Midpoint of the War: May to July 1863
The Army of Northern Virginia Moves North
Who was Stuart’s number-one foe?
Thirty-eight-year-old Alfred Pleasonton was a cavalry officer who was much praised for his actions at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Joe Hooker even wrote to Lincoln, saying that Pleasonton had saved the Army of the Potomac during that battle. Promoted to major-general, Pleasonton was in command of most of the Army of the Potomac’s cavalry arm, and he relished the opportunity to go after J. E. B. Stuart.
To this point in the war, Stuart’s Confederate cavalry had gone unequalled. No other officer, North or South, it was said, could have ridden around an entire enemy army as Stuart had done during the Seven Days’ Battles. Pleasonton wanted to take the starch out of Stuart’s cavalry, and he resolved on a surprise attack. Stuart had no idea that the Federals were coming; they surprised him just one day after the locals feted him for earlier performances.