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Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart begins his ride around the Army of the Potomac during the Peninsular campaign in Virginia in June of 1862. After being sent on a reconnaissance of Union positions by Robert E. Lee just four days earlier, Stuart had circled the entire Yankee force, 105,000 strong, and provided Lee with crucial information.

General George McClellan spent the spring of 1862 preparing the Union army for a campaign against Richmond up the James Peninsula. By late May, McClellan had inched up the James with relatively light fighting. But after Joseph Johnston was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines on May 31, Robert E. Lee assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia. In the next month, Lee began to show the gambling spirit that eventually earned him a reputation as one of history’s greatest generals.

In an article for The New York Times, Mechanicsville,Virginia writer Ben Cleary tells the story.

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