Today I talked to Edward G. Longacre about his new book Unsung Hero of Gettysburg: The Story of Union General David McMurtrie Gregg (University of Nebraska Press, 2021).
On the 3rd day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Union cavalry officer David Gregg ensured that Jeb Stuart’s Confederate cavalry troops didn’t succeed. Stuart’s orders were to attack the right flank of the Army of the Potomac and create a pincer movement by attacking from behind while Pickett’s forces made their disastrous frontal attack known as Pickett’s charge. Outnumbered by probably 2 to 1, Gregg’s men and the commandeered cavalry led by George Custer held off the Confederate horsemen, helping to seal the military victory. Gregg and Custer got along well but could hardly have been more different. One was reserved, the other flamboyant. And it would of course be Custer who went down in the history books for being impulsive, while the levelheaded Gregg provided solid leadership whether at Gettysburg or elsewhere during the war. This episode goes into all of that and more, including what type of person tended to be most attracted to the cavalry (independent, hell-for-leather types).
Ed Longacre is a retired historian for the U.S. Department of Defense and the award-winning author of numerous books on the Civil War in addition to writing top-secret documents for the U.S. Airforce. One of his ancestors took part in the torching of part of William and Mary College during the Civil War as an act of revenge following the Confederate seizure of some of his comrades in arms.