"Polished Sabers Dazling in the Sun"
Although there were many other significant cavalry actions on the bloody fields of Gettysburg, the large cavalry action three miles east of Gettysburg on July 3rd is one of the most recognized. Today the area is known as East Cavalry Field located just north of the Hanover Road. At approximately 2:30 p.m. Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart and Union General David M. Gregg, for a span of three hours, engaged in a series of charges and counter charges that resulted in one of the most ferocious cavalry battles in American history.
General Stuart and three brigades of cavalry reached the Gettysburg area on the afternoon of July 2nd from Carlisle. On July 3rd Lee sent Stuart with four brigades to guard the Confederate’s left flank and to be in position for the attack on Cemetery Ridge during Pickett’s Charge. While attempting to skirt the Union right flank Stuart met two brigades of Union cavalry commanded by Brig. General Gregg three miles east of Gettysburg on the Rummel Farm.
The battle opened up with dismounted skirmishing and ended with violent charges and counter charges with intense frontal impact. After several hours of indecisive and intermediate range shooting, Stuart decided that he needed to sweep aside the Federal horsemen if he was to be any help to Lee during the simultaneous Confederate frontal assault on Cemetery Ridge. Confederate cavalry led by Hampton, Fitzhugh Lee and Chambliss charged again and again only to be repulsed by Union cavalry led by Custer, McIntosh and Miller. The southern horsemen were accustomed to the Union cavalry normally withdrawing in the face of their mounted charges--that did not happen at Gettysburg. The well coordinated attacks, flank attacks and strategic execution repeated by the Federal cavalry during this engagement finally convinced Stuart’s brigades to withdraw to Cress Ridge while Gregg’s cavalry remained in possession of the field.
With the conclusion of this engagement one of the largest cavalry battles of the war was considered a draw. Stuart had been thwarted and any attempt to obtain Confederate cavalry assistance from the rear of Cemetery Ridge had been cut off by this valiant action.
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