Monday, September 14, 2009

Current Reading: In the Saddle with Stuart

Reade, Frank Robertson, and Robert J. Trout. In the Saddle with Stuart: The Story of Frank Smith Robertson of Jeb Stuart's Staff. Gettysburg, Pa.: Thomas Publications, 1998.

Lt. Francis (“Frank”) Smith Robertson (1841-1926) was a student at the University of Virginia when the Civil War broke out in 1861. The son of former Virginia governor Wyndham Robertson, he was a child of privilege who went to war initially as an infantry officer. Contracting an illness that plagued him for months and killed dozens of his fellows in the 48th Va., he eventually recovered and found employment as an engineer officer on Gen. Jeb Stuart’s staff. Although he had no qualifications for his position (a distinction he shared with at least one other), he nevertheless served bravely and efficiently from April 1863 until Stuart’s death. Afterwards, he served on the staff of Gen. W.H.F. (“Rooney”) Lee.

This is another book of wartime reminiscences well edited by Robert J. Trout. Much of it was written contemporaneously with the events described, with clarifications and additions penned later. I found it especially useful for its descriptions of Brandy Station, Gettysburg, and Five Forks. Robertson brings home also in a most affecting manner the cavalryman’s relationship with his mounts – from Miranda, who saved his life by her speed; to Bostona, who couldn’t be made to turn except by dashing straight ahead for a considerable length and then gradually turning like a wagon (which almost got him killed at Brandy Station); to Yank, an uncomfortable ride about which the less said the better.

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