I had the privilege of sharing a little of my research on Confederate activity here in York County with Eric Wittenberg and J.D. Petruzzi as they were writing their outstanding book on Stuart’s ride. I have since collected my notes and research on Stuart’s movements into an article for The Gettysburg Magazine that will be published later this year.
Folks who routinely criticize Stuart keep missing one point in the big picture – if Lee had not recalled the troops to Gettysburg, or if the recall had occurred one day later, Stuart would indeed have rendezvoused with Jubal Early in York. As Stuart stumbled northward from Hanover, his objective was York, where Early was supposed to be. He had left twelve hours earlier in obedience to Lee’s orders to move westward. Early had expected Stuart a day earlier, one reason he hung around York so long, and he had sent out patrols looking for Stuart. History might have treated Stuart totally differently if that twelve-hour swing had not occurred. If his cavaliers had arrived in York on July 1 with flags flying while Early’s bands played, writers might have marveled at how, once again, Stuart had ridden around the Union army, captured huge numbers of supplies that he turned into Early’s quartermaster, and again embarrassed the Federal high command.
It puts new light on the rather obscure fight at Westminster, one that I always have believed got short attention prior to Eric and J.D.’s book. Those of us who live here in York County and have studied local affairs realize that Stuart had an open path to Early, with absolutely nothing in his way, had he arrived in York County one day earlier.
Twelve hours too late… twelve hours of destiny. History might have been different.