Report of Maj. Gen. Alfred
Pleasonton, U.S. Army, commanding Cavalry Corps.
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43]
HEADQUARTERS CAVALRY CORPS, August 31, 1863.
Brig. Gen. S. WILLIAMS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac.
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the Cavalry Corps in the late campaign, including the battle of Gettysburg, with accompanying reports of subordinate commanders:
On June 28, the army being in the vicinity of Frederick City, Md., the Cavalry Corps was placed as follows: The First Division (Buford's) was posted near Middletown, covering the left, and watching the enemy in the direction of Hagerstown. The Second Division (Gregg's) was stationed at different points from Frederick City to Ridgeville, on the Baltimore turnpike, covering the right of the army. The Third Division (Kilpatrick's) was at Frederick City, and was assigned to the corps on that day.
Orders having been issued for the advance of the army toward Pennsylvania, on June 29, Buford's division moved as follows, to cover and protect the left flank of the line of march: The Reserve Brigade was detached under Brigadier-General Merritt, and moved to Mechanicstown and afterward to Emmitsburg. The First and Second Brigades passed through Boonsborough, Cavetown, and Monterey Springs, and encamped near Fairfield, within a short distance of a considerable force of the enemy's infantry.
On June 30, these two brigades moved toward Gettysburg; met two regiments of rebel infantry, with some artillery, and after some skirmishing, not wishing to use artillery, they turned off, and reached Gettysburg in the afternoon, just in time to meet the enemy entering the town, and to drive him back before he secured a position. The enemy withdrew in the direction of Cashtown, leaving his pickets about 4 miles from Gettysburg.
By daylight on July 1, General Buford had obtained positive information of the enemy's position and movements, and made his dispositions to hold him in check until the First Corps, under Major-General Reynolds, could arrive upon the field.
Between 8 and 9 o'clock in the morning, the rebels advanced with superior numbers on Buford's position, but for more than two hours were gallantly checked in every attempt that was made, when the troops of the First and Eleventh Corps began to arrive and to relieve the cavalry from their perilous position. This division continued in the fight throughout the day, displaying great obstinacy in holding all their positions, and splendid courage and skill in their treatment of the rebels.
On July 2, Buford's division held a position on our left at Gettysburg until relieved by the Third Corps, when it was directed to take post at Westminster, to assist in guarding the army trains at that point.
On June 29, Gregg's division moved by the right flank of the army on Westminster, covering the country toward York and Carlisle by reconnaissances and patrols. Kilpatrick's division advanced from Frederick City, on June 29, direct to the front on Hanover by way of Littlestown.
On the morning of the 30th, they were attacked by Stuart's cavalry in full force. After a gallant fight, the enemy was repulsed, losing one battle-flag, and retreated in the direction of Carlisle.
On July 1, they were pursued as far as Berlin, by the way of Abbottstown, a detachment under Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander, chief of staff, proceeding as far as Rosstown.
Kilpatrick's division on July 2 moved toward Gettysburg from the direction of Heidlersburg, to prevent the enemy from concentrating his forces by that road, and to protect our right flank from being turned. Late in the afternoon, this division met the rebel cavalry near Hunterstown, and, after a spirited affair for two hours, the enemy was driven from his position. The division was then ordered to Two Taverns, which it reached at daylight.
It being now apparent that the rebel army intended making a vigorous attack on the left of the position held by our army on the heights of Gettysburg, General Kilpatrick was directed to move to the right of the enemy's line, connect with Merritt's brigade, ordered up from Emmitsburg, and attack the enemy in flank and rear, as well as prevent our own flank from being turned, Custer's brigade, of this division, remaining on our right flank, in connection with General Gregg. General Kilpatrick did valuable service with the First Brigade, under General Farnsworth, in charging the enemy's infantry, and, with the assistance of Merritt's brigade and the good execution of their united batteries, caused him to detach largely from his main attack on the left of our line.
It was in one of these brilliant engagements that the noble and gallant Farnsworth fell, heroically leading a charge of his brigade against the rebel infantry. Gifted in a high degree with a quick perception and a correct judgment, and remarkable for his daring and coolness, his comprehensive grasp of the situation on the field of battle and the rapidity of his actions had already distinguished General Farnsworth among his comrades in arms. In his death was closed a career that must have won the highest honors of his profession.
