The Early and Stuart controversy
I will present over time some opposing views on whether J.E.B. Stuart or Jubal Early was at fault concerning missing their planned rendezvous in York on June 30, 1863, the day before the Battle of Gettysburg began. Stuart of course has been widely castigated for his supposed joy ride around the Army of the Potomac, but, as authors Eric J. Wittenberg and J. D. Petruzzi have pointed out in their landmark book Plenty of Blame to Go Around: J.E.B. Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg, Stuart must share some of the blame with several others, including Old Jube.
One of the earliest non-military commentators on the Stuart-Early controversy was a Chambersburg author and eyewitness to the Rebel occupation, a merchant named Jacob Hoke.
Here is his commentary from just after the war from his book, The Great Invasion…
When at Hanover, Stuart was but twelve miles from Gettysburg, and fourteen from York. Ignorant of the concentration of the Confederate army at the first named place, and expecting to unite with Early at York, as he says General Lee directed, and unaware that Early was then en route from that place to Gettysburg, he pressed on further northward, crossing the tracks of both [Elijah V.] White’s battalion of cavalry [on what is now Route 30] and Early’s whole division [which used a combination of East Berlin Road, Canal Road, and Davidsburg Road to head for East Berlin], and yet failed to ascertain the departure of these troops, or the course they had taken.
Had he known of Early’s departure from York, and the direction he had taken, he could have effected a junction with him before sundown somewhere about East Berlin. Or had he fallen in with White’s battalion, which on that day had gone by the York pike toward Gettysburg, he could have joined it and reached the Confederate advance at Marsh Creek that same night.
But he was ignorant of the movements of these two commands, and they were equally ignorant of his approach, for no notice, such as it is alleged General Lee had promised to send Early, had reached him. Had Early known that Stuart had taken the circuitous route around the Federal army, he might have been on the look-out for him, but he was also ignorant of this. Indeed at one time on that day Stuart was within seven miles of Early’s infantry — the latter actually hearing his guns — and yet they were mutually ignorant of each other’s proximity. Surely the people who resided in that neighborhood must have been very loyal to their government, and known how to keep their own counsels, or Stuart failed to interrogate them.
At a late hour this day Stuart learned that Early had left York, but was misinformed as to the direction he had taken. He was told that he had gone in the direction of Shippensburg. Misled by this report, he abandoned his design upon York, and turned the head of his column in the direction he supposed Early had gone. Encamping over night somewhere west of York [Dover], he resumed his march next morning, and passing through Dillsburg and Churchtown, reached Carlisle in the evening.
Here he was surprised to hear that Rodes had marched in the direction of Gettysburg, and the town was in possession of Pennsylvania and New York militia-men under General Smith, who had advanced that day from Harrisburg. After demanding the surrender of the town, and throwing a few shells into it, and burning the United States barracks situated outside of the place, he hastily left and hurriedly made his way to Gettysburg, which he reached in the evening of the ensuing day. And this was the bold rider who was to ” harass and impede” the patriot army in case it should “attempt to cross the Potomac” in pursuit of the invaders of its soil, and the would-be destroyers of its government.