Fabled Confederate general (1833–1864) best known for his consummate skill in reconnaissance and as a cavalry officer. After leading successful offensive actions during the Northern Virginia Campaign—as well as a ‘late,’ disastrous showing at Gettysburg, which led to a personal rebuke by Lee—Stuart was killed during the Overland Campaign at the age of 31. ALS signed “J. E. B. Stuart, 1st Lt., 1st Cav,” one page both sides, 7.5 x 10, December 4, 1857. Letter to Virginia Senator R. M. T. Hunter, marked “Private” at the top. In full: “I trust you will excuse the liberty I have taken in addressing you this letter without myself the honor of acquaintance with you. The matter to which I wish to draw your attention is in itself when considered in all its bearings a sufficient apology. You are one of the two exponents most honored by my beloved State, Virginia, and back to whom you have unquestionably reflected so much honor. What better advocate then for the cause of justice! My father-in-law Lieut. Col. Cooke 2nd Dragoons is now en route to Utah, and if not already arrived there, is no doubt struggling through the Canons of the Rocky Mountain passes, whilst the operations of the army are such as to urge upon Congress an increase particularly of the mounted force of our army. In such an event his just claims for preferment might possibly be set aside as they were in ’55 by one on the spot, and now as then he be left to plod his way through the very slow stages of regular promotion, unless some friend be able and willing to urge his claims to a successful issue. From a knowledge of your public character during the whole of your Sensational career, not to omit the esteem in which you were held by my father the late Archibald Stuart of Patrick, I have felt secure in writing to you as such a friend, without Col Cooke’s knowledge or consent-to ask you to secure for him a Colonelcy in one of the new mounted Regts. I do not scruple to say that the record shows him eminently qualified for a higher position. Still I fancy that unless the army is increased beyond all expectations that any position beyond the grade of COL. has been already promised. I will not descant upon Col C.’s merits. His history is identified with our frontier history for the last 20 years. In the Sec’y War’s reports concerning Indian warfare in New Mexico in the Spring of ’54. the Souix Campaign ’55, and the most important and delicate trust of Kansas matters in ’56 (Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov.) as shown in Colonel Davis’ last report abundantly show more than I could say. Besides if I am not mistaken you are personally acquainted with him. His brother was the late Jno. R. Cooke of Richmond. Any assistance you may feel authorized to give him will meet, I feel sure, with the hearty cooperation of the whole VA delegation, and gain for you the still greater esteem and heartfelt gratitude of the Col. and his friends, who like myself are anxious for his advancement. I have read with great satisfaction your letter to Mr. Leake. It expresses sentiments which should be entertained by every southerner. ‘Jim Lane’ is ranting, but Kansas takes no notice of him.”
Letter is beautifully double-cloth-matted and framed, so both sides may be viewed, with a printed map of various trail routes and an image of a wagon train, to an overall size of 21 x 18.5. That frame is in turn affixed by hinges to its left edge to a larger mat and frame, which bears a small plaque, an oval portrait of Stuart, and a transcription of the letter, to an overall size of 28.5 x 34. Intersecting folds, two small tack holes to top edge, a couple of trivial edge tears, some scattered light toning, and a couple of brushes to text, otherwise fine condition.
Here, Stuart writes to the Virginian senator on behalf of his father in law, Philip St. George Cooke, an Army cavalry officer. At the time, Cooke, who was acquainted with Brigham Young, was taking part in the Utah expedition of 1857-58. Stuart’s letter advocating for his promotion may have worked, as Cooke was made a colonel following the expedition, taking command of the 2nd U.S. Dragoons. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Stuart would not have such kind words for his father-in-law, who sided with the Union. ‘He will regret it but once,’ Stuart said of Cooke’s decision, ‘and that will be continually.’ So great was this schism that in 1861 Stuart changed the name of his year-old son from Philip St. George Cooke Stuart to James Ewell Brown Stuart, Jr. Embarrassed by his son-in-law’s audacious raid encircling the Union army, Cooke left active field service after the Peninsular Campaign. An uncommon and lengthy letter revealing the nepotistic politics of the early American army, neatly penned by the future Confederate general. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and RR Auction COA.