On June 30, immediately after the fight of Kilpatrick at Hanover, the enemy hastily withdrew his forces from York and Carlisle and began to concentrate on Gettysburg. As soon as this was known, Gregg's division was directed to leave one brigade (Huey's) to cover the depot at Westminster, and move with the other two brigades toward Gettysburg, to take up a position on the right of our line of battle, and prevent the enemy from turning the flank and gaining the rear. This position was established about noon of July 2, and was at the intersection of the Gettysburg and Hanover turnpike with the road which ran in rear of our line-of battle. The enemy attacked this point late in the evening with two regiments deployed, but were compelled to retire.
On July 3, Custer's brigade, of Kilpatrick's division, having occupied the position of Gregg's division of the day before, the latter was posted three-quarters of a mile nearer the Baltimore and Gettysburg turnpike.
About noon the enemy threw a heavy force of cavalry against this position, with the intention of gaining our rear. This attack was met and handsomely defeated by General Gregg, who reports several fine charges made by the First Michigan Cavalry, of Custer's brigade, and the First New Jersey and Third Pennsylvania Cavalry, of his own division. The enemy withdrew from his position with heavy loss, and evacuated his lines that night. Custer s brigade then proceeded to join its division on our left.
The grand attack of General Lee's army on July 3, on the left of our line at Gettysburg, having been successfully repulsed and defeated, orders were given for the cavalry to gain his rear and line of communication, and harass and annoy him as much as possible in his retreat.
Buford's division started from Westminster, passed through Frederick City, where it was joined by Merritt's brigade from Gettysburg, and proceeded to the vicinity of Williamsport on July 6, where the enemy's pickets were driven in to within a half mile of his trains, at the town. A small train and some 40 mules were captured, but the enemy was in too strong force to permit further damage at this point.
From July 7 to 15, this division had a succession of combats with the enemy, the particulars of which are fully given in General Buford's report. These actions were always in our favor, and showed a decided superiority on the part of our troops.
Kilpatrick's division passed through Emmitsburg on July 4, without halting, was joined by Huey's brigade, of Gregg's division, and moved on toward Monterey. After a series of fierce engagements with the enemy's cavalry, in which this command was always successful and distinguished, a very large train was captured and destroyed, and 1,360 prisoners, 1 battle-flag, and a large number of animals taken.
On July 6, while Buford attacked at Williamsport, Kilpatrick's division attacked the enemy at Hagerstown. The particulars of this engagement are given in General Kilpatrick's report.
Until July 14, this division was posted on the right of the army. It was constantly engaged with the enemy, as was Buford's division, on the left, and Huey's brigade, of Gregg's division, in the center.
In the pursuit of the enemy from Gettysburg, Gregg's division acted in detachments. Huey's brigade, as above mentioned, moved with Kilpatrick. Colonel Gregg's brigade, of Gregg's division, followed up the enemy by the way of Cashtown, came up with him near Greenwood, and found the road filled with broken-down wagons, abandoned limbers, and caissons filled with ammunition. A large number of prisoners were captured and sent into Gettysburg. The pursuit was continued to Marion and Chambersburg. From thence this brigade rejoined its division at Boonsborough. McIntosh's brigade, of Gregg's division, was placed at Emmitsburg, to prevent any raids on our rear by the enemy's cavalry. It then formed part of General Neill's command, to follow up the enemy on the Fairfield road, after which duty this brigade joined its division at Boonsborough.
On July 14, General Gregg, with McIntosh's and Gregg's brigades, of his division, crossed the Potomac at Harper's Ferry, and quickly drove a force of the enemy's cavalry back upon Charlestown. The entire rebel army having effected a crossing of the Potomac on that day, Gregg was re-enforced by Huey's brigade, and directed to gain the flank and rear of the rebels, and harass them as much as possible. He marched to Shepherdstown, found the roads to Martinsburg and Winchester strongly picketed, and Huey's brigade not having joined him, he waited until the 16th, when the enemy attacked him in force. A spirited contest was maintained until some time after dark, when the enemy withdrew. A large quantity of bacon and flour was captured by our troops at Shepherdstown. General Gregg speaks of the high soldierly qualities exhibited by his officers and men on that occasion.
