What is the reasoning behind most historians today not willing to accept that Stuart’s attack was in cooperation with Pickett’s attack ? Now I have heard that one reason was because neither Stuart nor Lee made mention of it in their Gettysburg Battle reports. They also did not make mention of the signal shots but most historians think they happened, but not as signal shots.
The reason I am bringing this up again is due to the more research I do the more sources I find that state that Stuart was acting in cooperation with Pickett’s attack. Even the Union General in charge in the East Cavalry fighting, General D.McM.Gregg in an article states that it was. I have so far found 10 different sources that back’s this claim up. I just can’t accept it when historians say there is no evidence that Stuart was in cooperation with the frontal attack on Cemetery Ridge on July 3rd, 1863. As I have stated I have 10 different sources so far.
There actually is a rather simple explanation to all of this.
Let’s remember that late in the day on July 2, 1863, there were two separate but simultaneous engagements involving two separate divisions of Union cavalry on or near the far left flank of the Army of Northern Virginia’s position. David M. Gregg’s Second Division was engaged with Confederate infantry of the Stonewall Brigade of Maj. Gen. Edward “Alleghany” Johnson’s Division on Brinkerhoff’s Ridge, while Judson Kilpatrick’s Third Division tangled with troopers of Brig. Gen. Wade Hampton’s Brigade at Hunterstown.
Brinkerhoff’s Ridge is squarely on the far left flank of the Army of Northern Virginia’s infantry position. The Stonewall Brigade ended up performing flank duty because of the breakdown of command after Brig. Gen. Albert G. Jenkins was severely wounded that morning, and nobody thought to tell Col. Milton J. Ferguson, Jenkins’ senior colonel, that he was now in command of the brigade. Because of that inexplicable breakdown, Jenkins’ men failed to perform the flank duty. That forced the Stonewall Brigade to do so, keeping it tied up for most of the day and leaving it unavailable to assault Culp’s Hill. Stuart himself sat on Brinkerhoff’s Ridge and watched the climax of that fight. He knew that the Stonewall Brigade was fighting dismounted Union cavalry there. He could see Gregg’s guidons.
Just a few miles away at Hunterstown, Kilpatrick’s division tangled with the rearguard of Hampton’s Brigade, which was escorting the tail-end of the infamous wagon train captured by Stuart during his ride to the Gettysburg battlefield. A short but very spirited fight occurred there before both sides broke off.
Therefore, as the sun set late in the afternoon of July 2, there were a total of four brigades of veteran Union cavalry operating in the vicinity of Lee’s flank and rear, well positioned for a possible dash around the flank and into Lee’s rear, where they could make immense trouble.
Hence, on the night of July 2, Robert E. Lee knew that two of the three divisions of the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps were operating on or near his far right flank. He was legitimately concerned that the Federals might try to dash around that flank and make mischief in his rear. He was so concerned, in fact, that he called Brig. Gen. John D. Imboden’s Northwestern Brigade–a command that Lee did not know or particularly trust, largely because it was untried–to the battlefield. The following are Imboden’s own words, from an 1871 article that appeared in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War: “on arriving near Gettysburg about noon, when the conflict was raging in all its fury, I reported directly to General Lee for orders, and was assigned a position to aid in repelling any cavalry demonstration that might occur on his flanks or rear. None being made, my little force took no part in the battle. I then had only about 2,100 effective mounted men and a six-gun battery.” (emphasis added by me)
Lee was concerned enough about this situation that he placed Imboden’s command in a position where it could quickly and readily deal with a thrust at the flank or into his rear.
By contrast, there was no known force of Union cavalry operating on Lee’s far right. In fact, Brig. Gen. John Buford’s First Division had left the field about 11:15 on the morning of July 2, and no cavalry troops (other than a single regiment of Gregg’s division) had been sent to take its place. Thus, as morning broke on July 3, there was absolutely no cavalry threatening Lee’s far right, as neither Wesley Merritt’s Reserve Brigade nor Elon J. Farnsworth’s brigade of Kilpatrick’s division arrived in the vicinity of the Confederate far right flank until about 11:00 in the morning of July 3. Consequently, the small force of 100 or so troopers of the 1st South Carolina Cavalry, with a single piece of horse artillery, was more than sufficient, as there was no known threat.
As J. D. Petruzzi and I have documented extensively in our book Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg, both Stuart’s men and horses had just finished a grueling eight day expedition around the Army of the Potomac that took a tremendous toll on both men and horses. Indeed, both men and mounts were at the limits of their endurance when they arrived on the battlefield very late in the afternoon of July 2, and neither men nor animals were in condition to undertake or engage in aggressive offensive activity, something that is well-documented. Therefore, the only mission for these troopers that makes any sense, given their worn-out condition, is a purely defensive one.
Given those circumstances, does it make nothing but sense for Lee to send Stuart and his three and a half brigades (about half of Jenkins’ brigade went with Stuart) to hold and protect that flank? So that there would be a significant force under his trusted and beloved cavalry commander, should that two-division threat to the flank and rear develop?
When analyzing all of these factors, and given Stuart’s dispositions and deployments on what became East Cavalry Field, it seems quite obvious to me that Stuart’s primary mission was to guard the flank. He deployed in an ambush formation, intended to draw David M. Gregg’s troopers in and engage them, thereby keeping them tied up and unable to make that dash around the flank. Stuart, always the opportunist, was looking for opportunities, and should he be able to defeat and scatter Gregg’s troopers, then, and ONLY then, would he attempt to make his own dash down the Low Dutch Road and into the rear of the Army of the Potomac’s position.
Finally, neither Lee nor Stuart EVER said anything about Stuart’s activities that day being somehow coordinated with the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble assault on the Union center. That, to me, is proof positive that neither officer contemplated anything other than what they both said in the official reports.
If you have studied the engagement on East Cavalry Field, and you know both the terrain and the condition of Stuart’s command, the battle plan that I have laid out above is ONLY explanation of Stuart’s mission on July 3 that makes any sense.
This essay is a synopsis of a small part of the 5500 word essay that I have written to rebut the ridiculous and implausible theory of Tom Carhart for the new edition of my book Protecting the Flank that will be published by Savas-Beatie in the early spring of 2012.Scridb filter