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CWT Book Review: Memoirs of the Stuart Horse Artillery Battalion

By Robert K. Krick
9/19/2017 • Civil War Times Magazine

Memoirs of the Stuart Horse Artillery Battalion, Vol. 2: Breathed’s and McGregor’s Batteries

edited by Robert J. Trout, University of Tennessee Press

This collection of primary accounts penned by veterans of J.E.B. Stuart’s celebrated Artillery Battalion is a welcome follow-up to Robert Trout’s first offering in the set, which was published in 2008. The three soldiers featured in Volume 2 served under the renowned John Pelham, and later in the reconfigured 1st Stuart Horse Artillery.

Marylander Henry Matthews served in Virginia units, then went back to his home state in 1864. His lengthy narrative covers the entire war, including rich details on the Gettysburg fight, Yellow Tavern, Trevilian Station and more. Richard Dodson, from Washington, D.C., headed south to join Confederate service and lived in Pennsylvania after the war. George W. Shreve, a Virginian, went to St. Louis postwar before moving out west. When Shreve died in late 1940, he was the last survivor of the horse-artillery service in Virginia.

Trout unabashedly assails the credibility of his three witnesses when they stray from the truth—due to forgetfulness or exaggeration. He also sifts the useful from the useless and highlights important historical nuggets.

Occasionally, however, the focus seems wrong. A casual description of the capture of two Federal engineer officers, which took place during Stuart’s much-heralded gallop toward Gettysburg, requires only a scant dozen words, while the two men’s 500-word biographical notes run about 10 times longer than their subjects warrant. Long passages from the Official Records also constitute unnecessary padding.

Confederate horse artillery galloped across Virginia battlefields with considerable effect. The words of the men who served those highly mobile pieces make for an important record.

 

Originally published in the October 2011 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here

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