By Eric J. Wittenberg and J. David Petruzzi
As the last of George Pickett's men limped off the battlefield on the evening of July 3rd, 1863 it was clear the Confederate Army, after three days of fighting, had been defeated. General Lee, as the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, accepted all responsibility for the loss, but many, after the battle, blamed General J.E.B. Stuart instead. It has been 145 years since the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg, and the controversy over who is to blame for the loss has never abated.
Eric J. Wittenberg and J. David Petruzzi have brought the case to trial in their book, "Plenty Of Blame To Go Around: Jeb Stuart's Controversial Ride to Gettysburg." The first half of the book is an inquiry into the facts of the case, as the authors present General Lee's orders to Stuart as exhibits. Their careful and diligent research has turned up many witnesses, both Union and Confederate, who add their testimony, and together, they form a narrative of the events following Stuart's departure with his cavalry, their ride around the Federal Army and their arrival on the battlefield of Gettysburg on July 2nd.
The second half of the book enters the historiography of Stuart's ride into evidence, and breaks it down into three phases. In the first phase, immediately after the battle and war, those immediately involved in the Confederate high command, and those involved in the ride, begin the finger pointing and placing of blame. In the second, the controversy continues, and heats up, during the post war years, as the participants continue quarreling with one another. Finally, after the passing of the participants, the debate continued into the 20th & 21st centuries, when the historians took up the argument. In all three phases, JEB Stuart had his supporters and detractors. The authors have done a fine job, presenting the evidence and arguments on both sides of this complicated issue.
Was the infallible Robert E. Lee at fault for issuing vague orders to Stuart? Did Stuart disobey, either willfully or unintentionally, Lee's orders? The authors, in their conclusion, deliver their verdict and find there is no one single person entirely to blame for the Confederate loss at Gettysburg. There is enough fault for every one. Or, in other words, there's "plenty of blame to go around."
"Plenty Of Blame To Go Around" is the definitive history of Jeb Stuart's ride to Gettysburg. Eric J. Wittenberg and J. David Petruzzi's outstanding research has produced a book that is truly a joy to read.
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