Protecting the Flank at Gettysburg
The Battles for Brinkerhoff’s Ridge and East Cavalry Field, July 2-3. 1863
By Eric J. Wittenberg
This is an updated edition of this book, with a new driving tour of the East Cavalry
Field and a chapter providing GPS coordinates for those who have such devices. The text of the book covers in three chapters the battles of Brinkerhoff’s Ridge and the East Cavalry Field on July Third. The cavalry division of Brigadier General David Gregg was ordered to the right flank of the Union Army on July 2nd as a guarding force for that flank area and the rear of the Cemetery Ridge position. They took position on Brinkerhoff’s Ridge.
This caused the Confederates to believe there was a threat to their left flank and their rear areas. At that time Lt. General Richard Ewell was ordered to attack the Union forces on Culp’s Hill. Ewell detached the Second Virginia, from Jackson’s Foot cavalry to attack the Federal Cavalry on Brinkerhoff’s Ridge. After some hard fighting during the afternoon they pushed the Union troops off the ridge, but were too late to participate in the attack on Culp’s Hill. Although the Confederates made inroads onto the position, they were unable to complete the take-over.
Gregg moved his troops back to the junction of the Hanover Road and the Low Dutch Road. From this position they attacked the positions of General “JEB” Stuart on the Rummel farm on July 3rd. Even though outnumbered by as much as five-to-one, the Union Cavalry broke up the charging Rebels and kept them out of the rear areas of Cemetery Ridge. Historical conjecture has said that Stuart was coordinated with Robert E. Lee’s charge of the center of Cemetery Ridge by George Pickett and company. The author presents a refutation of this proposal. He also, in a separate chapter, disputes the contentions of Tom Carhart, in his 2005 book, that such a conspiracy was in effect and that George Custer was the real hero of the East Cavalry Field actions. Custer was involved in a couple of the charges by the Michigan Cavalry, but not the principle leader involved.
General Gregg was never given the the praise he deserved for the tactical plan which kept the Confederate cavalry from the rear areas of the Cemetery Ridge position. This book debunks many of the myths surrounding the actions of Gregg’s force on July 2nd and 3rd.
I can recommend this book to any Civil War aficionado. The story of the cavalry forces protecting the right flank of the Union Army and keeping the Confederate forces from entering those rear areas and capturing the ammunition supplies of General Meade, kept the meeting at Gettysburg from becoming a Confederate victory.