Unsung Hero of Gettysburg by Edward G. Longacre

Book Review presents reviews of recent publications on Pennsylvania subjects by noted scholars, historians and journalists.

Unsung Hero of Gettysburg
The Story of Union General David McMurtrie Gregg
by Edward G. Longacre
Potomac Books, 316 pp., hardcover $34.95

So much has been written about the Battle of Gettysburg, it would seem as if there was nothing else to be said; Edward G. Longacre disagrees. In his extremely well-written and fully researched study, Unsung Hero of Gettysburg: The Story of Union General David McMurtrie Gregg, he documents a U.S. cavalry commander’s finest hour, which occurred at almost the exact same time as Pickett’s Charge. Most casual students of the Civil War fail to understand the importance of the cavalry battles that took place that day far away from Cemetery Ridge. If Gettysburg cavalry is remembered, it is either Confederate Gen. Jeb Stuart’s failure to appear with his cavalry until the middle of the battle or Union Gen. John Buford’s brave stand on its first day.

Longacre tells the important story of how Gregg stopped Stuart’s efforts to attack the Union rear. Gregg, a self-effacing and modest commander, suffered in comparison to his flamboyant subordinate, George Armstrong Custer, who commanded the brigade that attacked Confederate cavalry. We already know the end of Custer’s story and how flamboyance is not always the key to military success.

Longacre’s story is not just about a single battle but also Pennsylvania-born Gregg’s career as a regular Army cavalry officer who ultimately commanded all the Army of the Potomac’s (main Union eastern Army’s) cavalry forces; herein lies the value of his study. Union cavalry has never received the kind of attention they deserve given their importance to the overall Union war effort. Because Lost Cause advocates succeeded in glorifying Confederate cavalry, few Americans understand the hard work and sacrifice of the men who built a cavalry force capable of challenging Confederate horsemen. Longacre’s superb book addresses a significant gap in our understanding of the United States’ victory in the American Civil War.

Barbara A. Gannon
University of Central Florida