The turning point
Stuart is coming! Stuart is coming!
The presence of Gen. James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart, perhaps the Confederate Army’s most aggressive warrior, sent a wave of trepidation up and down Union lines on July 3, 1863.
Emboldened by successes in the previous two days of fighting, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee devised a strategy to deliver a crippling blow to Union Gen. George G. Meade’s Army of the Potomac and perhaps win the Civil War.
Lee’s plan would send Maj. Gen.
The plan would fail, and Union forces would win the decisive Battle of Gettysburg, in good measure because of two elements with Berks County connections Gen. David McMurtrie Gregg and the remnants of the 151st Infantry Regiment.
Gregg, who commanded the 2nd Cavalry Division, was married to Ellen Sheaff of Reading, granddaughter of former Gov. Joseph Hiester of Reading.
A 30 year old West Point graduate, Gregg would be instrumental in blocking Stuart’s rear action.
Remnants of the 151st, decimated in the first day’s battle, would help beat back , after which the Confederate Army gave up and left Gettysburg.
Plain vs. fancy
Gregg and Stuart could not have been less alike.
Both were West Point commissioned, graduating a year apart in the 1850s, but that’s where the similarities ended.
Stuart, who used his initials as his first name, was a dashing warrior and the most celebrated cavalryman of the Civil War. He cultivated a cavalier image, wearing a red lined gray cape and a yellow sash with a red flower on his lapel. His cocked hat sported an ostrich plume, and he often smelled of cologne.
General James Ewell Brown Jeb Stuart
Confederate officer Civil War Gettysburg, Pa 1863
Library of congress
Despite his flamboyance, or maybe because of it, Stuart inspired the most loyalty of any officer in Lee’s army.
Gregg, on the other hand, was laid back, unassuming and avoided the spotlight. He was rated highly capable by his superiors.
The outcome of the clash of these divergent personalities, in a sense symbolizing the clash of their respective cultures, would influence the course of the Civil War and the nation.
On the evening of July 2, the second day of the battle, Gregg detected the movement of Stuart’s troops.
Gregg, who fought the two largest cavalry battles of the Civil War, anticipated Stuart’s flanking action.
His ace in the hole was an ambitious young golden haired 23 year old Michigan cavalryman the recently promoted Gen. George Armstrong Custer.
Risking court martial, Gregg didn’t go along with orders that would have moved Custer’s Wolverines to another part of the battlefield.