James Ewell Brown Stuart, known to friends and fellow servicemen as Jeb, came from an acclaimed military lineage. His great grandfather, Major Alexander Stuart, commanded a regiment in the Revolutionary War, and his father Archibald Stuart fought in the War of 1812 before serving as a Commonwealth and U.S. Representative.
Stuart resigned from the United States army in May of 1861 to join the Confederacy following Virginia's secession, despite his father in law choosing to remain in the US Army for the engagement.
Widely considered the most famous cavalryman of the Civil War, General James Ewell Brown J.E.B. Stuart was a larger- than-life hero of the Confederacy, strategizing many successful campaigns against the Union. And much of his strategic maneuvering was done in and around the area of Fairfax County, Virginia.
- The Battle of Brandy Station, the largest cavalry battle of the war, in which Stuart was surprised by Federal troops. This battle marked the end of Confederate cavalry dominance and foreshadowed Stuart's Gettysburg campaign difficulties.
- Stuart's Christmas Raid. A sweeping movement through the region led Stuart to Burke's Station where he sent his famous telegram to Union Quartermaster General Meigs complaining of the poor quality of the Union mules he had just captured.
- Catlett's Station. Aside from gathering intelligence that would help General Robert E. Lee gain a significant victory at Second Manassas/Bull Run, Stuart also had his "revenge" for a hat that had been stolen from him a few days earlier.
- Laura Ratcliffe. Confederate spy and local beauty, had an admirer in General Stuart. A fabulous book by a local author/historian details their relationship.
- Graffiti House. Stuart's signature appears amidst the soldier's graffiti on the walls of this Confederate field house.
From the Battle of Lewinsville and the Battle of Dranesville to the Union embarrassment known as the Buckland Races, J.E.B. Stuart left his mark throughout the Civil War sites of Fairfax County and the Capital Region.
In spite of Stuart's brilliant reputation (or perhaps because of it), his performance during the Gettysburg Campaign has been the subject much debate and controversy. Prior to 1863 the Federal mounted arm had been repeatedly embarrassed by Stuart's seemingly invincible cavaliers. But as the war entered its third summer, that perception would begin to change. At Brandy Station, despite holding the field for the South, Stuart failed to detect the movements of the Union cavalry that would eventually instigate the attack. Just a month later, Stuart's cavalry fell out of touch with headquarters in the days leading up to Gettysburg, and left Lee and his fellow commanding officers with little to no intelligence in unfamiliar enemy territory. Stuart finally arrived late on the second day and the following day was repulsed by Union cavalry gaining no ground there.
Stuart's final battle in the war would be Yellow Tavern on the outskirts of Richmond, the Confederate Capital, and his command there was credited with saving Richmond from the Union Major General Philip Sheridan and his cavalry. Stuart was shot by a dismounted Union cavalryman with a pistol, and the wound proved to be fatal.