It was on this date of June 15, 1862 that the bulk of J.E.B. Stuart’s Confederate cavalry completed their daring 150-mile round trip reconnaissance ride around McClellan’s Army of the Potomac.
This daring venture began on the 12th when Lee gave permission to Stuart to not merely gain intelligence about McClellan’s right flank north of Richmond, but to completely encircle the enemy. Lee was familiar with the flamboyant cavalryman from both his (Lee’s) time as Superintendent at West Point and from Stuart’s presence with Lee in the matter of dealing with the John Brown Raid in Harper’s Ferry in 1859.
Among those riding with Stuart were Fitz Lee and Rooney Lee – the nephew and son of Robert E. Lee. To make it even more of a “family reunion” adventure, the Confederate cavalrymen also skirmished with Union cavalry forces of Philip St. George Cooke – Stuart’s father-in-law.
Other adventures on the ride included an effort to stop a Union supply (rail) train at Tunstall’s Station on the York River Railroad. They assembled a hasty wood barricade where the engineer, rather than stopping, applied more speed and successfully plowed through the obstacle – though being shot dead while so doing. Stuart’s men also constructed a temporary bridge across the swollen Chickahominy, burning it behind them.
The information gained on this venture was significant for Lee in fashioning the strategy and attacks that would drive McClellan from the threshold of Richmond.
The press – both north and south – had a heyday reporting and recounting this adventure that gave rise to Stuart’s reputation … that arguably returned to haunt him in the Gettysburg Campaign.