Everyone knows that Confederate General Jeb Stuart was a fighter and a great commander. But he also enjoyed a party every once in awhile. During the Antietam campaign of 1862 Jeb and his boys cooked up a ball in Urbana, Maryland (28 miles southeast of Sharpsburg) on September 8th in honor of a female confidant “the New York Rebel”. It was quite an event as Stuart supplied music using Brigadier General William Barksdale’s 18th Mississippi band and decorated the hall with their Mississippi regiments’ battle flags. Enlisted men and junior officers were employed in cleaning the hall and inviting guests while Heros von Borcke supplied the hand-written invitations and supervised the decorations adding bouquets of roses.
The ball was interrupted when a few miles away towards Hyattstown, the 1st New York Cavalry decided on a reconnaissance resulting in pushing back some of Hampton’s videttes. News of this skirmish was brought to Stuart at the ball; Stuart and his staff mounted and rode to the scene accompanied by Pelham’s horse artillery and soon drove off the outgunned New Yorkers. Stuart and his victorious troopers then returned to the ball and recommenced the festivities only to be interrupted by Confederate casualties being taken upstairs above the ballroom. The ladies at the ball then helped out in tending to the wounded.
It does seem strange that in “enemy” country this would happen but the horses were supposedly saddled day and night and the staff slept with their clothes and spurs on. But Stuart, as Lee’s eyes and ears, should have watched the enemy as closely as possible to ensure that Lee was not surprised. Stuart’s partying ways can be criticized since he did not keep Lee well informed about Union movements and obviously portrayed relative unconcern spending much time and effort in entertaining himself and his staff, efforts better directed at scouting the enemy. It was not Jeb’s best effort.