  In this instance Lee gives Stuart the task of destroying railroad lines which would be useful to the Union army in the event Meade were to advance.  We are now nearing the end of October and any delay, including that caused by the destruction of rail ties, could materially delay an advance.  Lee ultimately accomplished more by tearing up railroad track in Northern Virginia than he would have by making an advance back across the Potomac.  It appears from this correspondence Stuart had in mind a repeat of his raid on Chambersburg.  But the Army of Northern Virginia would not again during the war cross the Potomac. 

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