Monday, December 11, 2006

CWL --- Walking Gettysburg's Battlefield: East Cavalry Fields

Protecting the Flank: The Battles for Brinkerhoff's Ridge and East Cavalry Field, Wittenberg, Eric J., 201 pp., softcover, index, bibliography, endnotes, appendices, Ironclad Publishing, 2002.

In print Brandy Station, Aldie, Middleburg, Upperville, Hanover and Hunterstown may one day get their due as important and crucial components in the Gettysburg Campaign. If so, then this reader hopes that it is Eric Wittenberg who give it to them. He has produced a clear, concise and probably complete picture of the cavalry battle on Brinkerhoff's Ridge and on the Rummel Farm. I doubt if Wittenberg is an armchair historian. His presentation of these two crucial battles is well grounded upon an understanding of the terrain. (Yes, that was a pun.)

Three and a half miles east from the main Gettsyburg battlefield park is another portion of the park, one that did not contain the huge number of casualites that the main park has. Neverless, the importance of these battles are recognized when the Baltimore Pike is less than three miles away. As many have begun to realize, the eastern portions of the battle: Culp's Hill, East Cemetery Hill, Brinkerhoff's Ridge, and the Rummel Farm may have been more crucial to the outcome of the battle than Pickett's Charge.

The fight on Brinkerhoff's Ridge was between a portion of the Stonewall Brigade of Johnson's Division (CSA) and McIntosh's Brigade of Gregg's Divison of Federal cavalry. This book furthers the agruement in favor of Ewell's decision to use a portion of his infantry on the evening of July 1st, 2nd, and 3rd to cover his left flank due to the constant rumor that Federal troops were coming up the Hanover Road that runs straight through the cavalry actions of July 3rd.

The fight on the Rummel Farm was between three brigades of CSA cavalry and parts of three brigades of Federal cavalry. Chambliss', Lee's, and Hampton's brigades were to be the rope in the snare set for the Federal cavalry. Fortunately for Gregg's division, the commander sniffed a trap, triggered the bait, and then attacked those CSA troops that were advance to capture the Union force.

In dramatic fashion, Wittenberg combines descriptions of personalities with strategy, of hand-to-hand combat with tactics, and of heroism with fighting. The author balances the human element and the tactical element on the battlefield. He uses the soldiers words to both advance the story and bring the action to the climax.
Wittenberg handles the Custer anecdotes even handedly with the Hampton stories, the Wolverines tales with the Palmetto heroics.

The last third of the book is a driving/walking tour of these two cavalry battlefields, illustrated by 20 modern photographs, the majority of which are well composed. There are those several that are covered in shadows and do not give a clear idea of the monument.

The maps are informative and clear; the captions under the portaits include unit in which the officer served. The appendices are the Federal and Confederate order of battle of those units that served on the field that day.

This book is a welcomed addition to the body of literature on the Battle of Gettysburg. Well written and easy to use as a guide, this book is both informative and entertaining.

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