William McNeir was born in Annapolis, Maryland on July 4, 1836. His son, Forest McNeir, described his military service: “He served all four years of the Civil War as a Private in Pelham’s Battery of [J.E.B.] Stuarts Horse Artillery. He was at Yellow Tavern when Stuarts horse was killed on May 10, 1864, and in this engagement had two horses shot out from under him. But he came through the battles of the Civil War, including Gettysburg, without a scratch.” McNeir was married in Washing­ton, D. C. on October 5, 1871 to Miss Emily Agnes Paschal, daughter of George W. Paschal and Sarah Ridge. The couple spent some of the early years of their marriage in New York and Washington, but located at Smith Point in 1877. William McNeir taught school in the area up until the time of his sudden death on August 8, 1879. He is buried in a small family cemetery at Smith Point. The McNeirs had the following children: John Forest [who lived only one hour] ; Forest Watie [born 1875] , who mar­ried Stella Frick; and George Paschal [born 1877], who married Edith Hogan.


Battle of Yellow Tavern May 11, 1864

On May 8, 1864, Union Gen. Philip H. Sheridan boasted that if headquarters would stay out of his hair, he and his cavalry could whip Confederate Gen. Jeb Stuart out of his boots. General Grant, appreciating Sheridan's bravery and fighting spirit, said, "Let him start right out and do it."

The next morning, Sheridan set out with the most powerful cavalry force the Army of the Potomac had ever mounted- more than 10,000 troopers with 32 guns. They moved at a walk, four abreast in a column that stretched for 13 miles. Their mission was to move behind Lee's army (which was locked in combat with Grant at Spotsylvania Court House), disrupt his supply line, threaten Richmond, and strike Stuart. Sheridan was so confident of success that he made no effort to hide his movements.

The column reached Lee's forward supply base at Beaver dam Station by nightfall. The Confederate depot guards had set fire to their supplies before the Union troops arrived, but the Union force found something else to destroy: 100 railroad cars and six locomotives- one fourth of Virginia Central Railroad's rolling stock. The next morning they ripped up 10 miles of track, pulled down telegraph wires, and freed 378 of their men who had been taken prisoner during the Battle of the Wilderness.

Stuart, told of Sheridan's force and direction, moved with 4,500 troopers to get between the Union column and Richmond. Union and Confederate forces met at noon on May 11 at Yellow Tavern, an abandoned inn six miles north of Richmond. For three hours the two cavalry forces fought, with the outnumbered Confederate troops stubbornly defending their position until at last the Union force withdrew. Before they departed, however, an unhorsed Union private fired a single shot at a large, red-bearded Confederate officer on a horse 30 feet away. Gen. Jeb Stuart was mortally wounded and would die the next day. Lee had lost his greatest cavalry officer.


 After early service in the Shenandoah Valley, Stuart led his regiment in the battle of 1st Bull Run and participated in the pursuit of the routed Federals. He then directed the army's outposts until given command of the cavalry brigade. Besides leading the cavalry in the Army of Northern Virginia's fights at the Seven Days, 2nd Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and the Wilderness, Stuart was also a raider. Twice he led his command around McClellan's army, once in the Peninsula Campaign and once after the battle of Antietam. While these exploits were not that important militarily, they provided a boost to the Southern morale. During the 2nd Bull Run Campaign, he lost his famed plumed hat and cloak to pursuing Federals. In a later Confederate raid, Stuart managed to overrun Union army commander Pope's headquarters and capture his full uniform and orders that provided Lee with much valuable intelligence. At the end of 1862, Stuart led a raid north of the Rappahannock River, inflicting some 230 casualties while losing only 27 of his own men.

At Chancellorsville he took over command of his friend Stonewall Jackson's Corps after that officer had been mortally wounded by his own men. Returning to the cavalry shortly after, he commanded the Southern horsemen in the largest cavalry engagement ever fought on the American continent, Brandy Station, on June 9, 1863. Although the battle was a draw, the Confederates did hold the field. However, the fight represented the rise of the Union cavalry and foreshadowed the decline of the formerly invincible Southern mounted arm. During the Gettysburg Campaign, Stuart, acting under ambiguous orders, again circled the Union army, but in the process deprived Lee of his eyes and ears while in enemy territory. Arriving late on the second day of the battle, Stuart failed the next day to get into the enemy's rear flank, being defeated by Generals Gregg and Custer.

During Grant's drive on Richmond in the spring of 1864, Stuart halted Sheridan's cavalry at Yellow Tavern on the outskirts of Richmond on May 11. In the fight he was mortally wounded and died the next day in the rebel capital. He is buried in Hollywood Cemetery there. Like his intimate friend, Stonewall Jackson, General Stuart soon became a legendary figure, ranking as one of the great cavalry commanders of America. His death marked the beginning of the decline of the superiority, which the Confederate horse had enjoyed over that of the Union. Stuart was a son-in-law of Brigadier General Philip St. George Cooke of the Federal service; his wife's brother was Brigadier General John Rogers Cooke of the Confederacy