|View single post by Eric Wittenberg|
|Posted: Mon Jan 8th, 2007 12:00 am||
Let me begin by correcting something you said: the fighting on East Cavalry Field was between Stuart and Gregg. Custer happened to be under David Gregg's command, but make no mistake about it: that was David McMurtry Gregg's fight, much more so than it was Custer's.
Having said that, you have to keep in mind that Stuart and three brigades didn't arrive at Gettysburg until very late in the afternoon on July 2. These three brigades, along with a portion of Jenkins' brigade, fought on East Cavalry Field on July 3.
Jenkins' brigade came to Gettysburg with Ewell's infantry on July 1, and it's quite likely that the first shots of the battle were actually exchanged between videttes of the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry and some of Jenkins' men leading Ewell's advance in the very early morning hours of July 1. However, Jenkins pretty much disappears at that point, and then gets pretty seriously wounded by a fragment of an artillery shell on July 2.
There were also about 100 men of the 1st South Carolina Cavalry that were with Longstreet's infantry on July 3rd, and fought against Merritt's dismounted cavalry on the South Cavalry Field that day.
That leaves three other brigades of Confederate cavalry unaccounted for. The blame for that lies in one place and one place only: Robert E. Lee. Lee did not call for Jones, Robertson, or Imboden to come to the battlefield until the morning of July 3, and none of them arrived in time to make a difference in the day's fighting. Jones (with some elements of Robertson) fought the 6th US Cavalry at Fairfield on the afternoon of July 3, and Imboden had the unenviable task of escorting the 17-mile-long wagon train of wounded Confederates to the Potomac River fords at Williamsport beginning on July 4.
In short, the Confederate cavalry really only played a role at East Cavalry Field. Lee made very poor use of his available horse soldiers, while Meade made very good use of his.