Memoirs of the Stuart Horse Artillery BattalionVolume 2: Breathed’s and McGregor’s Batteries
Trout, Robert J., ed.
Status: In Print
Publication Date: July 2010
DescriptionIn this second and final installment of Memoirs of the Stuart Horse Artillery Battalion, editor Robert J. Trout brings together three more invaluable veterans’ reminiscences, these focusing on the cavalry batteries of Capt. James Breathed and Capt. William M. McGregor. Initially a single battery led by Maj. John Pelham, it was split in September 1862 into the 1st and 2nd Stuart Horse Artillery. Command of the 1st fell to Breathed. The 2nd was initially led by Capt. Mathis W. Henry, who was soon replaced by McGregor after Henry took another command.
Originally written for a small Maryland newspaper in the early 1900s, Henry H. Matthews’s memoir is especially notable for its elaborate descriptions and for its author’s efforts to elevate Breathed to the level of the Civil War’s giants. As Trout notes, this adoration for his talented commander (whose exploits could more than stand on their own) sometimes led Matthews to distort the facts—even to the point of altering passages from the Official Records—so his account cannot be taken strictly at face value. Correcting Matthews’s exaggerations in his meticulous endnotes, Trout points out that the memoir’s weaknesses are more than balanced by the story of courage, devotion, and service it tells.
The articles by Richard Townshend Dodson, which originally appeared in a Philadelphia paper during the 1880s, are marked by many valuable anecdotes focusing on the individual soldier and experiences amid marching and fighting. If Dodson’s historical accounts, by contrast, tend to be overly general, his memoir lacks little for excitement and pageantry, and his vignettes offer rare views of the soldier’s life that make them well worth reading.
Finally, George W. Shreve’s previously unpublished reminiscences, while brief, are notable for their glimpses into the inner workings of an artillery battery and the men’s social interactions. Shreve’s account, Trout writes, “is the only record of the 2nd Stuart Horse Artillery by a member of the battery” and “for that reason alone, it is a welcome addition to the history of the battalion.”
An outstanding complement to Trout’s previous volume on Moorman’s and Hart’s batteries, this collection offers fresh insights into the experiences of the Confederate horse artillery, whose role in securing the reputation of the legendary J. E. B. Stuart cannot be underestimated.
Robert J. Trout, a leading authority on J. E. B. Stuart, is a retired schoolteacher who lives in Myerstown, Pennsylvania. His books include Galloping Thunder: The Stuart Horse Artillery Battalion, They Followed the Plume: The Story of J. E. B. Stuart and His Staff, and With Pen and Saber: The Letters and Diaries of J. E. B. Stuart’s Staff Officers.
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