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On July 3, 1863, a large-scale cavalry fight was waged on Crest Ridge four miles east of Gettysburg. There, on what is commonly referred to as East Cavalry Field, Union horsemen under Brig. Gen. David M. Gregg tangled with the vaunted Confederates riding with Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart. This magnificent mounted clash, however, cannot be fully appreciated without an understanding of what happened the previous day at Brinkerhoff’s Ridge, where elements of Gregg’s division pinned down the legendary infantry of the Stonewall Brigade, preventing it from participating in the fighting for Culp’s Hill that raged that evening.
Stuart arrived at Gettysburg on the afternoon of July 2 after his long ride around the Army of the Potomac just in time to witness the climax of the fighting at Brinkerhoff’s Ridge, and spot good ground for mounted operations one ridge line to the east. Stuart also knew that Gregg’s troopers held the important Hanover and Low Dutch road intersection, blocking a direct route into the rear of the Union centre. If Stuart could defeat Gregg’s troopers, he could dash thousands of his own men behind enemy lines and wreak havoc. The ambitious offensive thrust resulted the following day in a giant clash of horse and steel on East Cavalry Field. The combat featured artillery duels, dismounted fighting, hand-to-hand engagements, and the most magnificent mounted charge and countercharge of the entire Civil War.
About the Author
Eric J. Wittenberg is an accomplished American Civil War cavalry historian and author. An attorney in Ohio, Wittenberg, he has authored more than two dozen articles in popular military magazines and has written over ten books.