Protecting the Flank by: Eric J Wittenberg (Review)

The complete name of this book is, “Protecting the Flank: The Battles for Brinkerhoff’s Ridge and East Cavalry Field.”  It was a little long for the title of my blog post, but the complete title tells it all.  As a big fan of Eric J. Wittenberg’s books, including his collaborations with J. David Petruzzi, I have been looking forward to reading this book.

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Like most of Eric’s books, this one jumps right into the action.  He provides a brief introduction that covers how US Brigadier General David McM. Gregg arrived, with his cavalry division, at Gettysburg.  In chapter one, Wittenberg delves into the importance of Gregg’s choice of fields – and the early battle of Brinkerhoff’s Ridge.  This chapter helps the reader understand, how important the Federal cavalry’s position, at Hanover, and Low Dutch Roads was.  This position allows the cavalry to be an extension of US Major General Henry Slocum’s XII Corps.  Additionally, the position is important as it protects the rear of the Federal army, from an unexpected cavalry attack, from CS Major General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry division.

The next two chapters specifically deal with the fighting at Rummel Farm, and the battle at the East Cavalry Field.  Mr. Wittenberg’s research, in detailing the movements of both cavalry forces is very impressive.  While reading the second chapter, I felt like I was taking part in the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry’s assault on the Rummel farm buildings.  The climax of the book is certainly the details that are provided of CS Brigadier General Wade Hampton’s, partially dismounted, charge on the Federal cavalry position, at the stone wall.  I actually felt like I was in the saddle, on a strong horse, next to US Brigadier General George Custer, as he charged into the Hampton’s charging cavalry.  I could almost hear the clash of saber and the report of the revolvers, as the two sides met in a determined struggle.

While I have read many books, on Gettysburg, none have covered the fighting at East Cavalry Field, the way Eric Wittenberg has done with this book.  Mr. Wittenberg places the cavalry fight in the proper context, with regards to US Major General George G. Meade’s operational plan, at Gettysburg – while keeping it separate of the fighting along  Cemetery Ridge.  He praises the instinct, and leadership of David McM. Gregg – specifically how well he handled independent command – away from the main field of battle, on July 3. 

While I have visited Gettysburg, on numerous times, and the East Cavalry Field, more than once, I have always felt somewhat unsure , due to the lay of the land at East Cavalry Field, how the battle progressed.  Besides offering a superior narrative, on the battles there, Mr. Wittenberg also provides an excellent driving tour guide.

If you are interested in learning more about this very important phase, of the fighting at Gettysburg, I highly recommend this book.  It is not long, but it certainly is huge in detail.

Mike’s Star Rating

About Michael Noirot

I grew up in the Central Illinois farming community, of Dunlap. Growing up, I played sports, tinkered with cars and enjoyed photography. While I did well in school, I did not become passionate about history until my early 30's. I have built a large library, of books on early America, politics and the Civil War. I am an avid reader. Fortunately, I have had plenty of opportunities to travel, over the years, and have been to most of the Civil War battlefields. I work while I travel, so more often than not, I am up, in the middle of the night, to get sunrise pictures, or I will be out until well after dark, exploring Civil War battlefields. I have other hobbies, and passions, that I really enjoy. Number one on the list would be guitar. I play my guitars on a regular basis, and enjoy the Bluegrass, and Contemporary Christian (CCM) genres. I play a style of guitar, called FLATPICKING, where using a flat pick, you play lead solos, similar to the way a fiddle would have been played during the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Laura, my wife, and I also enjoy scuba diving, travel and spending time at our property, in the country. Lastly, we spend as much time with our families, as possible. Thanks for stopping by.
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2 Responses to Protecting the Flank by: Eric J Wittenberg (Review)

  1. Gary Willie says:

    After that review, I will have to check it out.

  2. Gary,
    It is definitely a good one. I have read a LOT of books on Gettysburg, and have always felt that they skim over the cavalry actions – especially in the East Cavalry Field. Eric’s book is very clear and well researched. I have a much better understanding now.

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