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While writing for this week’s issue about the football misfortunes at J.E.B. Stuart High, I mentioned that the fellow who gave the Falls Church school its name had put his West Point training to work killing Indians and fighting on the losing side in the Civil War.
I neglected to point out a career highlight, that, having been bludgeoned with local Civil War history throughout my public schooling in Fairfax County, I shouldn’t have missed: Stuart was also the point man in the military action that ended the 1859 siege at Harper’s Ferry.
The scenic West Virginia riverside burg, long before it became a fine antiquing outpost and pit stop on the way to betting on the ponies at Charles Town, was where abolitionist John Brown holed up in a firehouse.
Far as I can tell, Stuart, then with the U.S. Army, was to Harper’s Ferry as Janet Reno was to Waco. At Stuart’s orders, U.S. troops burst into Brown’s compound and killed or captured everybody in his gang. Survivors, including Brown, were put on trial for their violent activism and executed.
John Brown’s Raid and its aftermath accelerated the move to get rid of slavery and thereby helped trigger the War Between the States. Stuart jumped over to the Confederacy when his native Virginia seceded, and in his last battle for the losers in May
1964 1864 took a bullet to the head ribs outside Richmond. Stuart died the sort of death that every Civil War officer died, as this 19th Century record indicates:
[President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis], taking his hand, said, “General, how do you feel?” He
replied, “Easy, but willing to die, if God and my country think I
have fulfilled my destiny and done my duty.”
That concludes today’s installment of U.S. History from Dummies.