On July 14, both Buford's and Kilpatrick's divisions pursued the rebels to Falling Waters, capturing many prisoners; a good deal of abandoned property also fell into our hands. The enemy's rear guard made an obstinate resistance near Falling Waters, but was dispersed by General Kilpatrick, who took from them, among other trophies, three infantry battle-flags.
On July 15, Buford's and Kilpatrick's divisions moved to Berlin to obtain supplies. Here the campaign of Gettysburg properly ended. The pursuit of the rebel army through Loudoun Valley to the Rappahannock River was made by the cavalry in detachments, of whose movements the reports of the division and brigade commanders give full details.
In reviewing the conduct of the cavalry corps in this campaign, it becomes a proud gratification to call the attention of the major-general commanding to the devoted spirit and resolution that animated the officers and men throughout all the difficulties, privations, trials, and dangers they had constantly to meet, and which they overcame so gloriously. Not a single mishap occurred to mar the recollection of their noble and brilliant deeds.
A report of this kind can only mention the names of those in position and for distinguished service, but I cordially indorse all the recommendations of the subordinate commanders. Brigadier-Generals Buford, Gregg, and Kilpatrick have proved themselves distinguished as division commanders, and I tender to them my warmest thanks for the intelligence and harmony with which they have invariably and skillfully executed every design transmitted from these headquarters. Brigadier-Generals Merritt and Custer, brigade commanders, have increased the confidence entertained in their ability and gallantry to lead troops on the field of battle. Colonel Devin, Sixth New York Cavalry; Colonel Gamble, Eighth Illinois; Colonel Gregg, Sixteenth Pennsylvania; Colonel Mcintosh, Third Pennsylvania; Colonel Huey, Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry, in command of brigades, are entitled to mention for their meritorious and gallant conduct throughout the campaign.
The following-named officers of the staff were conspicuous for the zeal, intelligence, and daring with which they discharged their arduous and dangerous service, not unfrequently having to pass through the enemy's forces to reach our own: Lieut. Col. A. J. Alexander, assistant adjutant-general and chief of staff; Col. G. A. H. Blake, First U.S. Cavalry, commissary of musters; Lieut. Col. A. S. Austin, commissary of subsistence; Lieut. Col. C. Ross Smith, Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, ordnance officer; Lieut. Col. W. H. Crocker, inspector-general; Surg. G. L. Pancoast, medical director; Capt. John Green, Second U.S. Cavalry, assistant inspector-general; Capt. F. C. Newhall, Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, assistant inspector-general; Capt. V. E. von Koerber, acting topographical engineer; First Lieut. J. W. Spangler, Sixth U.S. Cavalry, acting assistant quartermaster; Asst. Surg. G. M. McGill, medical department; First Lieut. W. M. Taylor, Eighth Illinois Cavalry, ambulance officer; First Lieut. Clifford Thomson, First New York Cavalry, aide-de-camp; First Lieut. L. Walker, Fifth U.S. Cavalry, aide-de-camp; First Lieut. G. W. Yates, Fourth Michigan Infantry, aide-de-camp; Capt. G. A. Crocker, Sixth New York Cavalry, acting aide-de-camp; First Lieut. C. B. McClellan, Sixth U.S. Cavalry, acting aide-de-camp; First Lieut. James F. Wade, Sixth U.S. Cavalry, acting aide-de-camp; First Lieut. G. H. Thompson, First Rhode Island Cavalry, acting aide-de-camp; Second Lieut. E. B. Parsons, Eighth New York Cavalry, acting aide-de-camp; First Lieut. J. G. Birney, Seventh Michigan Cavalry, acting aide-de-camp; First Lieut. D. W. Littlefield, Seventh Michigan Cavalry, acting aide-de-camp.
A report of casualties of the Cavalry Corps during the campaign in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, from June 28 to July 31, is inclosed. Capts. J. M. Robertson and Tidball, Second U.S. Artillery, commanding the First and Second Brigades of Horse Artillery, respectively, rendered the most valuable service in their respective positions.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
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