Friday, June 12, 2015

CIVIL WAR | June 12–Jeb Stuart's Cavalry Circles the Union Army

Jeb Stuart
This day in 1862 Confederate General James Ewell Brown ("Jeb") Stuart and 1,200 troops began a four-day ride from Richmond around the Army of the Potomac. Robert E. Lee sent him to scout out Union positions. Stuart's posse rode around the entire Yankee army of 105,000 troops, collecting prisoners and information.

General George McClellan had spent the entire spring of 1862 preparing his huge Union army for a campaign against Richmond, inching forward toward the Confederate capital.

On May 31, after Joseph Johnston was wounded, Confederate General Robert E. Lee assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia. He dispatched Stuart, his cavalry leader, to investigate the position of McClellan’s right flank.

Stuart discovered that McClellan had no topological protection from his posse, so he risked court-martial by exceeding his orders and continuing to ride around the rest of the Union army.

His troops took prisoners and harassed Federal supply lines. They rode altogether 100 miles, pursued by Union cavalry that were commanded by Stuart’s father-in-law, Philip St. George Cooke.

The Southern horses outran their Yankee chasers, and Stuart assumed the status of a legend for his bravery and calculated risk-taking when he got back to Richmond on June 15. The information Stuart obtained helped Lee drive McClellan back from his slow attack on Richmond.

The Stuart Tank

The World War II Stuart tank, the American-made middle-sized and fast tank, was wryly named by the British after Jeb Stuart. The Stuart tank came in three editions - M2, M3 and M5. The Stuart M4 was skipped to avoid confusion with the Sherman (named after Union General William Tecumseh Sherman) M4 tank.

Both the Sherman and the Stuart were produced by ACF, which at one time was so big that it was part of the Dow-Jone Industrial Average. The Sherman was produced by the American Locomotive Company, a division of ACF. The Stuart was produced mostly in Berwick, Pa. during World War II.
  • The Stuart was the first U.S. tank designed to operate independently, with a top speed of 35 mph. Previously, tanks were designed to support infantry troops, and had a maximum speed of 10 mph. The German Panzer [Panther] III and IV tanks had a top speed of 26 mph.
  • The M2A4 was the first U.S. tank built on an assembly line and the Berwick plant was the only one in the USA with its own ballistics testing range. It was also the first tank included in the Lend-Lease program.
  • The Stuart tank was used by all of the Allied armies in all the major war theaters - Europe, North Africa, Asia and Pacific Ocean (including Alaska and Antarctica).
From 1940 through April 17, 1944, ACF produced 15,225 Stuart Light Tanks for the U.S. Army, the Marines, and the lend-Lease program for the Allies.  Of these, 1,496 tanks were produced in St. Charles, Mo. The rest were produced in Berwick. The model numbers and quantities produced (all in Berwick except where indicated) were:

1940-41: 365 M2A4 tanks
1941-43: 4,526 M3 tanks in Berwick, 1,285 in St. Charles
1942-43: 4,410 M3A1 tanks in Berwick, 211 in St. Charles
1942-43: 3,427 M3A3 tanks
1943-44: 1,000 M5A1 tanks

Field Marshal Montgomery praised the tank in its use in North Africa. The Stuart was noted for its great reliability, which was essential in the desert. The weaknesses of the Stuart were its limited range, its small gun (half the diameter of the 75 mm. guns on the Sherman M4 and Panzer III and IV) and the limited protection of its armor plate. It was most useful as a reconnaissance vehicle and as troop support. It was weakest in tank-to-tank confrontations with larger-gunned and better-protected tanks.

Brigadier G. M. Ross at the British Army Staff in Detroit wrote to ACF Berwick to pass along praise from military staff in Burma:
[T]he first tank to cross the Irrawaddy west of Mandalay was "The Curse of Scotland". This gallant old Stuart was the only one belonging to the 7th Armored Brigade, which got back across the Chindwin during the retreat from Burma in 1942. ... It is now the CO's Command Tank and has participated in the advance from Imphal. ... Recent advances have enabled us to regain a number of M3A1s ... lost during the retreat. These tanks have been in Japanese hands for more than 2.5 years and exposed to three monsoons and two winter periods. ... [A]lthough there was a certain amount of rust and peeling of paint, there were no signs of exceptional deterioration.
Berwick is seeking the funds to bring a Stuart tank back to the town.

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