JEB STUART. By John W. Thomason Jr. Charles Scribner's Sons. New York. 1930. Price: $5.00.
IHAVE tried to be accurate without being tiresome and technical, and I have tried to be as unprejudiced as is possible to a grandson and nephew of Confederate officers and soldiers, but I learned fairly late in life that Damyank was a compound word. What I have attempted is not a history of a war, but a portrait of a splendid human soul, expressed through the profession of arms."
So says the author of "Jeb Stuart," a Captain of Marines, in his introduction. It is an excellent epitome of the quality of the book. Tiresome, Capt. Thompson is not. Nor is he technical to achieve accuracy, although the five hundred page biography is profusely illustrated with diagrams and maps. Too, "Jeb Stuart" is first a portrait of a man and a soldier. Capt. Thompson, it must be admitted is not entirely unbiased, but his leanings toward the Confederacy' are concerned mainly with the gallant group of men about whom he has probably heard all his life. As he says, perhaps the most glamorous of these was Jeb Stuart.
Virginian, West Pointer, cavalry officer. Major-general of the Confederate army at thirty, and killed in battle before the fall "in the fourth year of the Republic," Jeb Stuart was, before any of these things, essentially a human, forceful personality. Fastidious in dress, possessing an excellent voice and sense of humor, and leaving poker and whiskey alone, Stuart was intoxicated with the beauty of Virginia, women and horses. Robert E. Lee said of him, "General Stuart was my ideal of a soldier." Which, according to the tenor of the book, was the one compliment Stuart would have desired.
The biography is filled with descriptions of Civil War battles. It is meticulous in detail about tactical coups and blunders. In one sense it is a case book for soldiers of the future. And all the leaders of the Confederacy appear somewhere in its pages, as human beings rather than military automatons. Assuredly rich in anecdote about the South of 1861-65, there is little treatment of Sturat's earlier youth about Richmond and the front-line, the book has many advantages. It is well-written, personal, and never boring.