While one could spend countless hours discussing and arguing the merits and shortcomings of the military strategy of both the North and South at the Battle of Gettysburg, the outcome of that historic clash on July 1-3, 1863 might just have been decided by the actions of three men on horseback.
Certainly the North was able to hold the high ground on the first day of fighting due to the delaying tactics carried out by Union cavalry under the command of Brigadier General John Buford. And while the South had initially fielded superior numbers, Robert E. Lee failed to press that advantage because of insufficient battlefield intelligence. His own cavalry commander, Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, who would have normally been charged with providing reconnaissance was too far away from the main body of the Confederate forces.
By the third day of battle though, Stuart was back in the fight. The plan was to attack the Federal rear and aid General Pickett as he marched against the Union’s center on Cemetery Ridge. That scheme would ultimately be thwarted by a brash and brazen young cavalry officer who personally led the charge of the 7th Michigan, yelling “Come on, you wolverines!” Though he would have two horses shot out from underneath him on this July afternoon, it would be on another summer’s day in 1876 that George Armstrong Custer would meet his fate under a western sky.
As we continue to remember America’s Civil War, we pay tribute to those bold horse soldiers on both sides of the struggle with a piece of music from living historian and performer Rick Garland. Click here to recount the exploits of the “Knight of the Golden Spurs,” James Ewell Brown Stuart.
Posted by: Chris Poh