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America’s Civil War Book Review: Stuart’s Tarheels

By Jon Guttman
9/5/2017 • America's Civil War Magazine

Stuart’s Tarheels: James B. Gordon and his North Carolina Cavalry in the Civil War, Second Edition

Chris J. Hartley; McFarland & Co., 2011, $55

A North Carolinian himself, Chris J. Hartley makes no secret of his affection for the subject of his home state’s cavalry brigade during the Civil War. This updated, revised edition of Stuart’s Tarheels contains new information that has turned up in the five years since its original publication, the highlight being a full roster of the individuals assigned to the 1st North Carolina Cavalry Regiment, centerpiece of James Byron Gordon’s brigade.

The centerpiece of the book, however, is Gordon, whose two-year rise from lieutenant to brigadier general without pre-war military schooling or experience was a feat matched by only two others in Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s Cavalry Corps: Matthew C. Butler and Wade Hampton. The author goes so far as to state that “the history of the Old North State’s cavalry in the Confederacy is the history of James B. Gordon.” After Gordon’s mortal wounding at Brooks Church, Va., on May 12, 1864, and his death six days later, the brigade’s story peters out almost dismissively, in spite of the excellent leadership the Army of Northern Virginia’s cavaliers had, post-Stuart, under Hampton’s command. Essentially, then, Stuart’s Tarheels is a biography first and a unit history second—and a frequently sentimental bio at that, in the author’s zeal to lift what he regards as a neglected Confederate hero from the shadow of his first cousin Maj. Gen. John Brown Gordon. Among many other things, the book will set that matter straight.

 

Originally published in the January 2012 issue of America’s Civil War. To subscribe, click here.

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